Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Supporting the Troops

Posted merely as evidence- From My Blahg:

While the Conservatives and Liberals are content to support the troops with empty gestures like slapping decals on vehicles or donning red t-shirts, the NDP actually does something significant–like insuring reservists can serve without worrying about losing their jobs–to support the troops.


Now, while it's entirely true that being a CF reservist was and is voluntary, and while it will be difficult for small-business owners to keep positions open for employees on long-term tours of duty, the significance of this post for me is that it was the "evil, troop-hatin'" NDP that was looking out for "the troops," and that the Liberals (who first put 'em there) and the Conservatives (the party of the people who claim to L-O-O-O-V-E "the troops" and who will attack and slander anyone who questions "the mission") have done nothing to protect the livelihoods of the people they have put in harm's way for such supposedly valuable work.

I might as well point out this other example of the NDP's "ohmygod!! so surprising!!!" concern for "the troops."

When the government has a $14.2 billion surplus over and above moneys required for the day to day operations of government, one would assume that of all governments, this government, a government that reportedly likes to support the troops, would have looked at this issue very seriously, and if it did not want to accept the recommendations from the NDP then it could at least accept the recommendations from the DND ombudsmen.

I can't resist point out that my sparring partner in that post's comments section ("roundhead") tried to argue that this example of NDP concern for "the troops" was bogus because it wasn't mentioned during "Question Period" where more people would have heard about it. Which is imbecilic since if it had been brought up at that time, as opposed to during regular debating about bills and policies, "roundhead" could have accused the NDP of show-boating.

Let's face it; in the USA the virulently pro-war Repugnicans have been quite blatant about their total disregard for their precious troops, denying them minimum rest periods between deployments, dawdling on armoured humvees, ignoring appalling conditions at Walter Reed, etc., ... and it's quite clear that the CPC (and the Liberals) are not substantially different.

Wasted Resources

Imagine how rich we, as a society, could be if we didn't have to waste so many resources on eating and getting sick?

All those billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers, ... all those grocery bills that prevent us from saving for vacations, ... all those ludicrously overpriced restaurant bills.

All the billions that go towards hospitals, healthcare workers, health insurance, glasses, dental work, etc., etc., .

Or is it more the case that staying alive costs money, and that in the end, all those resources are "wasted" anyway, because we all die? So it's more the case that we're going to expend energy and resources on things, and some people will pay and others will earn a livelihood from it, so we should stop complaining about things we can't really control.

And, once again, people will earn a livelihood from our expenditures. Just as we'll earn a livelihood from their expenditures. Giving people a livelihood isn't an expense we should begrudge. The poverty of most economic analysis is that it treats labour as this expense that it is rational to try to avoid. It is a "cost" to be minimized. As a result, if (according to the logic of political-economy) some people should be unemployed and destitute, so be it.

This is not a call to ignore efficiency. This is a call for the recognition of human beings' need to work and earn a livelihood. If (as a first principle) you treat labour as a cost to be avoided, don't be surprised if unemployment and poverty are problems for your society.

I support a Guaranteed Annual Income, but I place society's recognition that employing the people we produce is an inevitable fact of life first.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Markets versus Planning

The logic goes that public planning always starts from a distorted, fractured image of reality that has poor predictive power. The effects of the plans themselves have ramifications for the future, and since these are sometimes unpredictable the whole edifice of planning leads to chaos and disaster.

In contrast, the "magic" of the market-place is that millions of individuals, without planning enmasse, are able to coordinate their actions through the price system, in a far more organic system, with millions of inputs and responses, that produces far more efficient outcomes.

However, it must be remembered that the planning societies don't have too bad a record of economic growth and social security. True, they often appear to be lurching from one crisis to the next, but such is life -- isn't it?

Meanwhile the market itself always careens from boom to bust, euphoria to depression. When these millions of autonomous actors make their millions of independent decisions through the price mechanism, sure things can be "coordinated " for awhile. Just like bureaucrats or democratic societies can coordinate resources to achieve a stated objective. But as resources congregate towards accomodating temporary demand, they can drive down the prices of some things, run up the prices of other things, and if it all ends in a "correction" that destroys fortunes and lives, why isn't this portrayed in the same way that planners' unintended effects are? Why aren't market corrections treated with the same disdain as planners' failures and incompetence?

Friday, July 27, 2007

NDP Gives Hillier Ten Days

I'd been watching the US blogs' coverage of the Gonzales, Miers, et.al., cases, and it occured to me: Where is the sustained outrage here in Canada about the unjustified blanket of secrecy that General Ricky Hillier has pulled over our treatment and transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan?

The NDP has given CPC Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor and lil' Ricky Hiller ten working days to provide answers, or they will ask for a Parliamentary Committee to demand answers.


The Globe reported that a directive had been issued by General Hillier through the Strategic Joint Staff of the Canadian Forces to Ms. JulieJansen, Director of Access to Information and Privacy at the Department of National Defence stating that no government records on detainees taken in Afghanistan should be released under the Access to Information Act.
...

For the purposes of the Access to Information Act, Ms. Jansen is the delegated head of the Department of National Defence and as such should have the final say over what information can be released. General Hillier is a uniformed officerof the Canadian Forces and has no formal role under the ATIA, other than beingsubject to it. I would like to know how this directive was given to Ms. Jansen, whether she is subject to the chain of command of the CDS and who is the delegated head of DND for the purposes of the ATIA?

...

When Parliament passed the Access to Information Act in 1983, it created anobligation on the part of the Ministry to release government records to the public in a timely and regular fashion when requested. All exemptions to the Act mustbe limited and specific. Violations of the Act by Ministerial staff and bureaucrats are considered criminal offences.


At least someone is taking this atrocious behaviour seriously.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

With Half a Brain They're Dangerous

A while back, I devoted an entire page to an internet commentator "Warwick" as I thought that he had half-a-brain. "Warwick" was able to construct an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions that arguably justified summary executions. (He argued that torturing prisoners violated other Canadian and international statutes, so all the "leftards" who talked about violations of the Geneva Conventions were, well, "leftards." Unfortunaely for "Warwick," it appears that US military courts and the US Supreme Court must be full of "leftards" because decision after decision has upheld the rights of the Guantanamo detainees unilaterally pronounced "illegal combatants" by the bush II regime and called for the enjoyment of those rights under the Geneva Conventions.)

What's noteworthy about "Warwick" is that while he's obviously only possessed of half-a-brain, this puts him light years ahead of most of the inhabitants of the Canadian right-wing, and, surrounded by companions who are absolute dullards, "Warwick" must imagine himself some sort of god. This is the reason for his completely unjustified arrogance.

