Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stop Protecting the CIA

The CIA has a long sordid history of allowing its agents to commit crimes all over the world while the US government shields them from prosecution - but some European countries have had more than enough and have launched their own criminial investigations and trials.


FRANKFURT, Jan. 31 — A German court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for 13 people in the mistaken kidnapping and jailing of a German citizen of Lebanese descent, in the most serious legal challenge yet to the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret transfers of terrorism suspects.

Prosecutors in Munich said the suspects, whom they did not identify, were part of a C.I.A. “abduction team” that seized the man, Khaled el-Masri, in Macedonia in late 2003 and flew him to Afghanistan. He was imprisoned there for five months, during which, he said, he was shackled, beaten and interrogated about alleged ties to Al Qaeda, before being released without charges.


MADRID (Reuters) - A judge has ordered Spain's state intelligence agency to declassify any documents it has about secret CIA flights shuttling terrorism suspects, court officials said on Wednesday.

High Court Judge Ismael Moreno issued the order to the National Intelligence Center (CNI) as part of an investigation he began last year to determine whether suspects on CIA flights touching down on the Spanish island of Mallorca were held illegally or tortured, the officials said.

Up to 50 people were moved across Europe in flights to jails in third countries where they faced torture and other abuse, according to European Parliament investigators.

A Council of Europe investigator last year said Spain might have acted in "collusion, active or passive," with secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers.


MILAN, Italy (AP) -- A former Italian intelligence chief, facing possible indictment over the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, told a closed hearing Monday that he never participated in illegal activity.

Nicolo Pollari said that he was unable to defend himself properly because documents that would clarify his position had been excluded from the proceedings, as they contained state secrets, his lawyers said.

Pollari is one of five Italian intelligence officials facing possible indictment in the alleged abduction of cleric and terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003.

Prosecutors say Pollari and other officials of the military intelligence agency SISMI worked with the Americans to abduct the cleric.

Twenty-six Americans also could be indicted in what would be the first criminal prosecution involving the alleged CIA program to secretly transfer terror suspects to third countries where critics say they may face torture.

It's interesting to note that Pollari's name also surfaced during the investigation into the Niger yellowcake forgeries which ironically is the focus of the current Scooter Libby case:

From La Repubblica, October 2005

La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Niccolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002.
Today's exclusive report in La Repubblica reveals that Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then–Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Their secret meeting came at a critical moment in the White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that war in Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones confirmed the meeting to the Prospect on Tuesday.

Hadley, who is Bush's current National Security Advisor, was a key player in the rush to invade Iraq and he is also a man with very dangerous ideas who is now pushing for aggressive action against Iran.

Hadley participated in the study team at the hardline National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) that produced Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control, a study that called for the development of “mini” nuclear weapons and served as a road map for George W. Bush's Nuclear Posture Review. The NIPP report advocated the use of bunker-busting nuclear weapons—even against non-nuclear countries—to rid rogue nations of any weapons of mass destruction, such as stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons. Prefiguring the preventive national security doctrine of the Bush administration, the report stated: “Under certain circumstances very severe nuclear threats may be needed to deter any of these potential adversaries” (for more information, see the World Policy Institute report, “About Face,” May 2002).

But, I digress.

The undergound intelligence and covert activity web woven around the world has begun to unravel thanks to intrepid reporters who uncovered the secret CIA prisons story and the like and to judges in foreign countries who are attempting to deal with crimes perpetrated in their jurisdictions. Not an easy task.

Whenever the Bush administration wants to make a story or case go away, it simply cries "national security - that's classified" thinking that's enough of a magic wand to make the situations disappear. But they're more difficult to hide now than those so-called suspects they've been stashing in faraway prisons for far too long.

Somehow, there must be justice for those who have been wronged at the hands of the CIA and the Bush administration. What is in the light now cannot become dark again. And, unfortunately, these cases are only the tip of a very huge iceberg whose depth is unknown.

Political interference from Washington in the form of not-so-subtle pressure, threats and arm-twisting must not be allowed to win the day in those countries and it's long past time that Americans rise up and demand that those who work on their behalf in the CIA and the more than a dozen intel agencies attached to the US government stop breaking the law. It's too easy to feign ignorance or look the other way. And there's no excuse for not facing exactly what has been done in their names.

Just as Canadians demanded justice and accountability from our government for the RCMP's part in aiding US agents to fly Maher Arar to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured, so it is the responsibility of all Americans to end the nightmare for so many other CIA victims.

Random News & Views Roundup

- Molly Ivins has passed away She will definitely be missed.

- Joe Biden announces his bid for president and then spontaneously combusts.

- How not to get publicity for your new TV show. (Sadly, No! checks out the wingnut reactions.)

- Religion v State again and this time it involves the lives of babies already born.

- Canada/US border hell.

- 'Iraq is experiencing the biggest exodus in the Middle East since Palestinians were forced to flee in 1948 upon the creation of Israel.'

- Alberto Gonzales caves and turns over secret documents about the domestic spying program.

But the administration still won't release other crucial documents that explain how FISA Court's orders comply with the 1978 surveillance law that the court oversees, said Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee. She said the deal to release the documents stems from a briefing in front of that panel last week, which included Justice Department officials, and left many lawmakers frustrated.

''We are playing hide the ball down at the Justice Department,'' said Wilson, who has told House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, that she will support a subpoena, if need be.

And where's that report you promised Senator Leahy about Maher Arar, Gonzales?

- Senator Al Franken? I'd say Norm Coleman is in for an interesting fight.

- Will Canada's ousted Environment Commissioner, Johanne Gelinas, sue for wrongful dismissal? Stay tuned.

- On CNN as I write this: Would America pick a fat president? (Because there's absolutely NO OTHER NEWS happening today, right?)

- A summary of what happened on Wednesday in the Ontario Court of Appeal in the Steven Truscott case.

- Matthew Cooper testifies at Scooter Libby's trial.

- Bush doesn't feel abandoned on Iraq. Well good for him.

"I guess I could try to be popular. But I've always found that somebody who tries to be popular is one who may end up compromising principle, and I'm not that kind of person," he said.

Is he admitting that he only has one "principle"? If so, what is it? Maybe he actually said "principal", as in Dick Cheney.

Canada's Smart Female Bloggers

On Monday, I took on a challenge to find more of Canada's "smart female bloggers" after I read Warren Kinsella's top ten blogger list and comments. Since that time, a small portion of the blogosphere has erupted in reaction to his post and mine. Some of the criticism has been fast, furious and some frankly, incorrect, unfortunately.

So, I will begin this post by reminding people what this is all about for me:

As for the fact that it's Kinsella's list, I frequently disagree with his opinions (sorry Warren but I do) and if I'd caught a question like that posed by any other blogger (male or female), I would have posed the same challenge here. It's not about who he is. It's about who we are.

