Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Never-Ending Battle for Truth, Justice, & theAnarchist Way

Oppression is oppression is oppression. Whatever the roots of oppression: whether economic exploitation, or sexism, racism, militarism, or any other form of domination, they are to be targeted by the anarchist critique. As a political project, anarchism cannot claim many notable successes, save for a brief flowering during the Spanish Civil War. While that anarchist experiment could be classified as a qualified success, it is by no means certain whether it would have lasted, or whether it was a brief outburst of cooperative effort during a period of Civil War.

The gradual disintegration of the anarchist-influenced Mondragon Collective in Post-Franco Spain, into a bureaucratic, corporatist, capitalist entity, shows the delicacy of this species of
flower. The implosion of authoritarian Marxist-Leninist models (there are still many hold-outs for plain-old Marxism) has given anarchism a new lease on life as the only game in town, but the failure of one revolutionary model does not necessarily validate a rival model.

What explains the disappointing results of anarchism? And what explains its longevity in spite of its demonstrated ineffectiveness? I offer for your consideration the possibility that anarchist principles constitute a way of life, and that this principled way of life requires as much peace and
stability as possible, while at the same time, these principles are less effective guides to action during conflicts with ruthless, unscrupulous competitors.

Anarchist principles have developed, and are developing, into the admission that domination and hierarchy are problems universal in scope, requiring constant criticism and struggle. I like to think of anarchism as being liberalism brought to its ultimate conclusions. The best liberals sought to champion the rights of individuals against the state. The liberals’ problem is that they are encumbered with incoherent ideas about hierarchical gradations of humanity; with white, wealthy, educated males occupying the apex, and non-white, poor, uneducated men and women occupying the base of the human pyramid. Anarchists are free of these useless preconceptions, and are gradually working out ways to eliminate the dehumanizing effects of all of the baseless pyramids of human hierarchies.

Anarchists attack the state, seeing its origins in the desires of political and religious elites to compel submission to centralized authority and thought. Anarchists attack economic oppression, seeing its basis in the first day when one human devalued another human into worthlessness, and compelled that human to work in slavery in return for survival. Anarchists attack gender oppression, seeing its origins in selfishness and brutality.

Anarchists attack racial prejudice, seeing it as the product of cynical attempts by the powerful to pit the exploited against one another. Anarchists attack the domination and exploitation of the natural environment, seeing it as the product of an unhealthy socio-economic system, and as a process which might lead to the extinction of all life on this planet.

Of course, with all of this attacking, anarchists could be forgiven for not getting much done. Anarchists aren’t predisposed to following orders and making sacrifices for the good of the team, just because some self-proclaimed leader told them to. In some cases, recently oppressed (or still oppressed) peoples take the opportunity of first experiencing freedom and use it to celebrate that freedom, and not to listen to condescending instructions about what they are supposed to do next.

This is not to say that anarchism cannot work. This is to say that anarchist principles need lots and lots of time to work. They need periods of stability when people can test the boundaries of their oppressions and then break them. Times of peace and stability are also necessary for the
unconscious oppressors (I count myself as one of them) to be able to reflect without fear and hostility on the truth about their behaviour. Freedom fighters, especially those whose natural abilities have placed them into positions of temporary leadership have to realize that their temporary elevation has created a distance between themselves and their colleagues, and that they have to learn to accept it when others decide that they have ideas too, and, more unsettling, that their followers are no longer happy with their claims on leadership.

Tactically (or anyway, so I believe) the constant dispersal of powers, centres of action and ideas, the constant splitting of groups when these groups no longer serve any purpose but to perpetuate some bureaucratic leadership, is not the most effective way to challenge a unified, ruthless, and focussed, system of oppression. But I nonetheless do believe that abandoning anarchist principles wholeheartedly, and adopting blatantly authoritarian models, will prove counterproductive, no matter what temporary benefits may occur. I also believe that the strength of those systems that celebrate individual creativity and autonomy, and that can naturally contain all of this internal activity, will be the most successful in the long run.

Finally, I would just like to say that all of us should realize that we are all prone to acting oppressively, and that our first response to fair criticism should not be defensive self-righteousness. Take the time to reflect upon the criticisms you have received, and to realize that if they are true, you have merely fallen prey to a common human foible, and that to admit to this behaviour is not acknowledge that you are evil.

As well, for those who are unmasking oppression, take the time to realize that often the activities you are criticizing are often not understood as being anything but natural, and it might take time for people to see that they are behaving badly. The time for anger is when people have acknowledged that what they are doing is oppressive and wrong, but that they will continue in their ways because it suits them personally.

At least, that’s what I think. But maybe I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, and probably never will.