Recently, I came across another example of this phenomenon. I'll call him "PR" and I won't link to him because he is one of the most insufferable pompous asses I've ever met and I don't want him showing up here and bombarding me with tiresome, long-winded diatribes about how he's an "intellectual heavyweight" who is completely dominating me only I'm too stupid to recognize my own defeat, etc., etc.,

The following is an interaction between "PR" and another commentator from "Red Tory"'s site:

The farce in Afghanistan will end soon enough and then you’ll be doing mental gymnastic to try and justify why we wasted soldiers’ lives… Americans are slowing waking up to the monumental waste Iraq is and that they are no in more danger from “terrorists” than before.


Hooo boy. It's the Iraq theorem again. I've dispelled this with every other mindless twerp who's come at me with it, so I might as well explain the situation to you. Afghanistan is not Iraq.

Afghanistan is:

-UN-mandated

-Based on accurate intelligence

-Actually involves foreign policy objectives vis a vis the removal of regimes that harbour terrorists

-Actually involves foreign policy objectives vis a vis international peace and stability

-Actually involves foreign policy objectives vis a vis internationalist principles, and

-Spreads freedom to a people that otherwise didn't have it (although this is really just a nice bonus)


Iraq is

-Not UN-mandated

-Based on no solid foreign policy objectives save a foolhardy politically engineering project in the Middle East and

-Based on faulty and manipulated intelligence in terms of WMDs and Saddam Hussein's (demonstrably lack of) relationship with terrorists.

See the difference?


Where to begin? First of all, the original commentator never said they were the same thing. He said Afghanistan was a waste of Canadian soldiers' lives and that even the Americans are slowly throwing off the corporate brainwashing and realizing that Iraq is a waste of their soldiers' lives.

[Which renders everything else that "PR" typed as pointless, but let's continue ...]

Afghanistan is UN-mandated, but who cares, since that's not why "the mission" is a failure. It's a failure because we're propping-up an unpopular regime that depends on mass-murdering warlords for its survival. None of the things "PR" says about Afghanistan matter because the West didn't finance Afghanistan's reconstruction by more than a fraction of what it needed, and we're spending ten times as much money on our military "solutions" than we are on getting the country on its feet, and the last time anyone checked WE WERE KILLING MORE CIVILIANS THAN THE TALIBAN! And the thing is, anyone with more than half-a-brain would expect our governments to all perform like the shit-heads they are, and that's one huge reason to have opposed our going in there with a military presence.

But "PR" only has half a brain so he couldn't have anticipated this clusterfuck. Now that it's clearly right in front of him, his monumental, but unjustified, arrogance is blinding him to the enormity of his error.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"There are no rules ..."

They don't make rules to govern every occasion. Sometimes people think of really stupid ideas, and they carry these stupid ideas out into the realm of action, and they justify their bizarre, ridiculous, borderline criminal behaviour by saying that they aren't/weren't breaking any rules.

Case in point, laughable imbecile (but dangerous, callous, fanatic) US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. When Whitehouse legal advisor, he'd come up with a surveillance program that even frightened born-again fascist John Ashcroft, who was AG at the time. John Comey, Deputy AG was also opposed to it.

Then, Ashcroft has to go in for gall-bladder surgery and turns over his authority to Comey, making him Acting AG. Gonzales and company approach Comey with another surveillance program, just as disgusting as the earlier one, and Comey again refuses to give it his approval. On his way home, he receives a call from Ashcroft's wife, from Ashcroft's recovery room: Gonzales and team are coming over, no doubt to brow-beat the sick man into giving the proposed program his approval. Comey rushes over and in the end, Gonzales and the Whitehouse are thwarted.

But here's the thing of course. Ashcroft had no authority (as he, himself said in that hospital room), so not only was Gonzales's action reprehensible, it was also mind-bogglingly stupid and pointless. Even if Comey hadn't shown up and Ashcroft could have been made to sign-on to their frightening proposal, it wouldn't have mattered.

Here's Republican Judiciary Committee member Arlen Spector, a heretofore loyal bushie, who is quickly becoming honestly nauseated with the depravity of this administration, trying to fathom the depths of Gonzales's thought processes:



"There are no rules" Gonzales keeps blabbering. Of course not you idiot. Nobody would think to write a rule that anticipated such equally scuzzy and stupid behaviour.

Impeach him already. Drive him out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Finished Coll's "Ghost Wars"

I finished Ghost Wars by Stephen Coll. It's about the wars in Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. My initial reaction to the book is here.

One thing that struck me as I got near the end. The CIA's anti-terrorism team had a Bin Laden Unit that became obsessesed with Al Qaeda and pushed and pushed the Clinton administration to let them "take-out" bin Laden, on some occasions, even if it meant killing innocent bystanders in the process. (Hmmm. There's a word for that isn't there?)

But what's never mentioned, and which only occurred to me that this was going on during the Clinton presidenct over ONE MILLION Iraqis, including 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, were dying of starvation and disease brought about by United Nations sanctions against Iraq, that were maintained and enforced primarily by the United States and the United Kingdom. Two UN coordinators resigned in protest at the inhumanity of the US and UK. One cause of Osama bin Laden's murderous hatred of the US was its responsibility for these deaths. He even said so in his statement after the 9-11 bombings. This anger over the 500,000 childrens' deaths was ignored then, and it is ignored again in Coll's book.* As I said in my initial post on the book, that's the sort of background information that would make things even more explicable.

So, I'll say the book is very, very, good at describing the geo-politics and power struggles of the times, but due to the author's blind-spots, it fails to provide an entirely accurate picture of the subject and the times.

*To be accurate, bin Laden's anger about the 500,000 Iraqi children killed by UN/US/UK sanctions wasn't entirely ignored. It was occasionally mentioned and then dismissed, in favour of the highly improbable, highly stupid, highly ridiculous, highly disgusting, highly incoherent argument that the terrorists "hate us for our freedoms."

Monday, July 23, 2007

What I'll Be Reading Today

I'm appallingly busy, but I've vowed to myself to post something everyday (haven't been too bad about that), ... so this is a link from the reading list I was given recently (discussed somewhere in an earlier thread):

Ah, it's a book preview of something I intend to buy in my next round of book purchases!!

Economic Democracy: The Politics of Feasible Socialism By Robin Archer

I'll be checking this out during free moments today. You spambots should too!

That is all.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

David Lindorff's "Terrifying Truth"

This article comes from the great repository collected by one Ian Angus at "Climate and Capitalism: EcoSocialism or Barbarism - There is No Third Way." I linked to it from http://marxsite.com/ecosocialism.html which was on a list of readings provided to me recently.

We need a revolution in the way we human beings live and the way we treat each other.There is no way that the world’s 6.5 billion people--and especially the 2 billion of them who live in wealthier societies--can continue to consume energy at even close to the level that we have been consuming it.

...