I also believe that everything happens for a reason. I've decided that I'll add a blogroll of female Canadian bloggers including and beyond the so-called "top ten" to my blog when I'm done. Plus, I get the opportunity to read blogs that are new to me. That's a bonus. Already I've found one that I'll definitely be a more frequent visitor to so this has been worth it just by that measure.

Since I posted that comment, I've reviewed some 40+ blogs written by Canadian women and it's been a great experience. I also came to realize that choosing a "top ten" would be a spectactularly difficult task. Considering that and the fact that I'm only one person (who is prone to headaches and other aches and pains), I've decided to forego the "top ten" list idea and to focus instead on what I perceive to be "smart" when it comes to women writing in our blogosphere.

Smart is:

Women who inspire.
Women who make us laugh.
Women whose youth and edginess defies stereotypes.
Women who give us a glimpse of what it's like in the corner of the room.
Women who are thankfully unique.
Women who share a wealth of information.
Women who share their grief and joy.
Women who stay on top of local issues.
Women who have left our country, but still keep us in their hearts.
Women who are just plain funny.
Women who draw us in.
Women who love nature's gifts.
Women who share their everyday lives.
Women who focus on our world's beauty.
Women who fight for their cause.
Women who do much more than blogging.
Women who mix the personal with the political.
Women who are dedicated to fitness.
Women who are funny and creative.
Women who are incredibly prolific.

And that's just the beginning...

I'm grateful to all of you who have broadened my horizons and please if your blog wasn't linked to in that list, don't take offense. There are just too many of you smart female bloggers out there for me to keep up with and I have so many left to discover. My aim was to show our variety.

The point of all of this is that Canadian women do have a voice in the blogosphere and it is wide and varied. It's essential and it's encouraging. Female voices share compassion, strength, humour, pain, joy, passion, intelligence, curiousity, wit and all of the spirit that encompasses what being a woman is all about.

Thank you to all who made suggestions and helped me to expand my world.

So, my message to Warren Kinsella is this: CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?

(And now, I think I'll have a nap.)

Quote du Jour: Canada's Top Climate Change Denier

The leader of the Liberal party should stop denying science.
- Stephen Harper, question period 31/1/07

It's not easy being a Born-Again Green (or a 'so-called greenhouse gas[es]' BAG):

Mr. Harper says that Kyoto is ‘based on tentative and contradictory scientific evidence about climate trends.’
- Stephen Harper's letter 2002

Iran, Iraq, Battles and Bluster

The tension is palpable and it's feeling like 2003 all over again. While the US senate is busy arguing over non-binding resolutions about the Iraq war which their opponents are fiercely contesting - as if non-binding actually holds some weight beyond just sending a message - other senators are actually pondering resolutions with teeth to finally present a real challenge to Bush's powers. Some, however, see that effort as affecting much more than what's going on in Iraq:

Even as the panel discussed issues from past conflicts, Senator Kennedy used the session to focus on a possible future conflict, asking the panel about what authority Mr. Bush would have to attack Iran. The panel’s members agreed that he had the power to take what actions he saw fit to deal with any short-term threat that Iran might pose to American troops in Iraq, but that he would need some form of Congressional authorization to begin any large-scale or long-term conflict.

And that is what brings our collective conscience back to 2003.

The aggressive rhetoric against Iran's president has increased dramatically since the beginning of 2007 and although many people believe Bush would attack Iran, the president has been busy dismissing such concerns while admitting, as he did in the run up to the Iraq war, that all options are still on the table. His administration's actions speak much louder than its words, however.

While US officials are now attempting to claim that Iran was behind last week's attacks in Karbala because "The officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt that Iraqis could have carried it out on their own" (that's an insult to the intelligence of the Iraqis if I ever saw one), Iraq's prime minister has come out swinging:

"We have told the Iranians and the Americans, 'We know that you have a problem with each other, but we are asking you, please solve your problems outside Iraq,' " Nuri al-Maliki old CNN.

"We will not accept Iran to use Iraq to attack the American forces," al-Maliki said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with CNN.

"We don't want the American forces to take Iraq as a field to attack Iran or Syria," he added.

Asked about the role of Iran in Iraq, al-Maliki said he was confident that Iranian influence was behind attacks on U.S. forces. "It exists, and I assure you it exists," he said.

I guess when Bush said 'bring 'em on', many more than he expected took him up on that invitation and now he's decided to use that opportunity to move up his timetable for dealing with that other 'axis of evil' member, Iran, as a result.

al-Maliki isn't the only one worried about what Bush might do next:

As transatlantic friction over how to deal with the Iranian impasse intensifies, there are fears in European capitals that the nuclear crisis could come to a head this year because of US frustration with Russian stalling tactics at the UN security council. "The clock is ticking," said one European official. "Military action has come back on to the table more seriously than before. The language in the US has changed."

As the Americans continue their biggest naval build-up in the Gulf since the start of the Iraq war four years ago, a transatlantic rift is opening up on several important aspects of the Iran dispute.

The Bush administration will shortly publish a dossier of charges of alleged Iranian subversion in Iraq. "Iran has steadily ramped up its activity in Iraq in the last three to four months. This applies to the scope and pace of their operations. You could call these brazen activities," a senior US official said in London yesterday.

There's that word: "dossier". Now why does that sound familiar and ominous?

The UK government has released its dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Published on the 24th September [2002] at 8am the dossier details the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime.

And do the words 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy' ring any bells? They certainly should.

I'd say this pretty much sums up where most of us are at right now:

"There's anxiety everywhere you turn," said a diplomat familiar with the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "The Europeans are very concerned the shit could hit the fan."

Professor Juan Cole isn't the only one wondering why Iranian influence in Iraq has suddenly become such a major priority for the Bush administration:

To begin with, some 99 percent of all attacks on U.S. troops occur in Sunni Arab areas and are carried out by Baathist or Sunni fundamentalist (Salafi) guerrilla groups. Most of the outside help these groups get comes from the Sunni Arab public in countries allied with the United States, notably Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies. Washington has yet to denounce Saudi aid to the Sunni insurgents who are killing U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, the most virulent terror network in Iraq, which styles itself "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia," has openly announced that its policy is to kill as many Shiites as possible. That the ayatollahs of Shiite Iran are passing sophisticated weapons to these, their sworn enemies, is not plausible.

If Iran is providing materiel to anyone, it is to U.S. allies. Tehran may be helping the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, but the U.S. is not fighting that group. By sale or barter, some weaponry originally given to the Badr Corps might be finding its way to other groups, such as the Mahdi Army of nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, that do sometimes come into conflict with the U.S. That problem, however, must be a relatively small one, and cannot explain Bush's hyperbolic rhetoric about Iran.

