Monday, May 7, 2007

Geo-Politics n' Stuff

In this post, I quote at length from a right-wing commentator from SDA who appears to have half a brain. The commentator's nom de guerre is "Warwick." As you can see if you follow the link to his blog, he is possessed of a frighteningly violent hatred of leftists.

We [leftists] are all "leftards," and we can only argue with insults and pleas about our subjective feelings, and when we're faced with genuine facts we fold, or simply increase the ad hominem attacks and blah, blah, blah.

Now of course, as
Canadian Cynic documents so well, the qualities of indifference and resistance to facts, juvenile insults, and plain stupidity are at least as pronounced amongst a group of Conservatives called "The Blogging Tories" as they are among leftists. Certainly many of us on the left can fall into patterned thinking, and some of us are ignorant of the facts of many issues. But as someone who started out centre-left, and then, upon reading Chomsky's Massey Lectures Necessary Illusions and then John Raulston-Saul's Voltaire's Bastards, which started me on the path to radical leftist (yes, I know that Raulston-Saul is a liberal, fuggedaboutit), I find Warwick's certainty about the greater stupidity and contemptible nature of the left to be distressing. I read both sides of the political spectrum for ten years in my journey across that spectrum. To be a "radical" of any sort requires a conviction and a certainty that I didn't have when I started. Reading conservative, liberal, Marxist, and anarchist, and other writers for a decade left me with the firm belief that it is the radical libertarian left that has the most coherent and fact-based view of the world that we live in. And that generally, the farther one travels across the political spectrum from left to right, the more one enters the realms of stupidity and sheer madness.

Now, Warwick impressed me with his ability in the debate on SDA, with his ability to offer an interpretation of the significance of the Geneva Conventions that decriminalized Canada's and the Afghan government's treatment of the Taliban prisoners. I'll say that his interpetation is arguable, so far as I know, though again, for the record, I'll stick with the interpretation that I offered from Michael Byers in
The Guardian (which I will discuss below) than with Warwick's. Also, in an earlier debate with commentator "Wayne," I quoted an American official who said:

We [the United States] do support the principle that, should any doubt arise as to whether a person is entitled to combatant status, he be so treated until his status has been determined by a competent tribunal, as well as the principle that if a person who has fallen into the power of an adversary is not held as a prisoner of war and is to be tried for an offense arising out of the hostilities, he should have the right to assert his entitlement before a judicial tribunal and to have that question adjudicated.3"

As well as the International Committee of the Red Cross which says:

Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law.1

(Both of these sources quoted from Human Rights Watch. ) And while the article has to do with US treatment of detainees, the commentary is relevant for this issue of international law.

So, for me, Warwick's position, while arguable, doesn't cut it. And, as far as I was concerned, my preferred interpretations of the Geneva Conventions did the trick for me, and I didn't have to look any further to justify my position. Warwick, out of some sort of spite, did more research for us "leftards" and found references to the UN Treaty and Canadian law that showed that Canada's treatment of prisoners was illegal in other ways if it wasn't in actual contradiction of the Geneva Conventions. So, thanks for burying yourself even more Warwick!

The thing is, while Warwick has half a brain in my estimation, he's still out to lunch in so many ways. And as such, his utter contempt for the Left is unwarranted. The way I see it, his possession of half a brain puts him light-years ahead of his probable colleagues and he's gotten a little full of himself, dominating the conversation as he no doubt does amongst the morons.

So, what will follow is the attempt of a nobody on the Left (me) picking apart a post by a nobody on the Right (Warwick). I do this because I have less and less time and ability to construct much that is both original and positive (at least for the moment), and to offer an example of a genuine debate between two competing world-views.

Let me assure you all (especially the spam-bots who constitute the most frequent visitors to my site) that I've considered how this could be construed as a very pathetic pissing contest between myself and someone I can't be bothered to debate with on SDA, but it is not that. I have not encountered much in the way of a decent intellectual position on the Right for a while (I've been in semi-seclusion from mainstream media for a fair bit), and I welcome the opportunity to engage with it.

We begin our tale with Warwick's response to the Guardian piece by Michael Byers that I linked to above:

The Guardian in the UK is a marxist, anti-Semitic rag with zero credibility.

Actually, the Guardian is a relatively decent source, and anyone who hangs out at SmallDeadAnimals really ought to be careful about using the phrase "zero credibility." I just noticed the "anti-Semitic" comment for the first time. The term gets tossed around so frequently that it's lost all meaning and I can't be bothered to even address this slur. We continue ...