The Betrayal of America

On a whim, I picked-up Vincent Bugliosi's The Betrayal of America to re-read it. It's interesting, given all that's happened since bush II was installed, to read about this first crime.

I was posting on the Znet Sustainer's Forum at the time I first read it, and I collected some "conservative" opinions on Bush vs Gore, and a review of Bugliosi's book in the National Review, or New Republic, (I forget which).

The two defences of the SCOTUS decision were pretty thin. One was a windy sermon about how the Supreme Court justices just have to be of upright character, given their office. The NR review spent a lot of time excoriating Bugliosi for not being more eloquent and for being so "angry" (over the trivial belief that the SCOTUS had installed an incompetent as President of the United States against the will of the people), and then went into some legal arguments that are way over my head. If you want to pay money to Znet, you can probably get in and find them. They're there. I do try to listen to every viewpoint.

But checking out the customer reviews on Amazon.com, I do have to point out this sort of dreck:

"A confused and muddled attempt to revise history. The author doesn't present arguments and supporting facts, he presents rants. Footnotes and citations are at best confused, and at worst non-existent. This book should be about one third the length it is - it is full of inappropriate filler."

and ...

"This book is truly bad. It has no index, it is poorly written it is utterly unedited, it has no logic, it is ad hominum, and it consistantly fails to offer either fact or argument to support its claims.

First the editing problems. It has three chapters. After each chapter it has "footnotes." However the "footnotes" are additions to the text which have been added to the text but not edited into the text. It seems that that a decision was made to rush it to market without a final edit. The book is absurd.

Of the three chapters, the first two are totally empty. Only in the third chapter does the author discussion the issues in the case. The book is based on a 22 page article written for The Nation Magazine. When it was expanded into book length no content was added just filler.

The author's manner of arguing is to simply repeat isclaims over and over again confusing repetition with argument. The book has the feel of a closing argument aimed at a very unintelligent jury. The core of the arguement is that on election day in Florida in 2000 more voters wanted to vote for Gore than for Bush and that because of the butterly ballot some 6,000 of them were confused and voted for Pat Buchanan by accident. No evidence is produced to support this contention. Rather Bugloisi repeats and repeats and repeats himself and calls names and names and names and rants and rants and, did I say he repeats himself?"

The first reviewer "the author doesn't present arguments or supporting facts" is demolished by the other review that I've quoted. You might not agree with him, you might even think he's stupid, but Bugliosi quite clearly attempts to present an argument supported by facts. The fundamental dishonesty of this first bushlover is therefore exposed and I've no need to do anymore than mention it.

The second reviewer is almost as worthless: "The core of the arguement is that on election day in Florida in 2000 more voters wanted to vote for Gore than for Bush and that because of the butterly ballot some 6,000 of them were confused and voted for Pat Buchanan by accident."

Actually, shithead, that isn't the core of the argument. The core of the argument is that the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision based on the "Equal Protection" clause was flimsy in the extreme and that the unsigned decision and the bizarre attempts to provide precedents for this, and the SCOTUS's insistence that their decision not apply in other cases, shows that the majority was aware of this.

There's more in that second review, but seeing as how this person can't follow a simple argument, I don't have any faith in any of her further claims.

Once more, life is short, and this crime has already been done and followed by further ones. I could read more about "conservative" counter-arguments, but as with so many other cases, I'm sure it would be time wasted giving due process to weak lies and screeds.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Global Warming

To be perfectly honest, the consensus of the majority of the world's scientific community isn't a clincher for me. I don't know why the vast majority of relevant scientists support the global warming thesis. I don't understand the science, so I can't evaluate their consensus.

I don't know if solar activity is causing global warming, and that therefore, there's nothing we can do.

I'm obviously a little unimpressed by scientific "renegades" who question global warming when their funding comes from the oil industry, but one never knows.

But it seems to me, that the fact of the matter is there is a possibility that human activity is causing global warming (perhaps even in combination with those solar flares or whatever) and that if, say, the United States is prepared to sink one trillion dollars into an imperialist adventure in Iraq (that was based on the bogus possibility that Saddam had WMDs) then it shouldn't be a problem for that country to spend twenty-five billion dollars on an apparently far more plausible threat.

And it seems to me, that regardless of what climate-change deniers say, there's no question that our deforestations and massive smog output is going to have some effects on the world's environment. It's absurd to imagine that we can do all this and not affect things.

We can't continue this way, and we're going to have to come up with new sources of power, more effective pollution scrubbers, and etc. If building highways, railroads, nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, military hardware, faster computers, etc., is always treated as a boost to economic activity, then investing in the greening of our society will also have benefits.

Sure, there'll be costs. But that obviously means that the money will also be going to people who will hire other people and who will all spend it.