Some of the reports of "thousands" of Iranian agents in Iraq come from the Mojahedin-e Khalq terrorist group, which is made up of Iranian expatriates who display a cultlike devotion to their leader, Maryam Rajavi. An enemy of Tehran, responsible for numerous bombings inside Iranian borders, the MEK was given a terrorist base, "Camp Ashraf," in eastern Iraq by Saddam Hussein. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, some Pentagon figures wanted to use the MEK against Tehran in the same way Saddam had, and the MEK fighters have not been expelled from the country. They now supply disinformation about Iran to the U.S. in order to foment conflict, much as Ahmad Chalabi lied in order to sell the Americans on invading Iraq.

I'm surprised Bush's people haven't tried to tie the Iranians to the recent and controversial battle in Najaf, which we still can't seem to get an accurate picture of from those so-called official sources.

One thing is certain: Bush no longer has any credibility. Now the question is whether those who actually do will be able to stop him this time.

FYI: Live Online Coverage of Steven Truscott's Appeal

It has taken decades for Steven Truscott (background) to clear his name after being convicted of the murder of 12 year old Lynne Harper at the age of 14 in 1959. Truscott narrowly missed being hung by the state. He did his time but his claims of innocence lingered on.

Three decades later, Truscott remembered those days in a jail cell in Goderich, Ont., when he feared he would feel the noose before his 15th birthday.

"I woke up one day and somebody was building something outside the wall," he told The Fifth Estate.

"You could hear the hammering, and I thought they were building a scaffold. And it's just kind of living in terror, and every day you expect it to be your last."

Buoyed by new evidence, Truscott's appeal has made its way to the Ontario Court of Appeal. CBC is offering online coverage of the arguments today from 10:30am - 1:30pm and 2:00pm - 5:00pm ET - a rare opportunity to watch what will hopefully be the successful conclusion of a major injustice perpetrated by officials all of those years ago that is a staggering example of the dangers of inflicting the death penalty as a much too final punishment.

Update: The court took a recess shortly after 1:00pm and will return at 2:30pm.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The 'Oh My Head' Open Thread

After a day of being attacked from bloggers on the left, right and center of the political spectrum over my decision to compile my list of the top ten smart female Canadian bloggers which some people seem to think is somehow as flipping important as being nominated for an Oscar™ (trust me, it isn't - it's just my list) - and having reviewed some 30+ submissions so far (and I read much more than just one post per blog to get a feel for the joint) - all while being physically affected by the changing weather (I am not a well woman to begin with), I now have the mother of all headaches with a side order of nausea. I am, however, hanging in there.

Out of the corner of my eye where my teevee sits, I see I've missed some important news stories today. I don't like getting behind on the news. It annoys me. So fill me in if you like or just rant about what's going on in your life. Some humour wouldn't hurt either. Bonus points if you make me literally laugh my aching head off.

My powers of concentration are shorter than usual so no essays please. Also, if you want to complain about me, find another customer service desk. Mine is closed right now.

On with the show... as they say.

Be nice to each other. My patience is limited. And being nice is just nice anyway, so give it your best try. You will be graded on your efforts.

Canada's Environment Commissioner Fired

The Globe and Mail reports that Johanne Gelinas has been fired:

OTTAWA — Environment Commissioner Johanne Gélinas has been replaced over concerns that her calls for urgent action on climate change took her away from her role as auditor into the realm of advocacy.

The commissioner works as part of the Office of the Auditor-General, which reports to Parliament. Auditor-General Sheila Fraser told members of Parliament on the Commons environment committee Tuesday behind closed doors that she will be announcing Ms. Gélinas's departure at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Ms. Gélinas's report last September caused a major stir because it not only criticized the record of the previous Liberal government but also outlined measures the new government should take to address climate change.

If this is about her September report, why has this firing occurred only now? I suppose we'll find out more during the press conference. What should the role of an environment commissioner be?

According to the Auditor-General's site:

The Commissioner provides parliamentarians with objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government's efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.

Encouraging the government to be more accountable for greening its policies, operations, and programs is a key to the Commissioner's mandate.

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser has certainly been vocally critical of government practices in the past and has not been accused of stepping over the line. Was there that much of a difference between her reports and Ms Gelinas'? If so, why was her report approved in the first place?

Update: Canada's environment commissioner says firing a 'complete surprise'

Canada's environment commissioner Johanne Gélinas says it came as a "complete surprise" to learn she was fired, but denied that political interference played a part in her dismissal.

In a statement released late Tuesday, Gélinas said she and her boss, Auditor General Sheila Fraser, had a difference of opinion for almost a year on her role.

"I was considering a future departure, but today's announcement from Mrs. Fraser was premature and came as a complete surprise to me," she said.

Her discussions with Fraser, she added, "were in private, with no interference whatsoever" from the government.

In a statement Tuesday, Fraser said Gélinas was "leaving the position to pursue other opportunities." Fraser also announced a review of environmental and sustainable development audit practices.

But in a confidential memorandum obtained by CBC News Tuesday, Fraser said "sustainable development issues do not appear to have the same impact as our other performance audit work," basing that in part to "how many of our recommendations are implemented."

So, Gelinas wasn't fired for speaking out but because what she did speak out about didn't have enough impact? Curiouser and curiouser.

Flaherty Under Fire Over Income Trusts Decision

The clip you'll be seeing on your evening news about what's going on in Ottawa today will be that of the very testy exchange between the Liberals' John McCallum and the Conservatives' finance minister Jim Flaherty as they sparred in committee about the controversial decision to tax income trusts.

McCallum repeatedly asked Flaherty if he had any reports prior to the decision that estimated possible losses to investors as a result of the proposed taxation. Flaherty bobbed and weaved and refused to give McCallum a simple yes or no answer. The assumed conclusion: Flaherty did not do his homework.

The buzz of the day is that Flaherty will not back down from his decision and furious investors are asking for government help which is unlikely to be forthcoming.

Whether or not you agree with the decision to tax the trusts, the news that Flaherty apparently did not consider the potential losses ought to be a major concern since he's in charge of the country's finances.

CTV has the video of Flaherty's appearance before the committee.

Quote du Jour: Bolton Says the US has 'no strategic interest' in a united Iraq

Via the IHT:

Bolton suggested in the interview that the United States shouldn't necessarily keep Iraq from splitting up. The Bush administration and the Iraqi government have said they don't want Iraq divided.

"The United States has no strategic interest in the fact that there's one Iraq, or three Iraqs," he was quoted as saying. "We have a strategic interest in the fact of ensuring that what emerges is not a state in complete collapse, which could become a refuge for terrorists or a terrorist state."

This obviously begs the question: is Bolton's opinion a reflection of the Bush administration's attitude?