It's also wrong. Not surprisingly.

Well, okay, ... we'll see ...

If you believe everything you read in the papers you're doomed to a life of ignorance.

Point taken. Back at'cha.

Rummy has bugger all to do with the GC.

Here, Warwick is referring to the article's discussion of the status of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and [now] disgraced, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's unilateral determination that these prisoners be categorized as "illegal combatants."

According to Rumsfeld, the detainees "will be handled not as prisoners of war, because they are not, but as unlawful combatants". (This from The Guardian piece.)

Warwick continues ...

The GC's are crystal clear. Try reading them.

Actually, I've read the relevant parts of them. I'm not an international law lawyer, but I've read the parts about combatant prisoners of war. Warwick's disdainful admonition to me about actually reading about the subject I wish to talk about is kinda ironic, as we'll see ...

The GC's that is, not the guardian's fantasy/wishful thinking. Just because some leftard with a journalism degree says something, doesn't mean it's correct. Instead of "this interpretation" from obviously biased left-wing journalists with no more credibility on the matter than some joe on the street, why don't you look up the conventions and do your own homework? Think for yourself. Read the source, not the spin.

Now, if our esteemed, a trifle conceited, and all too abrasive Warwick had bothered to read the Guardian piece, he'd see that Michael Byers is not a journalist, but, rather, a professor in international law at Duke University and a visiting scholar on this subject at Oxford. It says so, right in the link. So, ... about doing some reading? To repeat: I've read the section on the status of combatants taken prisoner during times of war, and certainly Michael Byers and all the other people I've quoted have spent far greater hours studying the entire body of international law. They disagree with Mr. Warwick, and for myself, not in possession of any hard-on to have my tax dollars pay for torture, have chosen to agree with them.

Next, Warwick addresses my disbelief that the Geneva Conventions could be written in such a way that an entire category of combatants could possess no human rights whatsoever, but instead gives them all the status of spies or saboteurs who can be shot on sight:

The GC's were written for another time. That you can't believe they would condone summary executions is a factor of your world view melded to the times you live in. There are other, more recent, treaties and conventions as well as the legal systems of the countries themselves. If a Canadian summarily executed an Afghan prisoner, he would not be in violation of the GC's but would most certainly be in violation of Canadian military law. The GC's are static. Canadian law is not. Is that too hard to get your head around? There have been no updates of the GC's since the 4 GC was signed. Do you think that a document from 1949 is going to live up to the standards of 2007? Think!

There's those references to other sources of law that undercut all the right-wing slavering to have these people tortured or shot on sight. But supposedly, we on the Left are all "leftards" because we say it violates the Geneva Conventions. Warwick's defence of his bloodthirsty, rabid compatriots: "You idiot leftards!! It doesn't violate the GC's! It violates Canadian law and the UN treaty against torture!! Grow a fucking brain!!" (It leaves one at a loss for words, doesn't it?)

That the GC's allow this or that doesn't mean they ban any investigations on the matter. You can investigate whether Rummy had gas last night. That isn't against the GC's either. If the executed person was not an illegal combatant and the soldier executed them anyway, they are subject to the rule of law. Self defence is legal. In your analogy you can murder someone and since self defence is legal there will be no investigation, right? Wrong. Your analogy is illogical. Any event can be investigated as to its legality.

So, this is the part that impressed me. (After a fashion.) Okay, according to Warwick's interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, the Taliban, without identifying markings or any of the Convention's other safeguards have no status and no rights, but if anyone is summarily executed in Afghanistan, or anywhere, there can technically be an investigation to see whether that person was an illegal combatant or not. The argument seemed technically valid and from where I'm sitting, it could go toe-to-toe with an interpretation such as Byers's or the ICRC's as to which was the most logical reading.

That's not to say that I don't think the taliban are in need of a bullet. I'm just saying they're unlikely to get one. It's valid to say that you don't agree. It's not valid (as in factual, correct, truthful...) to suggest that the GC's agree with you or your biased marxist friends at the Guardian. They don't.

And so concludes Warwick's position on the Geneva Conventions, including the evidence of his refusal to take the two fucking seconds required to find out that it's not an opinion piece on international law written by a journalist, but by an international law expert, and blah, blah, blah. Now, however, we get into geo-politics (hence this extended post's title!) where our Warwick goes right off the rails, and shows himself to be in need of some friendly assistance:

As for failing the people of Afghanistan, running away and leaving them to the Taliban will help them how?