We should start yesterday.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Canadian Values

In the print version of the Friday Globe & Mail (free copy - I refuse to pay for a newspaper that employs Margarent Wente or Jeffrey Simpson) I noticed a report on poll results for Canadians' opinions about Afghanistan.

The majority of the respondents doubt we'll ever get to the bottom of prisoner abuse allegations.

More interesting (and depressing) for me was the reporting that 4/10 Canadians support CF personell being allowed to beat prisoners.

Forty percent.

It's my confirmed belief (once again) that 30 percent of any given population are too stupid and disgusting to be bothered with. That other ten percent are probably likely to respond well to education (like the former bush II supporters who have drifted away in response to that loathsome freak's serial fuck-ups everywhere).

But just what sort of "Canadian Values" do these half-wits imagine they're upholding when they give their approval of the beating of prisoners?

Remember this: Our own governments (and numerous international human rights organizations) have said that the primary cause of the Taliban's resurgence in the area under Canada's responsibility in Afghanistan has been the corruption and brutality of our puppet government in Kabul.

These poor peasant farmers would like nothing better than to live in peace, but the depredations of Karzai's police force has pushed them into the arms of the local resistance, which, because this is AFGHANISTAN and NOT CANADA, is the Taliban (a creation - anyway- of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States).

To defend themselves against a corrupt regime, they take up arms and Canadian soldiers are sent in to teach them the error of their ways.

And if in the stress of combat, our forces lash out against helpless prisoners, ... well, big fucking deal apparently.

And if it's our standard operating procedure to turn over our prisoners (often farmers pushed to armed resistance by a brutal, thieving government) over to that same brutal, thieving government, where they will quite likely be tortured, perhaps murdered, ... well, big fucking hairy deal II , I suppose.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Marketplace of Ideas

Would we all agree that killing 500,000 people is a bad thing?

Would we?

I mean, ... y'know, ... we're all hardened and cynical due to these uncertain times we live in and everything, ... but still, ... killing half-a-million people is a big deal, right?

So, like, the UN sanctions that were primarily enforced by the US and UK, ... they killed ONE MILLION IRAQIS. Including 500,000 children.

Those are our lovely liberal-capitalist-democrats at work.

Yes, yes, ... there are arguments out there that most of the deaths were Saddam Hussein's fault, ... because mortality rates were highest in the area under his direct control. I also hear it argued that it was physically impossible for the Germans to have gassed so many people to death in the concentration camps that they had to do the job. But both of these sorts of arguments are "holocaust denial." What the people who doubt the death and misery caused by the UN/US/UK are doing is denying a holocaust.

I took the time to ask the man in charge of the "Oil for Food" program about those claims. Hans von Sponeck resigned in protest at the barbarism of the Clinton-Blair policies. The deaths were mainly the fault of the sanctions. Deaths were lower in the desert and in the highlands of the Kurds because of climate/population factors. Spurious claims notwithstanding, Western democrats killed one million Iraqis with their sanctions and now, based on the recent Lancet study, our leaders have presided over the deaths of at least half-a-million more.

And yet, and yet, ... the media still continues to blather about how we have the Iraqis' best interests at heart. How the US troops (aside from a few bad apples torturing and humiliating prisoners, who were rounded up in random sweeps, at Abu Ghraib, s'more bad apples massacring unarmed civilians in Haditha, a couple more bad apples beating prisoners to death, a few more bad apples raping a teenage Iraqi girl and then killing her and burning her and her family, a few dozen bad apples taking trophy photos of Iraqis that they killed at "check-points," and who then went on to upload these photos at a porn site in exchange for free access, and on and on) are doing a fine job of "nation-building" and "winning hearts and minds" (the same fucking expression from Vietnam where FOUR MILLION were killed, ostensibly to "prevent a bloodbath") and oh yes.

I mean, to think that this isn't "brainwashing" going on, ... just because some of the nit-wits who have been processed by this media system actually believe their garbage, ... it doesn't make it any the less lies and brainwashing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

200,000 to 1,000,000

That seems a safe and plausble range of unnecessary, untimely Iraqi deaths that can be placed at the feet of george w. bush.

Add to that the further 1,000,000 killed by the sanctions imposed mainly by Bush Sr., Clinton, and Blair, in the face of UN protests, ... and you've got a pretty serious atrocity on your hands, don't you?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Senate Committee Interim Report on Afghanistan

A free version of my local newspaper alerted me to the fact that the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has released an interim report today. I've got the pdf link here.