One of the more vocal proponents of a divided Iraq last year was Democrat Joe Biden who suggested that Iraq should be divided into three ethnic regions and he even launched a web site to promote the idea. His position even found support on Free Republic at the time and Bill O'Reilly endorsed it as well. As at least one critic asked, however, how do you deal with cities like Baghdad which cannot be divided into ethnic regions (although that is being attempted now by Shi'a and Sunni fighters who are gaining control of different neighbourhoods)? There also appears to be a gulf between Bolton's opinion and Biden's plan in that Biden is calling for a central government while Bolton doesn't seem to care what the political structure is (or how it might affect the Iraqi people) since his only concern is managing "terrorists" - a misleading label when it comes to defining the current situation in Iraq which is a mixed bag of sectarian rivalries and those fighting against coalition forces - none of which present a direct threat to the United States.

That designation brings back remnants of the meme the Bush administration tried to push in its rush to war with Iraq (and which too many Americans still believe) - that Iraq was somehow tied to what happened on 9/11 thus Afghanistan was all but abandoned to pursue that erroneous belief (along with the fact that it was a pretty handy excuse to invade Iraq anyway - which the neocons had been pushing for for years).

It seems that stability in Iraq ought to be based on what Iraqis think would be best for their country - not what American politicans think serves America's interests. Futhermore, since Iraq is supposed to be a sovereign country now, what right do Americans have to decide if it should be divided or not and how can they ensure that, united or divided, it will not become a terrorist refuge, as Bolton puts it? America and other western empire builders like Britain have a bad habit of fashioning other countries according to their ideas about what they think is best, only to have those plans backfire again and again.

There is no guarantee, divided or not, that Iraq will have a peaceful future and the Americans have made enough of a mess to this point, worsening the situation continually since they began this war, that they have actually fostered the festering animosity that may continue for decades to come.

Undoing what was foisted upon the Ottoman empire via its new state of Iraq in the 1920s by simply conceding now that that creation was a mistake would definitely not be an easy or necessarily desirable task. Perhaps if the imperialists would just focus on what's going on in their countries for a change instead of spreading their so-called vision for the world on everybody else, they might actually get somewhere.

There's oil and money to be had however and that, unfortunately, is the real driving factor.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Video: It's about time

This short documentary (presented here in two parts) presents a powerful look at Lebanon's difficult history but holds a message for all of us who are concerned about military and civil conflicts, the strength and deceit of those who pull the strings of ordinary citizens everywhere, and the ability and responsibility we all have to take back our lives.

It echoes, finally, the simple reality that I wrote about here in December and is a call to each of us to realize the best in ourselves in order to move forward in a peaceful, productive way.

As Gandhi said, 'What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?'

Part 1:

Part 2:

h/t to my good friend knb.

Update: The most recent development in Lebanon's situation has Iran and Saudi Arabia talking about how to resolve the issues there.

See also: This essay written by a student in Dubai, 'If You Want Peace, Work for It'.

Afghanistan: Retribution?

Defence minister O'Connor in mid-January:

"When the Taliban or al-Qaida came out of Afghanistan, they attacked the Twin Towers and in those Twin Towers, 25 Canadians were killed. The previous government and this government will not allow Canadians to be killed without retribution."

Defence minister O'Connor during Monday's question period:

And of course when I referred to retribution I was talking to [sic] the Chretien government's initial actions in Afghanistan.

And digging himself further into that hole, he then said:

The Taliban government was in charge of Afghanistan. They sponsored the al Qaeda terrorists who launched an attack from Afghanistan, attacked the Twin Towers, killed nearly 3000 people among which were 24 people (voices around him reminded him he was supposed to say "Canadians")...24 Canadians...

So, first of all he accuses the Taliban of attacking the Twin Towers. Then he states the wrong number of Canadians who lost their lives; says clearly that the military campaign of the previous government and the current government is based on retribution; backtracks on that when he's questioned and finally gets the number of Canadians killed on 9/11 right. This is the man in charge of running this war on our behalf? Sheesh.

And, as if that wasn't enough, O'Connor (a former defence industry lobbyist) is under fire over defence contracts:

The Conservative government has approved $17 billion worth of new military equipment projects, including the purchase of transport aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.

The Bloc, NDP and Liberals have raised questions about the aircraft deals in particular. Some critics in the aerospace industry claim the contracts are being directed to specific companies with no real competition.

Back in his opposition days, O'Connor labelled a plan to buy similar aircraft "outrageous" and an attempt to spend billions without public scrutiny. The plan was derailed in the fall of 2005 by bureaucrats and some Liberal cabinet members who were concerned about the non-competitive nature of the contracts. Now in government, O'Connor and his supporters say the purchases and contracts are fair, open, transparent and meet the needs of the Canadian Forces.

The politics of the situation will be also fuelled by defence committee hearings on procurement that are likely to start in March.

A Challenge: Who are Canada's 'smart female bloggers'?

Via Michelle's World I discovered that Warren Kinsella has posted his Top Ten Blogger list and stated, '(Oh, and memo to Canada: WE NEED MORE SMART FEMALE BLOGGERS NOW!)'

In response, I wrote this e-mail to Warren (using his real e-mail address supplied on his contact page):


As Michelle points out [link] there certainly are many "smart female [Canadian] bloggers" out here and yes, I will toot my own horn and consider myself among them.

I suspect that if you asked the Canadian blogging community to give you a list, you might be surprised at the number of us out here. Instead, you supplied a faux e-mail address for feedback on your top ten. How do you expect to find us or do we just not meet your definition of "smart"?

He e-mailed me back and suggested that I give him my list of the top ten Canadian female bloggers and said that if he agrees with my list he'll post it. Since I suggested that he ask the blogging community, that's what I'll do.

Here's the challenge: list your choice(s).

Since Kinsella has asked me for my top ten, I'll review them all and make my list based on your feedback and suggestions.

I will tell you this, however (and here's where I disagree with one of Michelle's choices), 'smart' does not include bloggers like Kate who defame politicians by supplying fake, libelous quotes just to create hysteria. That decision is not open to debate. Period. Anyone who attempts to dispute that decision will have their comment removed since I'm not interested in wasting my time reading any defences of her behaviour. As far as I'm concerned, she should have been sued. Please resist any discussion about that blog and its owner/commenters. That is not the purpose of this post.

Since Kinsella's list extends beyond lefty bloggers, suggestions from every party in the political spectrum are welcome. Once I'm done with my list, I'll post it here and e-mail it to Kinsella.

Bring on the 'smart' women!

Update: I received a very thoughtful e-mail from a smart Canadian female blogger who pointed out that there are plenty more out there who do not necessarily blog about 'politics' per se - reminding me that there are some women who intersperse 'political' issues with personal postings (as I do here as well, occasionally). Okay. That would seem to make my task much more vast then. 'Politics' is much more than discussions about political parties etc. It is personal.

In that spirit then, I urge those of you helping me out to look beyond the obvious so-called 'political' choices to those who encompass the heart of politics as well. Thanks.

And don't forget to provide links!

Update: Kinsella has written an update to his original post. Welcome to all of you who have found your way here from there.

Update: Please see my follow up post, Canada's Smart Female Bloggers.