This was in answer to my statement that the reason the Taliban is growing in popularity is because we've failed the Afghan people. Warwick's response is to ignore the entire point that Afghans are joining the Taliban because we're failing them, and to convert it right back to his familiar territory of condemning "cutting and running." Again, we should stay, and kill more of them, to ensure they submit to our puppet Karzai and his corrupt warlord partners? Christ, why did we get involved with this nightmare?

The US didn't work hard to create the Taliban but defeat the soviets. You've heard of the cold war, no? The US supported the Afghans against the soviets. 9/11 was their thanks. The Allies also sided with Stalin in WWII. That wasn't to suggest the US or UK had a big love of the Soviets.

Yeah Einstein, I've heard of the Cold War. And the US supported the Mujahedeen, including Osama Bin Laden, together with Pakistani intelligence and Saudi oligarchs, in order to drag the Soviets into an expensive quagmire. Imagine if I got a criminally-insane psychopath and armed and trained him to become a hit-man to take out a personal enemy, and then once the deed was done, attempted to walk away from the whole situation. Who would weep if I were to suffer some sort of blow-back from such an idiotic enterprise?

But, let's deal with the lame analogy now: Yes, the Allies fought on the same side as the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. In the first place, Nazi Germany was in a position to crush the recently industrialized Soviet Union, and thereby obtain all the gigantic natural resources within the USSR's boundaries, which would have made Hitler's empire a match for the United States almost, and would have condemned countless millions to genocide. The Soviet Union emerged from World War II a battered, exhausted, nominal "super-power" that was never able to project itself outward in the way that a German Nazi super-power would have been able to, or as the United States was able to do.

Secondly, Britain found the Soviets to be allies when they both found themselves at war with Germany. They did not have an alliance beforehand. And the United States did not get into the war on the Allied side until Hitler was helpful enough to declare war on it.

Thirdly, in Afghanistan, US policy makers knew damned well that many of the people they were arming and training (with the assistance of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) had a deep, underlying hatred of the United States and Israel. These policy makers knew that the men they were arming and training were religious fundamentalists of an extreme sort. When the Soviets were bled white and the goals of the Carter administration had been met, these lunkhead policy makers imagined that they could simply walk away from this army of fundamentalist lunatics??

Fourthly, when US policy makers walked away from Afghanistan, what did they leave behind? Criminal warlord gangs who subjected that poor nation to further violence, looting, and rape. That is, until the extreme fundamentalist ascetic Taliban managed to win general loyalty due to their relative lack of corruption, and consign the criminal warlords to a pocket in the north where they became the "Northern Alliance."

The US did a great deal to create this nightmare, and for warmongers to accuse decent, peace-loving people as being "Taliban lovers" is hypocritical in the extreme.

As for the Saudis, their money and vicious brand of islam is at the root of the problems globally. Why we don't isolate them along with Iran is beyond me.

Indeed, it's a real head-scratcher, ain't it? Especially since the US is not only not isolating the Saudis, but actually supporting them. Boy, what a mystery! A mystery, that is, only if you're one of the failed, deluded followers of "conservatism," who thinks that the US "War on Terror" is genuine and not a cynical cover story about controlling oil reserves.

To say that oil has anything to do US policy in the Middle East is to win the insult "conspiracy theorist" from braindead right-wing dupes. Of course, to them it's impossible to say that it's about oil, even when the [p]resident
says so. "All right, all right, ... of course it's partially about oil. Nobody is that naive. But it's also about democracy and transformation of these backwards, violent societies."

Yeah right. About that
democracy. And about that violence.

They're doing the muslim world no favours. Ask Pakistan.

Warwick is no doubt referring to Saudi funding for the Madrasas (the ones that produced the Taliban). Someone else we can thank for those obscurantist Madrasas is the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) that instructed Pakistan to cut its education budget (among many other things) and was utterly indifferent as to what would replace public education.

As Timothy A. Canova describes it:

Now is not the time to push such strategically important countries as Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines with IMF-prescribed austerity measures that often result in rising unemployment and budget cuts for health and education programs. These countries already have high levels of unemployment, as well as large, restive Muslim
populations. In an age of suicide bombers and in a world threatened by wayward chemical and nuclear material, these mass unemployed can soon become dangerous weapons of mass destruction.