"Canadian Troops in Afghanistan: Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission"

So, I've decided to go through it. It kinda starts off a little badly actually:

Afghans have been both battered by foreign occupiers and
tyrannized by extreme elements of their own countrymen for as long as its
citizens can remember. The Russians bludgeoned Afghanistan in the ‘80s. The
Americans helped drive the Russians out in 1989 and then largely abandoned
the Afghans in the ‘90s. The Taliban moved into the void and ruled with
merciless fervor until overpowered by the Americans and their Northern
Alliance allies in 2001.

See, yeah, the Russians bludgeoned Afganistan, true. But the Report neglects to mention that it was with the very same forces (the Mujahideen) that later became al-Qaeda and then the Taliban that the US drove the Russians out. The Report skips over the immediate post-Soviet chaos that ensued when various warlords battled with each other for control of the country, apparently making it more of a hell-hole of rape and murder than it was during the war with the Russians. It was the Taliban that managed to win any degree of widespread support, due to their religious aversion to the corruption of the warlords, and who were able to defeat the warlords and bring a degree of stability to the country.

The warlords became known as the "Northern Alliance" as they were confined to a northern corner of the country by the Taliban. The Taliban itself had received assistance from the United States, in the same way Mujahdeen like Osama bin Laden did, through Pakistan's intelligence agency. This was because, despite their anti-American, anti-Israel alignment, in the here-and-now, they were useful to destabilize the Soviet Union, and then Russian influence in Central Asia.

If anything, Afghanistan has been torn apart by competing sides both backed by the United States at one time or another. The admittedly hideous tranquility of the Taliban has now been replaced by the hideous chaos and rape of the Karzai regime and its Northern Alliance criminal supporters. This followed the atrocious bombing campaign of 2001 in which thousands were killed directly from bombs, while tens of thousands more died from exposure and starvation.



So, the Report starts out subtly introducing a white hat to the forces of the West. One that is completely undeserved.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gun Control & Haiti

Here's a link to an extensive presentation of evidence on various subjects to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

The first discussion is about the international small arms trade and the havoc it is causing in less developed countries including Haiti. Some of the speakers focus in on the disarmament initiative there:

Mr. Peter Goldring: As well, Oxfam was involved in the Haiti interim cooperation framework. This was done several years ago, in 2004. At that time it identified the disarmament and collection of what looked like 25,000 weapons to be collected and destroyed. Do you have any idea how many of those were actually collected and destroyed? What is your opinion on the progress of that?


Mr. Mark Fried: There are lots of them. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but certainly there are plenty of weapons.

Mr. Peter Goldring: If you're going into the same numbers you were
before, which is about one weapon for ten people, that would seem to suggest
there are 800,000 there, and removing 5,000 would really be a drop in the
bucket, wouldn't it?


Mr. Peter Van Loan: If I may, Mr. Chair, I think you're running into a problem that this committee has for some time been studying Haiti and we've heard evidence that one of the biggest problems they're encountering there is the question of order and arms in places like Cité Soleil. According to the police we've heard from, very little progress
has been made on disarming. That's why there's some frustration here, and you
just happened to run into that.

I'm of two minds on this. Yes, I agree that the international small arms trade is a cynical, bloody part of the world economy that is responsible for perpetuating human misery. It occurs to me as I write that Nicholas Cage acted in a movie ("Lord of War") as one such dealer in that trade.

On the other hand, when I hear about attempts to disarm people in Cite Soleil, I get a little cynical. The "armed gangs" that Aristide was always supposed to be supporting were being compared to what, exactly? The brutal and corrupt military and police forces that constantly betrayed the will of the Haitian people?

And now, in the face of Western-coddled death squads like the Little Machete Gang and the trigger-happy MINUSTAH force itself, the weapons of the people of Cite Soleil are supposed to be confiscated?

This is MINUSTAH we're talking about remember:

In the early morning hours of July 6, 2005 more than 350
UN troops stormed the seaside shantytown of Cite Soleil in a military operation
with the stated purpose of halting violence in Haiti. When the shooting stopped
seven hours later, more than 26 people, the majority of them unarmed civilians
lie dead with scores more wounded. Officially, the UN responded that they only
opened fire after being fired upon and discounted non-combatant casualities.
Further, the UN claimed that only six people, who they described as "bandits,"
had been killed during the military operation.

It's a sick situation. Obviously, in this poor, desperate society, some gun-owners are going to engage in murder and theft. Others are enemies of the people. But others require their guns to protect them from the forces we've set against them.

On guns and gun control in general, I offer the following reflections:

In his movie "Bowling for Columbine," Michael Moore did not say that Americans owned more guns than Canadians. Statistically speaking, Canadians own more guns per person than do Americans. Perhaps there is something in the culture of the USA that makes them more likely to shoot each other, or perhaps it has something to do with the greater proportion handguns in urban environments as opposed to Canadians' greater proportion of hunting rifles in rural and wilderness regions.