Karzai Calls for Talks With the Taliban

During an October 2006 speech to the Canadian International Centre, Foreign Affairs minister Peter MacKay ridiculed NDP leader Jack Layton for suggesting talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. MacKay, spouting the popular right-wing talking point, said such talks would only embolden the terrorists. As I pointed out in this September 2006 post, NATO leaders were already holding secret talks with the Taliban in August 2006 according to the Globe and Mail.

I guess we'll have to see what Mr MacKay's reaction is to the news that Hamid Karzai is now suggesting the same thing:

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday offered peace talks with a resurgent Taliban after the bloodiest year since the hardline Islamists were ousted in 2001 and amid warnings of a violent spring offensive.

More than 4,000 people, including about 170 foreign soldiers, died in fighting last year, a year that saw a dramatic jump in suicide bombings as the Taliban and other militants copy tactics from insurgents in Iraq.

Karzai made the offer while speaking at a religious gathering in Kabul on one of the holiest days of the Shia Islamic calendar, but he did not specifically name the Taliban.

"While we are fighting for our honor, we still open the door for talks and negotiations with our enemy who is after our annihilation and is shedding our blood," he told the crowd at the main Shia religious compound in the capital.


During Stephen Harper's 2006 year end interview on CTV he said, "peace in the Middle East can never be achieved through dialogue with "genocidal" groups like Hamas and Hezbollah."

In August 2006, my hypocritical tory MP Jason Kenney compared Hezbollah to Nazis, a statement that PM Harper agreed with.

North American right-wingers these days are infamous for using extreme rhetoric when it comes to any suggestion that they encourage or engage in talks between parties involved in conflicts. Witness the ongoing stubbornness in the Bush administration regarding Iran and Syria and the hardline stance they took against bilateral talks with North Korea - a stated policy they have now had to publicly reverse despite the fact that they have actually been holding bilateral talks with North Korea since 2005.

This isn't the first time Karzai has tried to reach out to the Taliban but one wonders if this Conservative government will support Karzai's efforts or will it once again claim that such a move is just appeasement that makes those enemies stronger?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Quote du Jour: Wishful Thinking on The Guardian's Part

Iraqi troops backed by US helicopters and F-16 jets fought one of the fiercest battles since the end of the 2003 war yesterday, as they attacked insurgents supposedly plotting to wreak carnage at a Shia commemoration.


Cheney's Snobbery

In a predictable and boring Newsweek interview, The Man Without Doubt, Cheney shows himself for the snob he is:

Q: Bob Woodward reported that President Ford thought you had justified the war wrongly, and that Ford agreed with Colin Powell that you developed a fever about Saddam Hussein, about terrorism. Did you feel that was accurate?

A: I've never heard that from anybody but Bob Woodward.

Maybe if Cheney had bothered to listen to the actual tapes of Woodward's interview with Ford, he would know that what Woodward said was 100% true. But who needs truth when you can just smear a journalist?

And can he possibly get any more high and mighty than this?

Q: And other comments—criticism from [Brent] Scowcroft about not knowing you anymore. People have gotten quite personal, people you worked with before. You wouldn't be human if you didn't have some reaction.

A: Well, I'm vice president and they're not.

He and The Decider make the perfect pair.

Sunday Food for Thought

Since, in truth, bondage and freedom are relative, these words are only for those terrified with the universe. This universe is a reflection of minds. As you see many suns in water from one sun, so see bondage and liberation.

- Centering from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Video: George W Bush, Because He Says So...

A Daily Show blast from the past.

Dismantling the Wingnuts' So-called Logic

In which Michelle Malkin's mindset is thoroughly explained by D. Aristophanes of Sadly, No!

I’m just saying: There exist people outside your readership who have attention spans, and who aren’t fooled by:

1. Breaking: The moon is literally made of cheese.
2. Like I said, the moon is made of really hard, rock-like cheese.
3. Here’s yet more proof that the moon is made of a soft rock which resembles cheese.
4. Breaking: According to Flopping Aces via Patterico (hat tip: Confederate Yankee), Gateway Pundit has posted a screen-capture of an AP story that says (and I quote): “Because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again, Because I’m still in love with you, On this harvest moon.” So the moon has harvests. Will the MSM admit cheese? Wai-ting…
5. Liberals deny the similarity between the moon’s cratered surface and that of certain cheeses, for instance Neufchâtel.
6. UPDATE: Whoops, I meant Gruyère — the circular or wedge-shaped kind with craters in it from ancient meteor strikes.
7. As I’ve said many times, the real issue is that if the moon were cheese, the liberal MSM would attempt to sweep the truth under the rug, as is usual for them. As the present case clearly demonstrates.
8. Breaking: The moon is literally made of cheese. Big surprise, eh, MSM? Blue Crab Boulevard reports that Flopping Aces writes that Confederate Yankee finds that Gateway Pundit reports that Dan Riehl writes that…
9. UPDATE: Whoops. The AP story actually reads, “The [Rev. Sun-Myung] Moon[’s hairpiece] is made out of [the pubic hair of North Korean 13-year-olds, and his office smells like the Incredible Hulk just cut the] cheese.” Story developing…
10. “Hi, this is See-Dub guest blogging while Michelle hides out for awhile is traveling on journalism business. Say, how about those liberals? Pretty unhinged, huh?”
11. I have many emails now from people, and I will now respond. Liberals dishonestly claim that no cheese is not never unmade of not-moon. Yet despite their best efforts to embolden terrorism, no amount of wild, unhinged ranting by the left can [mumble-mumble] about the [mumble-mumble], because okay, lunar rock, as I’ve said many times.
12. Ha ha! Sneer! For certain the MSM has no credibility left, but are they willfully ignorant of the commonality of double vowels in the center of the words, ‘moon’ and ‘cheese’? Oo! Ee! (Hat tip: Gateway Pundit)
13. Burning questions remain in the evolving moon/cheese double-vowel controversy.
14. With the moon having been proven to be possibly cheese, I have decided to go to the moon to personally report on the cheese which is there.
15. I came to the moon a darkening cheese-skeptic, but left with unexpected hope and resolve. Sure enough, here’s a picture of some rocks on the moon.
16. [etc.]

Any questions?

And, speaking of wingnuts, the Poor Man's Institute has just handed out its kippie awards for the wingyest of the wingy.

Related: Quote du Jour: Beating a Dead Horse
Warblogger Advocates 'Sectarian Cleansing' in Baghdad
(and too many other posts I've written about this whole, nauseating affair that I don't want to track down right now)

The Smell of Conservative Desperation

Via CTV we learn that the Conservatives are planning to run attack ads against Stephane Dion during Sunday's Super Bowl:

OTTAWA -- The Conservative party intends to run TV attack ads against new Liberal leader Stephane Dion, CTV News has learned.

Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney will hold a briefing tomorrow in Ottawa to unveil the ads that mock Dion's leadership abilities and his environmental record, sources say.