The so-called “green” politicians who talk about instituting carbon-trading schemes, about driving
hybrid automobiles, about buying fluorescent light bulbs, and about turning down the thermostat and wearing sweaters, are deceiving us or themselves.


None of this is going to save us.

What will save us is recognizing that the age of consumer-driven capitalism is over.

We either come up with a new way to organize society, in which production is based upon real needs, not upon manufactured needs, and in which scarce resources are made available to those
who need them, not just to those who can afford them, or we will all be doomed--or at least our progeny.


The peoples of the world--especially of the developed world, but really everywhere--need to recognize that unless our expectations are changed, unless our selfish desire for more is curbed, unless wasteful production is ended, we are all likely to be on that extinction list.


Very bold, dramatic writing. One doesn't have to believe in the inevitability of global warming (though anyone willing to dismiss it altogether is being willfully obtuse) to realize that our consumerist lifestyle is unsustainable. This means that our children or our grandchildren are going to have inevitably traumatic futures unless we start to do something yesterday.

Once again though, the trick is that we have to start yesterday. And as of today, we have no coherent way plan for the carrying out of the necessary revolution. That's where "Workers as Citizens" comes in of course ...

Labour-Sponsored Investment Funds

Over in this thread on breadnroses, "steppenwolf" provided a large list of links to sites discussing various aspects of the democratization of the economy. I'm pretty busy these days, so I've resolved that I'm going to spend my limited available blogging time to going through the reading list "steppenwolf" so generously provided.



I begin with his link from the ILO about LSIFs. It mainly deals with the Quebec Federation of Labour's "Solidarity Fund." Worth (in 2003) over four billion dollars, the fund seeks to counter economic recessions and de-industrialization by seeking out and financing small to medium-sized provincial businesses that conform to certain core values of the labour movement.

It's been relatively successful, earning a decent return on workers' pension funds. (Personally, I don't think that money should earn more than slightly above the rate of inflation, but these count as active investments in real economic undertakings, so higher rates of return are okay there.)

As this article from the wonderful (still going????) independent Canadian labour magazine Our Times points out though, there is a problem with getting workers to buy into the whole process of investing in the capitalist process. As well, these provincial labour investment funds have been designed with loopholes and such that some of them are merely tax dodges for Bay Street, with a gloss of union participation in them only.

Most of this criticism comes from Buzz Hargrove and the CAW, which is odd, given that the whole "playing by the system's rules" critiques undercuts his own support for the Liberal Party of Canada. That aside, there is a danger in getting invested (mentally and financially) in the current world of Canadian finance. Many union pension funds get invested in companies that work to undercut labour power, that pollute the environment, that engage in illegal, inhuman practices, ... that "hurt the very people they're supposed to help." At the same time though, some financing mechanisms will be required in the post-capitalist world, and worker-controlled pension funds could be one such means.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Post for the day ...

So busy, ... but this leads me to believe that the bush II regime (especially Cheney) are, in fact, entirely oblivious to their own incompetence and stupidity, as well as the fact that they are leading their country's political system away from the "over the cliff" trajectory it took after the stolen 2000 election, to more of a "let's see if we can't aim for the pit of Hell that's in this canyon we've dived into" sort of thing.

Yeah, Cheney and company believe that they've stacked all the federal benches with cronies who will never rule against them, but they've forgotten inherent contempt apparently, as well as the fact that any ruler who says "fuck you!" to everybody is eventually going to receive a response.

And, for your consideration, Cheney and company, who is going to protect you?

These guys?

Or these guys?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

British Report: NATO Allies' Reluctance (and our slaughtering of innocent civilians) Hurting Mission

From the CBC. A report by the British Parliament has discovered two weaknesses in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

The report published Wednesday by the House of Commons defence committee warned the entire campaign is at risk if NATO members continue to refuse to deploy additional soldiers and increase development aid.

The report also blames serious strategic mistakes such as corrupt police and growing civilian casualties.

More development aid would be a good idea, but if Britain, Canada, and the United States paid what they said they would, that alone would have been enough to get reconstruction well under way. We didn't, because (as is obvious) we don't really give a shit about these people. How else to explain it?

But observe the tortured logic: "Growing civilian casualties" and "NATO members ... refuse to deploy additional soldiers." In other words, our NATO allies should send more soldiers to create more civilian casualites. Yeah, that'll fix things.

Italy should send some jets over to blast some villages to pieces. Then you'll se the insurgency vanish in an instant.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

NATO must stop killing innocent Afghans:UN Chief

That's just a quote of this morning's CBC headline.

NATO's response was: "OHHH!!! You DON'T want us to kill innocent Afghans!!! Okay! Why didn't you say so in the first place?!?!?"

Actually, the NATO chief responded like a child found out having smashed a lamp who is trying to divert attention to someone else's irrelevant failings:

He stressed, however, that Taliban and other extremists were in a "different moral category" from coalition soldiers who inadvertently cause civilian casualties.

"Our opponents mingle and mix with innocent civilians," he said.

"We do not intentionally kill; they behead people, they burn schools, they kill women and children."


Right. They intentionally kill. You just bombard them from the air and from great distances because you don't want to take too many chances fighting at close quarters.

Especially when the insurgents are the local civilians, as has been becoming more and more frequent.

"That said, NATO will do and has to do everything in its ability to prevent civilian casualties. For NATO, every single civilian life lost in Afghanistan is one too many."


Bullshit. You've known about this for years and you've done nothing. Fuck off already.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Right or Left: Which Does the Mainstream Media Fear?

The corporate media likes to pat itself on the back for the fact that it is criticized by the right-wing and the left-wing, because, it is facilely argued, this means that it is "objective."


I'm more certain that what we usually see is that the mainstream, corporate media operates on varying degrees of wrongness and cluelessness about the world. Give or take the odd factoid, the corporate media operates at a less-wrong/crazy/stupid level than does the right-wing.


From time to time, I read in the right-wing blogsosphere about how the mainstream media is afraid of them. How it's the right-wing that holds a trembling liberal media to account. How the "elites" conspire against the noble, ordinary white folks on the right, blah, blah, blah.

But the cute thing is that whenever the US (especially) or even (to a lesser extent) Canadian mainstream media bitches and whines about "uncivil" and "angry" bloggers, it's the left-wing they criticize.

Whenever they deign to pluck a blogger from the internet and give them a forum on the mainstream media, it is more often than not a right-wing blogger like Michelle Malkin or Glenn Reynolds who they choose.

It's pretty obvious that the mainstream media fears the left more than it does the right. For all their talk of "rebellion" the armies of the right-wing don't really call for anything that threatens the elites. True, the right-wingers are racist and angry/stupid, and they need to be controlled like unruly dogs, but they can generally be counted on to line-up behind a status-quo political party, and do what they're told to do. If they have complaints, it's generally that the political party isn't as enthusiastic enough in pursuing wars that it wants to pursue, and in trashing the social safety-net that many of these right-wing jerks actually depend on or would benefit from.