In Pakistan, nearly a million boys and young men are now enrolled in religious training schools known as madrassas that preach radical Islamic fundamentalism and militant jihad. This compares with apublic school system that now educates some 1.6 million Pakistani children. Aswealthy Saudis, acting out of religious conviction, increase their funding of Pakistani madrassas, the best the IMF can do is preach the free market religion of smaller government and fiscal austerity, a policy mix that is sure to result
in further cutbacks in public education funding in Pakistan and other poor countries.

And of course, the US can thank Pakistan for its good work on nuclear non-proliferation, can't it? All of this stuff, US support for Saudi oil sheiks funding fundamentalists, IMF destruction of living standards, obviously fraudulent democracy in Iraq, slaps on the wrists for Pakistani scientists peddling nuclear secrets, Pakistan's sheltering of the Taliban, etc., etc., if one is a deluded right-winger who believes that the US government means what it says when it launches a "War on Terror."

Get it straight, once and for all, ... this is about control of strategic resources. That's it. Finito. Over. Occam's razor and all that. The US government doesn't give a shit about democracy, terrorism, or anything but US wealth and power. And it doesn't give a shit about the wealth and power of the majority in the US either. Hence scandals like Walter Reed, and unarmoured humvees, and extended tours of duty while Repugnican profiteers cavort with high-priced escorts and Cheney's Haliburton overcharges the troops for rotten food. It's realpolitick to protect a criminal government.

Anyhoooo ..... Warwick decides to lecture me on the "realities" of Afghanistan; specifically the phenomenon of more and more Afghans joining the Taliban. I'd argued that it was because we'd failed these people and have imposed a corrupt and brutal government on them. Of course, Warwick disagrees:

If you have ignorant peasants in a crappy place

Whoa, nice bit of disgusting arrogance there. I think I'll call you an "asshole" for that one. "Ignorant peasants" 'eh? Yeah, really fucking ignorant to think you have to fight back against the forces that are destroying the crop you need to feed your family, and whose police and tax collectors rob your house and rough up your family. You're so fucking stupid and ignorant that you join the Taliban, forgetting all about their horrible record on women's rights. Except for the fact that religious misogyny is rampant everywhere there, and the warlords are 4/5ths as nauseating as the Taliban and they throw in gang-rapes and murders to boot. "In a crappy place." So, Afghanistan is a "crappy place" is it? Then why the fuck are we there? To punch some sense into some "ignorant peasants" to quietly live their "ignorant, crappy" lives in their "crappy" country and to ignore the plundering of the puppet government we've imposed on them?

being indoctrinated into an ideology of hate, you will always have a percentage
that are willing to join.

Yeah, darn that awful "ideology of hate." The one that existed before we gave significant elements weapons and training. The one that the Saudi princes continue to fund and support. An "ideology of hate" quite similar to the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim filth spewed by the denizens of littlegreenfootballs, free republic, and small dead animals, ... wherein all "Muzzies" are subhuman garbage to be tortured and killed with impunity.

Human nature.

Yeah, an inevitable thirty percent (down to 28% so far as support for bush II has been going lately).

That's what we're fighting.

You can count me out on your "war on human nature," thanks so much.

Karzai is corrupt. The place isn't good. But your criticism needs to take into account reality.

Oh, ho! Ho! Ho! Do tell. (You can imagine I'm getting tired right now.)

It must be balanced with what is possible. How can you reconstruct buildings currently being blown up? You can rebuild when the bullets and bombs are still flying. Nothing is doomed to failure unless you have a media and a left-wing political class that is openly calling for failure. That's your side. The taliban would meld into the woodwork if they thought we had the intestinal fortitude to see the job through.

Yes, but if you're going to close up like a clam to the very concept that a BRUTAL, THIEVING GOVERNMENT, propped-up by VICIOUS WARLORDS and OCCUPYING TROOPS isn't going to produce any ill-effects, then I suppose you'll inevitably fall back to the stupid, deluded, notion that this is all about "intestinal fortitude. That if we simply stick in for the long-run, the people will eventually come around to our policies of violence, murder, hypocrisy, corruption, and indifference.

No my friend, ... "intestinal fortitude" is not what we need. What YOU need, is to give your head a shake and stop imagining that corrupt politicians like bush II and Stephen Harper give a shit about the "little guy" in Canada, the US, or anywhere else including Afghanistan. You're a dupe my friend, and people are dying needlessly for your delusions.

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