Party insiders say the Conservatives will buy TV spots during the Super Bowl and other prime time slots for maximum impact.

They stress the ads are not part of a strategy to force an early election.

Sources say the party is concerned that Dion is getting a free ride from the mainstream media and the Tories want to go over the heads of the national media in Ottawa to reach ordinary Canadians.

The ads -- which party officials showed to the Conservative caucus on Friday -- cast doubt on Dion's environmental credentials and leadership abilities, according to sources that have seen them.

One Conservative insider told CTV News the party "wants to define Dion before the Liberals get the chance to define him with a free ride from the media."
Tory MPs roared when the ads were played for them at the caucus retreat.

"They are all Liberals in the ads and they are quite funny," one Tory MP said.

If someone called an election, I missed it. It's bad enough that we have to put up with this kind of crap during election campaigns. Do the Tories actually believe this is going to help them? Even some of their supporters are saying this is a bad move. The Tories were quick to complain about Paul Martin's so-called attack ads during the last election campaign yet it seems they were just blowing smoke since they obviously plan to use exactly the same tactic now.

This is what Harper said on January 13, 2006:

“There are no limits to Canada's future if we live by the best of Canada’s values, if we reject a campaign of fear and choose a positive agenda."

So much for that.

Afghanistan: Has Half of the Aid Money Disappeared?

This is only speculation until it's actually confirmed. However, it's shocking if it turns out to be true:

Corrupt police and tribal leaders are stealing vast quantities of reconstruction aid that is intended to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans and turn them away from the Taliban, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

In some cases, all the aid earmarked for an area has ended up in the wrong hands. Defence officials in the United States and Britain estimate that up to half of all aid in Afghanistan is failing to reach the right people.

Nato forces in the south of the country say some Afghan police are guilty of corruption and will steal aid if it is handed out. Tribal and mosque elders have also been accused of seizing goods, including building materials and fuel, and selling them in markets. A Pentagon official said thousands of cars and trucks intended for use by the Afghan police had been sold instead.
A joint report by the Pentagon and the US state department, circulated to congressional committees last month, concluded that the Afghan police force was corrupt to the point of ineffectiveness. One Pentagon official told The Sunday Telegraph that police officers had stolen and sold at least half of the equipment supplied by the US, including thousands of cars and trucks.

So, tell me again, how exactly are we helping people in Afghanistan?

And why is there so much corruption even 5 years after the war began?

Via CorpWatch:

The training experts say the United States made some of the same mistakes in training police forces in Afghanistan that it made in Iraq, including offering far too little field training, tracking equipment poorly and relying on private contractors for the actual training. At the same time, those experts say, the failure to create viable police forces to keep order and enforce the law on a local level has played a pivotal role in undermining the American efforts to stabilize both countries.

In Afghanistan, the failure has contributed to the explosion in opium production, government corruption and the resurgence of the Taliban.

So, while the Pentagon might want to hoist all of the blame on local tribal leaders and the Taliban, they certianly have to answer for the shoddy work their extremely highly paid contractors have been doing over there first.

Most of the $1.1 billion the United States has spent on the training program in Afghanistan has gone to DynCorp, a technical services company based in Falls Church, Va., with 14,000 employees in about 33 countries. DynCorp also won the largest part of the training work in Iraq; it received a total of $1.6 billion for its training and security work in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2004, 2005 and 2006 fiscal years, according to Gregory Lagana, a company spokesman. The work accounted for roughly 30 percent of the company's revenue during those years. In May, the company raised $375 million in an initial public offering of its stock.

Under orders from the Defense Department, the company has deployed 377 police advisers to Afghanistan, roughly half the number the United States has deployed in Iraq. Police training experts say far more police advisers are needed in Afghanistan, which is roughly the same size as Iraq. The report says that management of the DynCorp contract by United States government officials in Afghanistan has fallen into a state of disarray; conflicting military and civilian bureaucracies could not even find a copy of the contract to clarify for auditors exactly what it called for.

The next time you hear our government praise the state of reconstruction work in Afghanistan, keep that in mind.

Prof calls for audit of aid money to Afghanistan
Where are the missing billions?
Audit: U.S. lost track of $9 billion in Iraq funds

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's simple: Ban Cluster Bombs

The New York Times reports that the US government might be prepared to give Israel a slap on the wrist over its use of American-supplied cluster bombs during the Israel/Lebanon war last year.

98% of recorded cluster munitions casualties that are registered with Handicap International are civilians. Cluster munitions are hotly opposed by many individuals and hundreds of groups, such as the Red Cross,[1] the Cluster Munition Coalition and the United Nations, because of the high proportion of civilians that have fallen victim to the weapon. Since February 2005, Handicap International called for cluster munitions to be prohibited and collected hundreds of thousands signatures to support its call.

And remember this from Afghanistan?

In addition, some cluster bomblets, such as the CBU-87, are brightly colored in order to increase their visibility and warn off civilians. However, the color, coupled with their small and nonthreatening appearance has caused children to interpret them as toys. This problem was exacerbated in the United States military action against Afghanistan, when US forces dropped humanitarian rations from airplanes with the same yellow colored packaging as the BLU97. The rations packaging was later changed first to blue and then to clear packaging in the hopes of avoiding such hazardous confusion.

As Human Rights Watch reported last summer:

Human Rights Watch conducted detailed analyses of the U.S. military's use of cluster bombs in the 1999 Yugoslavia war, the 2001-2002 Afghanistan war, and the 2003 Iraq war. Human Rights Watch research established that the use of cluster munitions in populated areas in Iraq caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the U.S.-led coalition's conduct of major military operations in March and April 2003, killing and wounding more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians. Roughly a quarter of the 500 civilian deaths caused by NATO bombing in the 1999 Yugoslavia war were also due to cluster munitions.

This is what happens when cluster bombs are dropped on innocent civilians:

According to eyewitnesses and survivors of the [Blida] attack interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Israel fired several artillery-fired cluster munitions at Blida around 3 p.m. on July 19. The witnesses described how the artillery shells dropped hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village. They clearly described the submunitions as smaller projectiles that emerged from their larger shells.

The cluster attack killed 60-year-old Maryam Ibrahim inside her home. At least two submunitions from the attack entered the basement that the Ali family was using as a shelter, wounding 12 persons, including seven children. Ahmed Ali, a 45-year-old taxi driver and head of the family, lost both legs from injuries caused by the cluster munitions. Five of his children were wounded: Mira, 16; Fatima, 12; ?Ali, 10; Aya, 3; and `Ola, 1. His wife Akram Ibrahim, 35, and his mother-in-law `Ola Musa, 80, were also wounded. Four relatives, all German-Lebanese dual nationals sheltering with the family, were wounded as well: Mohammed Ibrahim, 45; his wife Fatima, 40; and their children Ali, 16, and Rula, 13.