As a group, the US right-wing is strangely beholden to blatant con-men like Rush Limbaugh, who admits to "carrying water" for the Republican Party, even when he doesn't believe what they're doing. US right-wingers bark out their approval to this slimy, hypocritical, snakeoil salesman, and he gets rich pushing the anti-people Republican line.

And for the most part, these fools still support the Republican Party, even as "the troops" die needlessly, or as the wounded veterans lie in their urine at Walter Reed, while the party elite dined at Jack Abramoff's restaurant, or consorted with prostitutes or teenaged boys (when they weren't telling the rest of the country to conform to "family values").

Rebels? Hardly. Dupes? Yes, exactly.

The elites fear the left, because the left has more brains, uses those brains to actually expose the workings of the system, and calls for changes that genuinely threaten the position of the elites. Exposing imperialism and imperialist wars. Thwarting the "divide and conquer" racist policies of the right-wing, capitalist class. Resisting the police-state powers that would give them greater control over our lives and allow them to crush genuine protest. Renouncing the materialism that the elite's fortunes are based on. And calling for the equitable division of society's wealth with all of humanity, which threatens their entire position.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Faces of the US Invasion of Iraq

Via the cylinder, from Robert Fisk, ... images of the human costs of bush II's oil lust.

And from Sparqui, via breadnroses.ca, ... interviews with US soldiers in The Nation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Latest Right-Wing Stupidity

As the death-toll of Canadian soldiers continues to rise (though, as you'll remember from here, Canada's fanatical supporters of "the troops" [tm] aren't going to get excited about deaths until they reach Korean War or World War II levels) the pathetic, discredited, unpopular, un-Canadian, right-wing HarperLovers, are reduced to new levels of idiocy to defend propping-up Karzai and Western imperialism.


The latest tactic is to claim that serving as a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan (where 67 soldiers have died as of this writing) is comparable with "Toronto" where there are (roughly) 50 gun-shot deaths per year.


You may accuse me of underestimating the effect of the loss of life among our troops. After all, as I write, 67 have been killed. Every death is a tragedy for family and friends, but we must keep things in perspective: Fifty people are killed in Toronto alone every year, many by gunfire, and many more across the country.



I put "Toronto" in quotations because I'm not exactly sure what these morons are trying to say.


Toronto has a population of 2.48 million. Gun homicides for Toronto in 2000-2002 stood at 0.7 per 100,000 people. Which gives us 17.36 deaths on average. There's been an upsurge in gun violence though, thanks mainly to right-wing social policies and the debasement of the human environment that they cause, as well as by the overall decline in morals caused by the ascendancy of pseudo-human morons who vote for Mike Harris and Stephen Harper. So it appears to have been around 50 in the past couple of years. 50 divided by 2.48 million appears to be .000205 percent or something. So, it's not really all that likely to die from being shot in Toronto.


As I said though, while these morons blather about "Toronto," I'm pretty sure they don't mean to compare Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan with the entire population of Toronto. To accurately do that, they'd have to come up with all firearms deaths in Canada (2.6 per 100,000 in 2002) with all firearms deaths in Afghanistan, which I suspect is much higher, and which therefore doesn't suit their purposes.


My esteemed comrade "No Yards" (.) came up with the idea of calculating all police deaths in Canada for one year against the total number of the RCMP officers in Canada in 2007 (about 24,000) as a way of measuring the dangers of law enforcement. Using 2005 (which was a bad year for Canadian police with 11 officers killed) as the benchmark, the ratio is about 45 per 100,000.

There are about 2,600 Canadian Forces personnel in Afghanistan. The casualities last year were 36. (So far, 2007 casualties stand at 22, and we're only in June, so it doesn't look like last year's number can be dismissed as an aberration.) This gives us a casuality ratio of 1,385 per 100,000. Which, as you can tell, is significantly higher than Toronto's death rate, or that of Canadian police.

This is, of course, a rip-off of the similarly stupid US-wingnut argument that Bagdhad is no more dangerous than any large US city like New York, Los Angeles, or Washington D.C. (Follow that link for a great destroying of said stupid argument.)


Of course, all this playing around with statistics is beside the point. At its base, this argument is essentially that we ought not to care about our soldiers' deaths, because people die all the time. Imagine, if you will, what would have happened had the Justice Minister and the Commissioner of the RCMP had tried to argue this way in response to the mass-killings of four RCMP officers by Jim Rosko in March, 2005? When people asked how that mission was so mismanaged as to cause four officers' deaths, did Canada's Harper-Lovers sit back and intone; "Well, you know, police work is a dangerous business. Shit happens." ? Of course not. Imagine any other government-run project that shows a rising death toll being defended with such a dumb-ass argument.



What these nincompoops are trying to say is that the deaths are "worth it" because the cause is just. Which gets us talking about "the mission" once again. But let's not let go of the demonstrated indifference of the right-wing to the deaths of "the troops", because they will shamelessly throw that in our faces as we try to talk objectively about "the mission."

"The Mission" of course, is to prop-up an increasingly unpopular government that never got, and never will get the necessary funds for the reconstruction Afghanistan so desperately needs, and this government is dependent upon heroin-trafficking, mass-murdering, rapist warlords who are despised by much of the country. "The Mission" is at best thoughtless, and at worst, cynical imperialism. In either case, it is not worth dying for.

If you claim to give a shit about the people of Afghanistan and the dangers of the Taliban, then you should insist that the West abandon its military approach and finance that country's reconstruction, and stop with the air-strikes, check-point shootings, and torturing of prisoners, that is making the Taliban an increasingly popular resistance force.


Finally, remember, according to the right-wing, we're supposed to be in Afghanistan and we should have joined bush II in the slaughterhouse in Iraq, because Canadians were killed on 9-11 along with 3,000 of our American friends. Because of those deaths, we MUST launch an endless, self-perpetuating war of vengeance. We must torture and kill. We must give-up freedom of the press and access to information. We must give up our civil rights. But if twice as many soldiers die in our "response" to terrorism than did victims of that terrorism, ... if the slaughter looks like it's going to be endless, ... well, just remember, it all pales in comparison to World War II.


Which only goes to show the truly appalling intellectual level of the Canadian right-wing.


Not only do they not have originality to come up with their own arguments, but when they rip-off talking points from their US brethren, they're so brainless as to adopt thoroughly discredited, disgusting arguments.


Take a look at the criminal bush II regime, and the gross inequalities, racism, police-state, militaristic nightmare that the US right-wing has turned their country into. That is exactly what the morons at smalldeadanimals, free dominion, and the blogging tories want to turn Canada into.