If it's a cultural thing, I worry that with the growth of our cities and the advances in telecommunications that makes US cultural products even more pervasive than previously, we will see an increase in our own gun culture here in Canada. Especially as Canadian economic policy seems determined to recreate the same slum conditions that supposedly justify the US gun culture.

I'm not advocating censorship on this though. For one thing, we could reverse the immiserating economic policies of the Liberal-Conservative parties (at both the federal and provincial levels) and we could invest money in efforts to meet this onslaught of gun culture at the community and mass media level.

Regarding Canada's present gun control system, I don't own a gun, so the supposed problems of the gun registry and oversight of firearms and their owners aren't a pressing concern for me. I haven't read or studied the issue at any length. However, if what I've heard is true, the gun registry and other gun laws are too invasive, and seem to smack of totalitarian police state regimes. And given that in the past we owned more guns than the Americans did, with far less of a problem of gun violence, I believe that our present expensive system might also be unnecessary.

Something is obviously rotten with the United States gun culture. We should find out what it is and take concerted steps to avoid it here. I don't believe our present gun control laws are the answer though. If they're as invasive as they sound, they should be repealed.

I don't believe that small arms are an unimitigated right, or that they serve as an effective counterweight to state power. I also believe that they do impact on the level of crimes (including violent crimes like murder and rape), and that this holds true for Cite Soleil as well as anywhere else. At the same time, I can't wholeheartedly support the attempts to disarm the people of Haiti given the nature of the forces that the countries of France, the USA, and Canada, have set against them.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Senator Leahy - Standing up for Canada

The right-wing blogosphere thought that Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy sounded "unhinged" when he tore a strip off of the fascist mediocrity that is Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, over the Maher Arar affair.

"We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated.

We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured.
And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

You know, and I know, that has happened a number of times, in the past five years, by this country. It is a black mark on us. It has brought about the condemnation of some of our closest and best allies.

And it is easy for us to sit here comfortably in this room knowing that we're not going to be sent off to another country to be tortured, to treat it as though, well, Attorney-General Ashcroft says we've got assurances.

Assurances from a country that we also say, now, we can't talk to them because we can't take their word for anything?"

Leahy told Gonzales that he was a little upset over this issue, to which Gonzales condescendingly said:

"Yes, sir, I can tell. But before you get more upset, perhaps you should wait to receive the briefing ..."

If you watch the link at Crooks and Liars, you can see that Leahy cut off Gonzales abruptly with a curt: "How long?"

GONZALES: I'm hoping that we can get you the information next week.

LEAHY: Well, Attorney-General, I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll meet you halfway on this.
I'll wait next week for that briefing. If we don't get it, I guarantee you there will be another hearing on this issue.

This took place on January 17th, 2007. On January 31st, Leahy and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee got their meeting with Gonzales, who provided some top-secret "evidence" that supposedly justified their arresting of a Canadian citizen, shipping him to Syria (which, as Leahy pointed out, the bush II regime claimed paradoxically that it accepted Syria's assurances that Arar would not be tortured whereas in most other areas the Syrians are considered to be terrorist supporting monsters) where he was tortured, and then refusing to admit his innocence and keeping him on a "no-fly" list.

Shit-for-brains monster tried to portray the results of the meeting thusly:

"Now that they've been briefed by the Justice Department, Leahy and fellow senator, Arlen Specter, suddenly don't have much to say...

WASHINGTON — Two U.S. senators who have been briefed on the
Maher Arar case say they have a lot more questions.But
Patrick Leahy and Republican Arlen Specter clammed up about what they were told by Justice Department officials on Thursday
during a meeting that lasted
an hour and 40 minutes.
C'mon boys... it's vindication day!

Or is it?"

The link connects to a Globe & Mail report that curiously doesn't really say what that this self-described "Conservative, middle-aged, a tad opinionated" individual says it does.

Most of the story is now behind a subscription wall, but let me assure you, the report by Paul Koring and Jeff Shallot does not use the expression "clammed up" anywhere. For the most part, it confirms the introduction that is publicly available:

"A top-secret briefing yesterday failed to convince two senior U.S. senators that the Bush administration was right to send Maher Arar to Syria. Both Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee, said the briefing resulted in more questions than answers."

If you go to the link, you'll see that the imbecile indented his original interpretation of the story, and then, as if to emphasize an important part of the story, put the text in bold font and italicized it. He even put it under in the dateline "Washington" as if he was really quoting the story and pointing out the important features of the story.

Yes, Leahy said that he couldn't comment on the information that he'd heard, but, as opposed to laughing-boy's interpretation of things, this is more likely due to the fact that the probably fake evidence has been legally marked "top secret" and not because Leahy has seen anything of bone-chilling importance to the continued existence of the United States of America.