30 August 2006 The UN's humanitarian chief has accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in Lebanon.

UN clearance experts had so far found 100,000 unexploded cluster bomblets at 359 separate sites, Jan Egeland said.

Israel has repeated its previous insistence that munitions it uses in conflict comply with international law.
UN efforts to rid Lebanon of cluster bombs have been under way since the conflict ended. Earlier estimates from UN experts had suggested a total of about 100 cluster bomb sites.

Mr Egeland described the fresh statistics as "shocking new information".

"What's shocking and completely immoral is: 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said.

So, stories about how the Bush administration might suddenly get tough with the Israel government over its use of cluster bombs that his government gave to them are not even worth the paper they're printed on.

Bush 41 Whines About Media 'Hostility'

Via Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's father accused the news media of "personal animosity" toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he sometimes talked back to his television set.

"It's one thing to have an adversarial ... relationship -- hard-hitting journalism -- it's another when the journalists' rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity," former President George Bush said.

The elder Bush, the 41st U.S. president, had a relatively collegial relationship with the press but things turned sour during his losing 1992 re-election campaign. He got so fed up with media coverage that supporters at the time circulated hats with the slogan "Annoy the Media -- Re-Elect Bush."

"I won't get too personal here -- but this antipathy got worse after the 43rd president took office," the former president said. He was speaking at a reception for a journalism scholarship awarded in honor of the late Hugh Sidey, White House correspondent for Time magazine.

"And so bad in fact that I found myself doing what I never should have done -- I talk back to the television set. And I said things that my mother wouldn't necessarily approve of," Bush's father said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

Brilliant at Breakfast offers a brilliant at any time rebuttal.

'Nuff said.

To those who deny Mr Arar's innocence...

Writing for the Toronto Star on Saturday, James Travers asks this question:

Finally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing the right thing by compensating Maher Arar for damage that can never be fully repaired. Now, will Canadians find it in their hearts to be as generous?

The answer to that is a definite 'no'. Just witness the reactions in Canada's right-wing blogosphere following the announcement of the lawsuit settlement on Friday here, here and here. Some of those are people who deny Arar was imprisoned or tortured - one who even suggests that Mr Arar somehow manufactured his own demise to show how 'weak' western governments are as some sort of broader radical Isalmic plot*. People who think Mr Arar has somehow won the lottery now after showing just how stupid Canada's government is. People disconnected from reality who, in the face of all of the evidence put forth in the Arar inquiry, cannot bring themselves to admit the truth. People who, on one hand, say Mr Arar deserved an apology while on the other hand not understanding why.

Travers goes on:

It's instructive as well as discouraging that some of his fellow-citizens still can't bring themselves to extend the presumption of innocence to the Syrian-born electronics engineer. They skim over the exonerating details of Justice Dennis O'Connor's inquiry to dwell on the doubts spread by a U.S. administration that can't bring itself to say it's wrong or sorry.

If that lingering suspicion is just human nature, then it's the worst of human nature. More troubling still, it reveals how imperfectly this society understands, how lightly it values, rights that define the very freedom our troops in Afghanistan are defending.

And that's the rub, isn't it? After a shining moment when our government did exactly what it ought to have done by establishing an exhaustive public inquiry and finally admitting its mistakes and compensating Mr Arar - our innocent Canadian engineer who was sent to Syria to be abused in the most horrid of ways based on suspicions that were completely wrong - there are those among us who are still completely unwilling to leave Mr Arar to live his life in peace. Mr Travers is right. That attitude is an example of the worst of human nature. It is a position of screaming willful ignorance - the most dangerous kind - for it is that very characteristic that got Mr Arar in trouble in the first place.

The actions of the RCMP and the US government were based on lies yet some people in this country prefer to defend those lies instead of admitting they were wrong so they can maintain their warped sense of pride. What kind of pride is it that continues to condemn an innocent man for life?

As the old saying goes: “No one ever choked to death swallowing his pride”.

And the sad reality is that too many people who have been tortured, as Mr Arar was, have died thanks to the need of some people to be right no matter what the consequences.

Those lingering suspicions about Mr Arar are more than troubling, Mr Travers. They're frightening.

Who are the real radicals that threaten the very fabric of our society?

* This fealty to living in fear and ignorance even extends itself to the point where a picture of a Middle Eastern baby taken completely out of context from the Iranian News agency somehow merits the disgusting headline 'Baby Boomer' - a suggestion that this child will grow up to be a suicide bomber based simply on its ethnic origin. It is exactly that type of stereotyping that stalls progress on these issues.

Update: Those visiting from the blog with the 'Baby Boomer' post (whose owner has now labeled me as being "spectacularly obtuse") who actually do need some context about that picture ought to familiarize themselves with Ashura.

The Day of Ashura (عاشوراء translit: ‘Āshūrā’, also Aashoora and other spellings) is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram but not the Islamic month.

This day is well-known because of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala in the year 61 AH (AD 680).

Furthermore Sunni Muslims believe that Moses fasted on that day to express gratitude to God for liberation of Israelites from Egypt. According to the Muslim tradition, Muhammad (SAW) fasted on this day and asked other people to fast.[1][2]
some governments has banned this commemoration. In 1930s Reza Shah forbid it in Iran. The regime of Saddam Hussein saw this as a potential threat and banned Ashura commemorations for many years. In 1884 Hosay Massacre, 22 people were killed in Trinidad and Tobago when civilians attempted to carry out the Ashura rites, locally known as Hosay, in defiance of the British colonial authorities.
According to Sunni tradition, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) observed the Ashura fast in Mecca, as did the local population where it was a common practice. When Prophet Muhammad led his followers to Medina, he found the Jews of that area fasting on the day of Ashura - or Yom Kippur - Ibrahim (Abraham). At this juncture, Prophet Muhammad confirmed and underlined the Islamic aspect of the fast, and it became mandatory for the Muslims.

So, as much as some right-wingers want to make that picture a symbol of suicide-bombers-to-be, they are horribly misguided.

The Ashura is commemorated for the following occasions which Muslims believe happened on the 10th Day of the Muharram:

* The deliverance of Noah from the flood
* Abraham was saved from Nimrod's fire
* Jacob's blindness was healed and he was brought to Joseph on this day
* Job was healed from his illness
* Moses was saved from the impeding Pharaoh's army
* Jesus was brought up to heaven after attempts by the Romans to capture and crucify him failed.

Taking the Antiwar Message to DC: Saturday's Protests

United for Peace & Justice* has organized a massive antiwar protest which is taking place today in Washington D.C. As far as I'm concerned, there should be rallies like this in front of the capitol every week.

Those interested in watching/listening to the wide variety of speakers including Jesse Jackson, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda and many others can tune in online at CSPAN (which has intermittent coverage).

* The UFP website appears to be overwhelmed. You can learn more about the organization here.