True, they cannot yet successfully foist a Stockwell Day on us in the same way that the Repugs got drooling idiot bush II installed, but it's only because they don't have the power to do so. They can't have their dunces forced upon us as the party that ran the actual winner curls up in a ball and plays dead.

A Case for not interfering ...

A while back, I had a brief debate with Michael Deibert (and friend), about Haiti. [link] For what it's worth, Deibert is a very articulate man, who may or may not have a more correct analysis of Haitian politics than the sources I usually turn to. My impression though, is that his writings on Haiti that criticize deposed president Aristide appear to give a back-handed justification for the entirely unjustified Canadian, French, US political meddling that led to his overthrow. As well, as I told Deibert in our discussion, he appears to rely too much using his many years in Haiti, and the mountain of details gleaned from this presence and his facility with the language, to overawe his opponents, when a clearly structured and stated argument would be more effective and appropriate.


I'm a busy guy, and I read some of the things that Deibert sent my way, which, if nothing else, gave me a sense of what the anti-Aristide opposition was thinking. This morning, on a whim, I went to Deibert's blog and looked for some of his more recent writings on Haiti.


I found a reference to a letter from a victim of a massacre committed by pro-Aristide forces during the last days of his government, at the town of Saint Marc, when those forces had temporarily retaken the town from rebel forces.



Readers of this blog will remember the Saint Marc killings as one of the most odious human rights abuses to take place in Haiti as the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide sputtered to an end that month. Following the lead of street gangs formerly loyal to the president in Gonaives (who rose up to avenge the murder of their leader, Amiot “Cubain” Metayer and drove government forces from the town on February 5), the anti-Aristide group Rassemblement des militants conséquents de Saint-Marc (Ramicos), based in the neighborhood of La Scierie, two days later took advantage of the chaos to use the weapons at their disposal—mostly light sidearms and pistols—to overrun the Saint Marc police station, where they freed all the prisoners before setting the structure on fire.

On February 11, however, pro-government forces recaptured the town, and members of the Unite de Securite de la Garde du Palais National d’Haiti and the local pro-Aristide Bale Wouze paramilitary gang set about on a multi-day mass killing of Aristide opponents, as well as politically unaffiliated civilians, during which authoritative accounts list at least 27 people as having been slain and a number of women raped. One of the leaders of Bale Wouze, former Fanmi Lavalas party Deputy Amanus Mayette, a man who witnesses in Saint Marc have charged actively participated in the killings, was freed from prison without trial last month.





Now, my memory works in a funny way. This account of the Saint Marc massacre immediately made me think of former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune. Neptune was (as you can see from the link) held without charges for over a year, before being released for health and humanitarian reasons following a lenghty hunger-strike. Neptune had been linked to the Saint Marc massacre, and I thought that I recalled a source saying that there hadn't even been a massacre.


So I did a little searching, and lo' and behold, it was at Znet that I'd first read this report about Neptune and the (apparently) bogus charges of complicity in a massacre:


The authorities allege that Neptune was the mastermind of a "massacre" in the town of St. Marc during February. The sole basis for this allegation seems to be a report issued by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), a "human rights" organization with close ties to Lavalas opponents and Washington. The NCHR is notorious for its overt political bias and its troubling tendency to tell outright lies. NCHR director Pierre Espérance alleged that fifty people were killed in the "massacre." Subsequent investigations only turned up five bodies, and the circumstances of their deaths were unclear. When asked by AHP about the absence of bodies, Espérance claimed they had been devoured by hungry dogs. "As for the bones, they suffered the same fate", he said.

While there has undoubtedly been violence in St. Marc over the past few months, most of it has actually been the doing of Lavalas opponents. It is also likely that there were reprisals by Aristide supporters and people caught in the crossfire. However, if the whole story of what has happened in St. Marc were being told, it would be easier to understand why these deaths have taken place.

Starting in January, a rebel-aligned organization called RAMICOS began violent demonstrations and attacks against supporters of the Aristide government. RAMICOS is also a member of the Democratic Convergence, a U.S.-backed political organization dominated by Haitian elites. On January 15th RAMICOS set fire to the offices of Radio Pyramide and the homes of several Lavalas activists. They also attempted to free criminals who were being held in the St. Marc prison.



Violence intensified in February when RAMICOS attacked the St. Marc police station and looted and burned the customs house. The police, apparently in concert with the rebels, fled without putting up a fight and left behind all of their guns and ammunition. The charges of police complicity are bolstered by the fact that one of the stations commanders was a former member of the Haitian army and is close to Dany Toussaint, a notorious gang leader now aligned with Lavalas' opponents. Once RAMICOS had control of the town they tortured and killed several members of Fanmi Lavalas, according to the Committee for the Defense of Haitian People's Rights.

The government quickly launched a counteroffensive and were able to retake the town with the support of the local population. Yvon Neptune flew to the town by helicopter and was greeted by
cheering crowds. This is when the alleged "massacre" was supposed to have taken place, but media reports from the time vaguely describe "clashes" between government supporters and rebels, with small numbers of deaths on both sides as well as a few people caught in the crossfire. Given the available evidence, it would seem the "massacre" of fifty people is a figment of Pierre Espérance's imagination.


However, if the government were really interested in cracking down on impunity and human rights violations, they may want to look in to the activities of RAMICOS after Aristide was forced
from power. Refugees forced to flee the town gave the following account to journalist Kim Ives: "Seven young people, including two pairs of young brothers, were macheted or shot to death by pro-coup forces. The mutilated bodies were then paraded around the town and dragged by a rope behind a truck to terrorize the rest of the town's population. They were then burned." After these
atrocities the townspeople were effectively terrorized in to submission, allowing RAMICOS members to take over the telephone company, tax authority, and port authority in an attempt to control the local government for themselves.



I also found this:


The government has already arrested former officials implicated in serious abuses, including the previous government's interior minister and a former parliamentary deputy. It has also announced plans to investigate former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom it condemns as the architect of efforts to repress the country's political opposition.

...

Yet, up to now, there has been a worrying one-sidedness to the new government's efforts. Its eagerness to prosecute officials of the previous government stands in stark contrast to its apparent indifference to the record of other known perpetrators of grave human rights crimes.

...

During almost all of February, Saint Marc was terrorized by a violent pro-government death squad known as Bale Wouze, or Clean Sweep. Bale Wouze was led by Amanus Mayette, a former
parliamentary deputy belonging to Aristide's party whose term had expired in January.

On February 7, two days after the rebel take-over of Gonaives, a lightly-armed anti-government group known as Ramicos overran the Saint Marc police station. The government soon sent in police SWAT team reinforcements, known as CIMO, and retook control of the town. Within days, the Bale Wouze and CIMO, working together, attacked the neighborhood of La Scierie, known as a Ramicos stronghold. They were heavily armed, carrying M-14s and M-1s, and wore black masks. They poured diesel fuel on houses associated with Ramicos members and burned down close to a dozen of them. They also burned several people to death.