It appears that our "conservative" (whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean) blogger is, like so many others on the right-wing, merely a base, transparent liar. In this case, this sorry excuse for a human being is trying to defend the torture of an innocent man (although I'm loathe to countenance even the torture of the guilty fwiw) and the lies and deceits of the crypto-fascist regime that is guilty of this torture.

So what? Like me, this person is just another anonymous loser on the internet. But once again: Crooked politicians like Stephen Harper have to get their hardcore supporters from somewhere, and it's lying, torture-loving, Canadian-values-trashing vermin like this latest example that provide this support.

They take their cues from the almost thoroughly debased political culture of the United States, which, while it produces astonishing sources of original dissent and analysis, on the margins is dominated by a powerful media system that is corrupted by the self-congratulatory mindlessness of triumphant capitalism. Since the Reagan years, the "conservative" wing of the media has become more unhinged from reality while it has simultaneously become more powerful. It supports our submerged thirty percent and oozes over our borders, successfully infecting our own political climate. (How can a climate become infected? Who cares, you get the idea. :) )

Don't forget, that when the Liberal Party of Canada (which on a good day likes to imagine that it stands for social justice) was prodded by the NDP to get answers on the Arar file, our present PM Stephen Harper was bitching about all this effort going to ensuring the well-being of a terrorist. Harper's present expressions of concerns for Arar are almost certainly politically motivated. Given that Harper's entire career has been one of deception and lies there is no reason to trust that he has discovered sincerity on this issue.

Friday, February 9, 2007

So maybe it was Canadian soldiers abusing prisoners

Yesterday's post was in response to a short television news segment about Canadians' responsibilities for their prisoners' well-being. I misunderstood the discussion. I thought they were referring to the people we turned our prisoners over to (Afghan government and US military). It turns out that it is that, and our own soldiers' treatment of prisoners as well.I tend to ignore television news and I've stopped buying newspapers, and I follow stories online, so I'm not always up on the latest breaking stuff.

Toronto Star

OTTAWA–Two separate probes are underway into a complaint that up to three prisoners suffered injuries while in the custody of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, the Toronto Star has learned.


Questions are being asked about how as many as three unidentified men suffered injuries to
their upper body while being detained by Canadian soldiers in the Kandahar region last April.
And investigators want to know why the military police officers who eventually took charge of the detainees didn't do their own probe of the injuries.

The Star appears to be curiously vague about the nature of the abuse, ... referring to "upper body injuries," that could mean some bruises on their chests from bumping into something.

The CBC has more (including the name of the guy on CHTV yesterday):

The allegations come from a law professor at the University of Ottawa, Amir
Attaran, based on government documents he obtained under the Access to
Information Act.


The documents show three men were brought to military police by a single interrogator in one day with injuries to their faces, heads and upper bodies, he told the CBC on Tuesday.

He said the men had swollen eyes, cuts on their eyebrows, gashes to their forehead and slashes on their cheeks.

I have to say that if this is what that CH anchorwoman was talking about when she sneeringly asked how realistic it is to imagine that all prisoners will be treated properly, then I have to say that I'm appalled.

It's one thing to think that Canadian troops might not have to be responsible for how prisoners are treated by the Afghan government, but it's quite another thing to thing to simply believe that our soldiers should be excused from respecting human rights themselves.

I think I'll check the submerged third of humanity and see how they're taking this (if they're even acknowledging it) ...

Oh yeah, ... as suspected:

"I honestly do not know what the problem is. Ok, a few prisoners are slapped around. If it is that much of a hassle, simply take no prisoners, shoot every SOB."

"I'm with GaryinWpg, just shoot them dead as you find them since the liberal MSM moonbats are too cowardly to embed themselves with the troops they can only speculate."

"Prof. Amir Attaran, I thinks 6 weeks basic at Petawawa and a trip to Afstan is in order, and not as a concientious objector. Maybe you will get more of an appreciation of things local, from a combat soldier's and the local Afghani's perspective when you are on the receiving end of all those poor "insurgents" that you weep for. "

"In the past, Amir Attaran would have been arrested as an enemy spy. His purpose is not so-called 'human rights abuses'. That is his clever cover. He is using our laws and values against us, in order to support the jihad."

"(The enemy infiltrator known as) Attaran's last effort was to have the Geneva enemy combatant rules applied to jihad prisoners. The problem is jihadi Islamofascists, especially the Taliban, are not recognized soldiers of any country's military. So, in its present form, the Geneva rules do not apply. But, obviously, he's still trying to cripple our military effort any way he can."