One victim was a young carpenter named Kenol St. Gilles. On February 11, when Bale Wouze attacked la Scierie, Kenol was on his way home for lunch. His mother was visiting the home of a local pastor when news came that Kenol had been shot in the leg. Kenol's mother went to find Kenol and carried him back to the pastor's house. The pastor's wife was a nurse, and was going to try to treat Kenol's bullet wounds.

The men who had shot Kenol searched the neighborhood house-by-house looking for him. They found Kenol in the pastor's house and dragged him down the road to a depot that they had set on fire. Kenol's mother ran after them, hiding, and saw two men throw Kenol into the burning building. "One was holding his hands and one his feet," she later described. "They just tossed him into the fire."



...



But whereas the government has vowed to investigate the Saint Marc killings and prosecute them fairly, it has treated abuses from the military era very differently. Indeed, in late March, Haiti's interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue publicly lauded the rebel forces -- whose leaders include both Chamblain and Tatoune -- calling them "freedom fighters." Haiti's interim Justice Minister has even raised the possibility of granting pardons to Chamblain and Tatoune, though in other statements to the press he has suggested that the government is simply waiting for the right
moment to deal with them.




Given the de facto power of the rebel forces, and the interim government's relative weakness, there is no doubt that it would take real political courage to attempt to arrest Chamblain and Tatoune now. But every day that those two notorious killers are allowed to walk around free, armed, and dangerous, is another day in which the failings of Haitian justice are on display.




It all seems very bloody, and very murky, and very sad. Now, I'm not going to be able to even pretend to go through these varying accounts of massacres and compromised justice. What I will do, and I will attempt to spell this out as clearly as I can, is to argue why, given the murkiness of these conflicting accounts, given the deep histories of all of these actors, and given the compromised morality and democractic values of our political leaders, it is best if we resolve to keep our governments from interfering in the affairs of other countries, and to hold them to improving and respecting international law.



If this seems lazy and apathetic, irresponsible, consider this: The agonies of Haiti are very much largely the responsibility of the United States; creating, training, arming, and funding the Haitian national guard that was used (as it was intended) to protect the Haitian government from the Haitian people, who it was correctly anticipated, would not happily starve while their country's resources were shipped overseas and they were reduced to slave labour.



The current turmoil in Haiti is the responsibility of the United States, Canada, and France, discussing amongst themselves how best to destabilize Aristide, financing a rebellion led by convicted death-squad murderers and supported by sweat-shop owners. The vicousness of any Famni Lavalas activists might have to due with the mass tortures and slaughters they suffered the last time under regimes that overthrew Aristide the first time, and who were back, leading the recent coup.



Which is not to say, as I told Mr. Deibert last time, that there can be no such thing as a legitimate opponent to Aristide in Haiti. Aristide didn't have to be perfect. We just shouldn't have done everything in our power to turn him into a paranoid, and then have expected him to be perfect.



At the very least, for all the blood we have spilled in Haiti, we have NOT made conditions there any better than they were under Aristide. However, our failures don't appear to warrant an armed intervention against the leaders we selected. Instead the world's political body, the United Nations, is helping to prop-up this order, via MINUSTAH, in a seriously questionable enterprise.



International Law is slow, frustrating, and built by compromised state governments and institutional law-makers. But insofar as it frustrates the individual madness of idiots such as george w. bush, or the pea-brained whims and delusions of a Paul Martin Jr., or the totalitarian hypocrisies of the Soviets, or the tinpot fantasies of poor country despots, and is instead the product of serious, public deliberations, to that extent is it preferable to lies and cynicisims like "the responsibility to protect." It will therefore, in the long-run, be a more effective means of achieving our values, than these occasionaly cries for us to "do something" orchestrated by political and media elites.


Such caution about our limitations to sensibly pick sides would have kept us on the sidelines of our disastrous intervention in Afghanistan.

Monday, July 9, 2007

monday, monday ....

Got something almost ready for tomorrow. A little overwhelmed about stuff today.

Here's a shit-assed piece of "journalism" mocking the leftist Mexican presidential candidate, Lopez Obrador (who was most certainly robbed of his victory in that country's last presidential election): http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/4935025.html


MEXICO CITY — A year ago, he was the presidential front-runner. Today, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the head of a near-penniless "shadow" government and the star of a low-rated TV show that airs in the wee hours.

But the self-proclaimed "legitimate president of Mexico" is criss-crossing the country, working crowds in towns and villages, making sure he doesn't disappear from the public eye. Today, the former leftist mayor of Mexico City is planning to preside over a "victory" rally in the capital to mark the first anniversary of the July 2 elections.

He also will launch his new book, The Mafia Robbed Us of the Presidency. It promises to provide new proof of what he claims was a right-wing conspiracy to steal the election, which Lopez Obrador lost by half a percentage point to conservative Felipe Calderon.

"We're going to commemorate the anniversary of our triumph because we won this election," Lopez Obrador, 53, declared on this week's broadcast of La Verdad Sea Dicha.

The TV program, whose name roughly translates to "The Truth Be Told," airs at 1 a.m. Tuesdays — the only time slot he could afford.

A blend of political satire and straight-faced propaganda, it provides a forum for the former candidate to lambaste Calderon's government and to rehash allegations of fraud. That is, if anyone's watching.

Oh-ha-ha! Zing! Pow!

Actually, this is the sort of hackery one would expect of a newspaper from Texas. If that state's failure to abandon "[p]resident" george w ["w" stands for "why do i keep drinking my watery, alcoholic's beer-shit from the toilet with a spoon?"] bush is any indication of their moral and intellectual integrity.

So, it's certain that Obrador lost that election is it? And the"Weapons of Mass Destruction" are going to turn up any day now, right? (They're in now Damascus, and/or north, south, west, and east from there, I hear.)

It would be nice if we didn't have to argue with a political movement that has no credibility to establish the fact that they have no credibility. It would be nice if whatever thoughts the current pack of liars and jerk-offs at newspapers like this were just simply, totally, completely irrelevant, because the world was a sane place, where justice reigned. Alas.

Anyway, here's the election results that so clearly showed Obrador's razor-thin loss that didn't require a recount:


There's something rotten in Mexico. And it smells like Florida. The ruling party, the Washington-friendly National Action Party (Pan), proclaimed yesterday their victory in the presidential race, albeit tortilla thin, was Mexico's first "clean" election. But that requires we close our eyes to some very dodgy doings in the vote count that are far too reminiscent of the games played in Florida in 2000 by the Bush family. And indeed, evidence suggests that Team Bush had a hand in what may be another presidential election heist.