"What the MSM should be concentrating on is questioning the motives of the oppostion and this
professor in bringing this crap forward. Additionally, this all happened under the LIBS did it not? Where were they. How does this reflect on the current government? "

There's lots more of course. Remember, this is the political base of politicians like Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, and Mike Harris. These aren't just harmless, pathetic morons. Shit-heads like this have made Stockwell Day our Minister of Public Safety.

If you're a supporter of the war in Afghanistan, and you have faith in the principles of our soldiers, then your proper response to this story should be along the lines of: "These are still just allegations, and while I'm sure they're not true, it's a serious matter. I hope they're not true, but I realize that it's an important story."

You don't immediately begin to whine about how the media is out to destroy the troops' morale and that who cares if we beat the shit out of people?

These idiots will never realize that if - if - Western democracies behave better in wartime, it isn't because of callous, indifferent, pro-war, pro-torture vermin like them, it's because bleeding-heart pinko fags care to make sure that we do.

The right-wing needs to learn to understand, and then embrace the "Canadian values" that they 're so mindlessly, and incomprehensibly, so proud of.

Otherwise, after we've cut ourselves so much "slack" we might produce monsters like this:

Dilawar was sent to Bagram and soon labeled "noncompliant." One of the guards, Specialist Corey Jones, said the prisoner spat in his face and started kicking him. Jones responded, he said, with a couple of knee strikes to the leg of the shackled man."He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god," Jones said to investigators. "Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny. It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,"' he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes."


The findings of Dilawar's autopsy were succinct. He had had some coronary artery disease, the medical examiner reported, but what killed him was the same sort of "blunt force trauma to the lower extremities" that had led to Habibullah's death.One of the coroners later translated the assessment at a pre-trial hearing for Brand, saying the tissue in the young man's legs "had
basically been pulpified.""I've seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus," the coroner, Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Rouse, added.

Remember, Dilawar was an innocent man, a taxi-driver who had the misfortune of driving by the scene of an insurgent bombing of a US military post.

Let's review the moral universe of the right-wing. From links in earlier posts you can find out that some of the Taliban fighters in the area where Operation Medusa was carried out were merely farmers who were trying to resist an admittedly corrupt and brutal Karzai police force. Okay? They're poor farmers trying not to be robbed and beaten, and the Taliban is the group that is organizing resistance and so they joined it.

The right-wing Liberal-Conservative Party of Canada, and the bottom-third of the Canadian population have seen fit to put Canadian soldiers into Afghanistan to crush this resistance.

If we are to capture any of these poor farmers as Taliban fighters, the right-wing thinks it's fine if our troops relieve their stress by beating the living crap out of them. I imagine that if one of our troops goes "too far" and kills anyone, ... maybe even takes some trophy photos, ... this same human garbage will whine about the media making a big deal about "a few bad apples."

Thursday, February 8, 2007

CHTV - snippet on Afghanistan

I found myself near a television last night, and my local station (CHTV) was showing its in-house news feature "Talk-Back Live." (I think that's what it's called.)

At one point in the show they had a professor from the University of Ottawa (whose name escapes me) and Colonel (retired) Chris Corrigan (executive director of the Royal Canadian Military Institute) who I'm familiar with because he'd written two pieces in the Hamilton Spectator defending Canada's presence in Afghanistan. I've actually been meaning to post a critique of his articles here but I have to get permission to reproduce them and I can't be bothered, so ... , the thing about Corrigan's articles was that whatever their other merits, they at least tried to address the specific issues raised by the peace movement, rather than following the usual pattern of talking past the peace movement about how wonderful we are, building schools and handing out candy.

The topic on the show was whether Canada was violating international law by handing over prisoners to the Afghan police and US military, both of whom are widely accused of practising torture. To their credit, the hosts of the show allowed both speakers a fairly equal amount of time to get their points across. To her discredit, the female co-host tried to look tough by saying stuff like "Is it really realistic in a 'WAR-ZONE' to bother about whether your prisoners are going to be tortured, perhaps to death, by some psychopathic sadistic goons?" My answer to that bit of inanity has always been that it's probably best not to put Canadian soldiers or citizens in such messy situations, engaged in questionable wars with questionable allies. I suppose if she, or someone she loved, was captured during a war, the issue of human rights even in a time of war, might then become important to her.

The U of O professor mentioned that Afghanistan's own government had found evidence of torture and that Canadian soldiers were complicit with this, knowingly handing-over prisoners to such people. Under International Law, we're responsible for what happens to our prisoners.

Sadly, Corrigan (as I saw it), took the opportunity to respond and went into an over-long description about how these were merely "allegations," simple "he said-she said" stuff, and that furthermore, there were layers and layers of oversight within the Canadian military that had been implemented after the Somalian travesty.