...

And so it is in Mexico. The Calderón "victory" is based on a gross addition of tabulation sheets. His party, the Pan, and its election officials are refusing López Obrador's call for a hand recount of each ballot which would be sure to fill in those blanks.

Blank ballots are rarely random. In Florida in 2000, 88% of the supposedly blank ballots came from African-American voting districts - that is, they were cast by Democratic voters. In Mexico, the supposed empty or unreadable ballots come from the poorer districts where the challenger's Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR) is strongest.

There's an echo of the US non-count in the south-of-the-border tally. It's called "negative drop-off". In a surprising number of districts in Mexico, the federal electoral commission logged lots of negative drop-off: more votes for lower offices than for president. Did López Obrador supporters, en masse, forget to punch in their choice?



Indeed. But perhaps we're being unfair. Surely, robbing the left of a legitimate electoral victory has never happened before in Mexico, right?

Oops.


Far from seeking democratic reform, Salinas adamantly resists opposition demands for independent electoral authorities and for removal of the governability clause. Instead, the new electoral law approved by the Chamber of Deputies on July 14 enables the president to appoint members of the electoral commission without regard for balance and criminalizes peaceful protests against the commission’s determinations. To forestall opposition alliances such as those that triumphed in Chile and Nicaragua, it also prohibits joint candidacies.

Salinas’ actions betray his campaign premise of “clean elections.” In hindsight, it seems he misjudged Mexican voters by believing he could win the 1988 presidential election fairly. Indeed, Salinas intended to dramatize his commitment to modernize Mexican politics through live broadcast of returns on election night.

Things did not, however, go according to plan. As opposition leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas surged ahead in the early count, the computers tabulating votes suspiciously went “down.” While the opposition produced returns from 55 percent of precincts showing Cardenas maintaining his lead, the government stalled. A week later it announced its victory, but refused to disclose results from remaining precincts. According to a Los Angeles Times poll conducted last summer, less than one in four Mexicans believe Salinas was legitimately elected president of Mexico.

In other words, the people of Mexico have twice had their democratic rights stolen from them. But for this newspaper in Texas, this is all a joke. This is all just sour grapes. Coming from a country with such farcical elections, this is rich.

Of course, for sterling right-wing champions of democracy, such blatant violations of the electoral process are just fine if they happen to the left. What claim will they have to "fairness" and "legitimacy" and "democracy" should the situation ever be reversed?

They will have none.

Which won't stop them from hypocritically bleating. But galling hypocrisy is second nature to these people.

Of course, it won't be necessary. The Mexican left has won two elections. It possesses the electoral strength to win a third. If only this time, the Mexican people show the will to take their victory when they win it.

The Democrats (as pathetic and loathsome as they are) won two presidential elections. bush II has never been elected president. The left has the electoral strength. It can, and does win elections. "Leftist" and whining pseudo-leftist politicians should reflect on the significance of this.

And we should also reflect on the contempt that our enemies have for genuine democracy, and reflect on the significance of that as well.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Scott's Talking About Andrea Dworkin

If you don't have time to find out what she was all about, y'kin read him. (He's not sure what she's really about either.) (As far as I can tell.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Ghost Wars

I'm reading Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: the secret history of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to Septer 10, 2001 . It's a pretty good book. It has a detailed, mature background of the international political forces that produced the present political arrangement in Afghanistan. You can learn a lot if you get past the spin, which is easy to do, but I'd like to deal with that spin, which detracts from the whole book.

Coll describes all the "bad guys" as killers, thugs, angry, fanatical, murderers, etc., etc., ... he goes into the weaknesses of governments like the Soviets, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc., but the USA is treated as this giant, seemingly benign, amorphous blob, against which some Jihadists have grievances "both real and imagined" and of which grievances, Coll will most likely describe the imaginary ones. The few Americans who die get a mini-bio, and we're to pause at the snuffing-out of their humanity and think that the world is a dangerous place for Americans. Of the tens of thousands of non-American victims, nobody so far (page 275) appears to merit this attention.

And US political leaders and foreign policy, CIA, etc., operatives, are always describe in a positive, or at least neutral light. Case-in-point, this bio of Cofer Black, the CIA's station chief in Khartoum, Sudan in the early nineties:

"After training in clandestine operations he volunteered for service [with the CIA] in Africa. He was dispatched as a case officer to Lusaka, Zambia, during the Rhodesian war next door. He transferred to Somalia for two years during a Cold War-inspired conflict between Ethiopians and Somalis in the sands of the Ogaden desert. He worked in South Africa during the racist apartheid regime's dirty war against guerrilla movements representing the black majority. While assigned to Kinshasa, Zaire, Black was involved in the Reagan administration's covert action program to arm anticommunist guerrillas in neighboring [sic] Angola. By the time he arrived in Khartoum, he was steeped in Africa's complexities." (p.267)



I'll say. I'd also say that he did yeoman's work in causing many of Africa's "complexities." Let's flesh out some of the work that Mr. Black was doing for the CIA in Africa:

Zimbabwe(Rhodesia): Here's a link to a book about the CIA's role in this conflict:

This text details how the US military and CIA colluded with Solider of Fortune magazine and others to send white mercenaries to fight for the Ian Smith regime in Rhodesia.

(we might have to take this book with a grain of salt, given the facts pointed out in this insightful review from an Amazon.com reader/reviewer):


I threw my copy away! Liberals are worse than cancer, and have wreaked this nation. The book, although having some historical value is a crusade for the liberals of the world. Throw away your guns. We can all live in peace. Yeah right. Dont waste your money.

... shithead.

Somalia/Ethiopia Cold War Proxy War:

Red Pepper

Throughout the cold war, Ethiopia and Somalia were used as proxies, receiving billions of dollars worth of weapons while famines and wars raged. US support for Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia from the second world war until 1974, ensured US access to the important spy base at Kagnew, while next door the Soviet Union backed Siad Barre’s ‘Marxist’ regime in Somalia.

On the back of US aid, Ethiopia developed one of the largest armies in Africa, which it used to devastate Eritrean society. As Haile Selassie’s policies became increasingly unpopular (100,000 peasants died in a famine, in response to which one of his ministers said, ‘If we could save the peasants only by confessing our failure to the world, it is better that they die’), he was overthrown by the army, with Mengistu eventually taking control of the ruling military committee, known as
the Derg.


Ultimately, Mengistu preferred a relationship with the Soviets. Seeing Ethiopia as a more important prize than Somalia, the Soviet Union outbid the US, sending $9 billion in military hardware before Mengistu was ousted in 1991. Soviet aid allowed Mengistu to unleash terror on political opponents, as well as many ordinary civilians, and increase the war drive against Eritrea.

To add to the murky politics, Mengistu also received a little help from Israel, who bribed him to allow the deportation of Ethiopian Jews, whom it needed to bolster the Jewish population of Israel. Shortly after the deal, Israeli-made cluster bombs started falling on Eritrean towns. Across the border, the US supported Somalia. As early as 1977, the US promised to find allies who would be able to supply Somalia the military assistance that it would need to attack Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan rushed in with the required aid.

In 1980, the US signed an arms deal that allowed it access to Somali bases. Under Reagan, the US supplied more than $680million to Siad Barre, at least $195 million of which was intended for
military use (dramatically higher when related aid is counted), despite congressional obstacles. The US claimed its relationship had a moderating impact on Somalia. Human Rights Watch disagreed, claiming that 50,000 of Barre’s own civilians were killed and half a million displaced in the late 1980s.


For the US and the Soviet Union, local suffering counted for no more than the proclaimed ideology of their proxy dictators. The important thing was the global edge that arming such countries could bring to their overall game.


"He worked in South Africa during the racist apartheid regime's dirty war against guerrilla movements representing the black majority."

Drag a sentence out long enough and people might get confused enough to think that (in this case) "He" [Black] "worked ... representing the black majority."

That wasn't the CIA's position, I'd say. CIA vs. CP

Long before the Reagan administration, white liberals in the United States and South Africa understood the threat of communism in South Africa and took action, in concert with the CIA, to undermine that threat, even if this delayed, by necessity, the end of apartheid.


and Znet

The CIA's interventionist role in southern Africa is well documented. In the 1970s, for example, the CIA joined hands with the South African intelligence community. According to former secret
agent Martin Dolinchek, the American and South African secret services groomed and propped up the Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP). At the same time, a campaign of covert propaganda and disinformation was launched to discredit the ANC. By 1984, with the ANC conveniently banned from free political activity, the IFP was able to claim nearly one million members in more than 2,000 branches. This rose to 1.6 million in 3,000 branches in 1989, and today the figure of more than two million members is generally quoted by IFP officials, headed by a small band of white people who play a disproportionate role near the top of the party.


Anti-Communist Guerrillas in Angola: Third World Traveller

The Angolan intervention is a strong candidate for the most pointless CIA operation ever. Certainly the ratio of blood spilled to goals achieved-to the extent that those goals can even be determined- makes it one of the agency's biggest fiascoes.
...

After $40 million and thousands of dead, Congress-in a rare display of principle-cut off funds for the Angolan war in 1976, the first time it had ever voted to shut down a CIA operation. Unfortunately, the CIA managed to sustain the killing off-the-books until Reagan took office in 1981. Millions more dollars and thousands more lives were then wasted until, in 1990, the ongoing Angolan stalemate at last resulted in an election.

When Savimbi lost overwhelmingly to the MPLA, he cranked the war right back up again, initially with further CIA funding. Finally, in 1993, the US distanced itself from Savimbi and recognized
the MPLA government, but the war still continues. So far, more than 300,000 Angolans have died, 80,000 are crippled, 50,000 orphaned, and the damage to property exceeds $50 billion.



Y'see, info like this would help give the reader a better sense of the "War on Terror" than this lazily drifting over the surface of the US presence in the world.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Air-Strikes

Somebody help me with some advice. I've got this friend, see, and I said that I'd help him with his finances. This was about five years ago, and I've been investing his pay-cheques in a mutual fund, "Snake-Eyes Security." So, like every season, he earns negative returns and gets whacked with surprisingly high service charges. He's starting to get pissed-off with me. What should I do?

(Note: Please don't suggest that I stop investing his money in that mutual fund, or that I give him some of my own money to compensate him for his losses. Those options are off the table.)

Which leads me to my topic about NATO air-strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan. A big part of the growth of the anti-NATO forces is the gigantic anger over the family and loved ones of Afghans whom we've killed at check-points, and (the greater scale), air-strikes.

This has been going on for five years now, and you'd think that NATO commanders would incorporate this problem which is nullifying all their efforts at winning hearts and minds, ... remember, the anger at the air-strike casualities IS NULLIFYING ALL THEIR EFFORTS, ... into their strategies.

Now, obviously, NATO forces call in air-support because they're trying to protect their soldiers. The political costs of maintaining the mission there would be unbearable if the death rate of NATO soldiers were to triple as would be likely if they engaged the Taliban soldier to soldier, with small arms fire. I'm not suggesting that we force our soldiers into such a mortally dangerous situation either.

But how does that reflect upon us in the eyes of the people we're supposedly trying to protect? They know that we're bombarding their houses indiscriminately from miles away, because we don't want to risk our own soldiers' lives. How grateful do you imagine anyone would feel in such a situation?

Finally, when we bomb a village with howitzers (or whatever, I'm not a weapons guy) from miles away, we blame the Taliban for any civilian casualites. However, when we put our soldiers in among Afghan civilians, even if just for some propaganda exercise, a suicide bomber who kills his fellow Afghans is just demonstrating his contempt for civilian life. Heads we win, tails they lose 'eh? It becomes doubly sickening logic when the Taliban who we condemn for hiding amongst civilian villagers were, in fact, men from that village, who were retaliating against the depredations of Karzai's police and his NATO protectors.

We should not be there. Chretien did not send us there to do good, but to appease the Americans. Neither our leaders, nor the American leaders, ever do anything unless it first serves their blinkered conceptions of their own "national interests." Little good can come from violence initiated by some cynical calculus.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Grudges

One thing that never ceases to disgust me is how some incredibly comfortable North Americans feel that they can tell the victims of Western violence to renounce vengeance, and instead focus on rebuilding their countries, or slavishly support some Western-backed "moderate" puppet who does what we tell him to do, and essentially to just smile and take whatever we dish out.

However, whenever we get inconvenienced, like say, whenever First Nations protesters and activists block a road, occupy some land they have a claim to, ... comfortable North Americans (in this case Canadians) become enraged. They holler for the police to forcibly dismantle the occupation or blockade and arrest the perpetrators and generally bust heads.

Or, when the USA was attacked on 9-11, was there a nation-wide sentiment to remain peaceful, to embrace Christ's teachings perhaps and espouse forgiveness against trespassers? Did we (as a society) sagely intone how violence never solves anything ("An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.") and etc., the way we always counsel people like this to?

Of course we didn't. Instead, the United States lashed out madly in all directions, judging anyone who didn't support their military vengeance as being their enemy, and therefore deserving of similar treatment themselves. Wouldn't it be neat if every country in the world went around targeting any other country that didn't take a side in their disputes?

It's just childish hypocrisy, but when it's a super-power that's engaging in it, it becomes dangerous. And when the blood spilled as a result of this stupid petulance approaches oceanic proportions, to hear these sentiments expressed by cossetted North American consumers becomes utterly sickening.