The U of O guy managed to get in that these weren't allegations, the Afghan government study had been confirmed by the UN. There was then some further back and forth about an arm's length official civilian investigation of complaints against the military, with the U of O professor saying that it was being overshadowed by two opaque, illegitimate, internal military investigations, and that was that.

So, inspired by this, here is my post for the day.

I was going to post links to the studies mentioned, ... but it turns out they're not so easily found.

At least I posted to my blog.

Monday, February 5, 2007

A Positive Foreign Policy

Canada, like other tag-alongs in the OECD, has generally followed a pro-Great Power foreign policy. We used to cheer the progress of British imperialism, and for the past sixty years we've enjoyed the results of, and aided and abetted, US imperialism.

As leftists, progressives, anti-imperialists, or whatever, we have found this to be an uncomfortable, distasteful pattern of behaviour. While Canadian foreign policy has been presented by its practitioners as being motivated by idealism, it too often appears to be cynical and sordid.

On the other hand, given the nature of the main adversaries to US imperialism (Soviet totalitarians, Maoist totalitarians, intolerant regimes of rapists and torturers) it's not as if Canada could simply abandon the "bad guys" and jump over to the "good guys" side. As our own country's behaviour demonstrates; there are no good guys.

Then there's also the reality that we share a border with a vain, jealous, self-righteous, unstable super-power. Any especially uncomfortable expressions of independence by a radical Canadian government would surely provoke an organized and sustained campaign of internal destabilization and probable overthrow.

But still, the status-quo cannot remain an option for forward-thinking Canadians. In the interest of defining an honourable and realistic new direction in Canadian foreign policy, I think I'll devote some time that I don't have to evaluating the main schools of thought on international affairs, dismissing them all as useless, and pulling out of the ether the idea that I had at the very beginning, as the way forward.

But first, ... the stuff that they pay me to do ....

The Poverty of "Realism"

Realism in international politics refers to a school of thought wherein government foreign policy leaders are motivated almost entirely by the pursuit of the survival and increased power of the state that they control.

It hearkens back to an era before economics (GDP, literacy, quality of life, etc.,) when politics was about the expansion of territory and the personal aggrandizement of rulers. The sentiments of the 5th century BCE Athenian historian Thucydides in his The Peloponnesian War express the central tenets of realism: "The strong do as they will and the weak endure what they must."

In realism there are no ideologies, no honour, no permanent friends or enemies, just shifting alliances based on a cold, ruthless calculus as to what best suits the current needs of the state.

Realism explains how the Soviet Union could be seen supporting ideologically-opposite autocracies that crushed their own socialist movements; it explains why Mao's China elected to move into the US orbit, and why a staunch anti-communist like Nixon would entice it to do so. Because ideology becomes secondary to the compulsions of government foreign policy leaders to perpetuate and expand the powers of their states.

Realism has a lot of explanatory power, but it falls short in offering any purpose to this activity. The state is not just some monster that takes over the minds of the human beings entrusted with its leadership. Furthermore, those human leaders are not insulated from the pressures of special interests within the nation who might ask for consideration on areas of importance only to themselves. Finally, when some politicians practice "idealist" policies (which I'll get to), realists pronounce them as misguided and deluded, but the very existence of these deluded policies puts the lie to the realist contention that there are no other motivations other than state power.

Finally, realism becomes utterly bankrupt when its theoreticians attempt to practice what they believe. Then you get the worst pseudo-intellectual slop, masquerading as "high politics," ... you get the mess of Afghanistan and the "blow-back" of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and all the rest. By treating everyone shabbily, as only fair-weather friends and all potential enemies, you have a self-fulfilling prophecy of a dangerous, amoral, violent anarchic world. Review the serial blundering of Henry Kissinger for evidence.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

And another thing ...

Okay, ... blogger ate my first attempt, ... so nothing fancy this time.

I agree with a lot of what they say at ECODEMA.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Ad Hominem

In his book That Noble Dream:
The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession
, Peter Novick takes some time to investigate the term "Ad Hominem."

From what I can remember, nobody can adequately account for the origins of the term, or why it stands for attacking the person and not their arguments.

From the online etymology dictionary we get:

ad hominem
1599, from L., lit. "to a man," from ad "to" + hominem, acc. of homo "man."

From my experience, it is used by the more articulate of right-wing trolls, who, when they advance what they imagine is a profound argument and are surprised to receive demolishing scorn, reach into their grab-bag and accuse their opponent of engaging in "ad hominem attacks."


[My attempt to rise above negativity is floundering.]

I am working on a debate on Canadian policy in Afghanistan. I think I'll try to have it done for Thursday.