Don't just talk about peace. Be it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Quote du Jour: Rove and 'Dam' Bartlett Subpoenaed in Libby Case

Via UPI:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has been subpoenaed by the defense in the Washington perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby, Newsweek reported.

Rove and White House Counselor Dam Bartlett both received subpoenas from lawyers for Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dicky Cheney. Libby is on trial for allegedly lying to federal investigators and a grand jury in connection with the leak of the name of a CIA agent.

I suspect a lot of people call him some variation of "Dam".

Video: Kennedy Slams GOP Opposition to Minimum Wage Increase

Ted Kennedy blows a gasket on behalf of those who are forced to work at the current federal minimum wage in the US: $5.15/hr. The Democrats want to raise it to $7.25/hr.

When does the greed stop?, we ask the other side.
What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy?
What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?

The AP vs the US Military - Again

I've written here several times about the fact that you cannot trust press releases from the US military. We all remember the stories about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch which later turned out to be proven false. Those are only two in a long line of releases that the military has had to issue corrections about. Yet, some people still take the military's word as gospel while continuing to demonize conflicting reports from media on the ground like the AP.

Here's the latest chapter in that book:

BAGHDAD - Contrary to U.S. military statements, four U.S. soldiers did not die repelling a sneak attack at the governor's office in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last week. New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away.

The brazen assault 50 miles south of Baghdad was launched Jan. 20 by a group of nine to 12 militants. They traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles - the type used by U.S. government convoys, had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues and spoke English.

In a written statement, the U.S. command reported at the time that five soldiers were killed while "repelling the attack." Two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials now say three of them were found dead and one mortally wounded in locations as far as 25 miles east of the governor's office.

The U.S. officials said they could not be sure if the soldiers were killed as the attackers drove them to the place where they abandoned the Suburbans or afterward. Iraqi officials said the men were killed just before the vehicles were abandoned.

The daring commando team also took an unclassified U.S. computer with them as they fled with the four soldiers and left behind an American M-4 automatic rifle, senior U.S. military officials said.

The new information has emerged after nearly a week of inquiries. The U.S. military in Baghdad repeatedly declined comment on reports that began emerging from Iraqi government and military officials which suggested a major breakdown in security at Karbala site.

The two senior American military officials now confirm the reports, gathered by The Associated Press from five senior Iraqi government, military and religious leaders. The U.S. military also has provided additional details from internal military accounts.


Here's the AP's story about the US military finally admitting the truth on Friday.

The details about how this attack emerged are disturbing enough. The infiltration and methods were shocking. But the US military doesn't do anybody any favours by refusing to tell the world the truth about the events surrounding this situation and by continuing to deny that reporters in the ground are actually capable of getting the real stories out there.

Canadian Government Settles Arar's Torture Lawsuit

The Canadian Government gave Maher Arar a long overdue apology and a financial settlement of $11.5 million* on Friday to compensate for the torture he underwent at the hands of the Syrian government after the US government sent him there using its practice of "extraordinary rendition" - partially relying on erroneous information supplied to them by the RCMP.

"On behalf of the government of Canada," Harper read from the letter sent to Arar, "I wish to apologize to you, Monia Mazigh, and your family for any role Canadian officials may have played in the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced in 2002 and 2003.

Note the word "may".

Justice O'Connor's inquiry into Mr Arar's nightmare concluded:

The Commissioner also found that both before and after Mr. Arar’s detention in the U.S. the RCMP provided American authorities with information about Mr. Arar which was inaccurate, portrayed him in an unfair fashion and overstated his importance to the investigation. Some of this inaccurate information had the potential to create serious consequences for Mr. Arar in light of American attitudes and practices at the time.

There is no "may" about it. Canadian officials did play a role in what happened to Mr Arar**.

Mr Arar's lawyer, speaking on his behalf, said he believes the amount of the financial settlement is fair.

Harper, not one to miss an opportunity to bash the former Liberal government (which was exonerated during the Arar inquiry which it set up) and who - along with other tories like Stockwell Day pushed the meme that Mr Arar a suspected terrorist while they were in the opposition - also said:

“Although the events leading up to this terrible ordeal happened under the previous government, our Government will do everything in its power to ensure that the issues raised by Commissioner O’Connor are addressed,”

This, coming from a tory government that refused to fire RCMP commissioner Zaccardelli and instead just waited for him to resign.

This, coming from a prime minister who, along with other members of his government, made these shameful statements about Mr Arar in the house of commons in 2002:

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, he said he did not know. It would be nice if there were somebody here to actually answer a question on this.

While the minister participated in high level consultations to defend a suspected terrorist, it apparently took a trip by the U.S. Secretary of State for the minister to admit what he really knew.

Officials now acknowledge that they have had evidence on Arar's activities for weeks. Why did it take a newspaper article to correct the record? Why did the minister and the government not reveal these facts to the House before today?

And this from Diane Ablonczy:

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is time the Liberals told the truth: that their system of screening and security checks is pathetic. Arar was given dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship by the government. It did not pick up on his terrorist links and the U.S. had to clue it in.

How is it that the U.S. could uncover this man's background so quickly when the government's screening system failed to find his al-Qaeda links?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I point out to the hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill that Mohammed Atta, the conspirator behind the September 11 destruction of the World Trade Center, received his visa from U.S. authorities six months after September 11.

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government needs to take responsibility for what it is doing to protect Canadian security. The fact is that these Liberals were asleep at the switch.

Arar was not properly checked. Instead, the government ran around chastising the U.S. for sending Arar back to Syria, where he is also a citizen.

Why is it that the Liberal security system is so weak here that they overlook vital information that the U.S. picked up on a routine check?

And Stockwell Day:

Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister gave an evasive answer concerning Maher Arar and his possible terrorist ties. As members know, a few months ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs proudly announced that there was no reason to deport Mr. Arar. Now we know that the RCMP had received warnings about Mr. Arar weeks, perhaps months ago.

When did the Minister of Foreign Affairs receive these warnings?

Mr Arar and his lawyers gave what was at times a gut-wrenching press conference following the announcement of the settlement on Friday in which they praised the government for having resolved at least this matter finally. Still under contention are the US government's refusal to remove Mr Arar from their watch list along with his current lawsuit against the US government, the role of the Canadian press with regards to publishing leaks in the case (not to mention the fact that those who leaked the damaging information have not been punished), and the fact that there has not yet been an inquiry into the torture of 3 other Canadians in Syria.

Lawyer Julian Falconer choked up when he said that that Mr Arar's wife Monia had asked for a written apology so that when their children are old enough they can know he was innocent. Mr Arar said he sometimes uses Google to see what people and the press are saying about him and that it upsets him when he says the words terror suspect or former terror suspect still connected with his name. He prefers to see references to his status as a Canadian engineer.

So, Mr Arar, I will gladly refer to you as that whenever I write about you from this day on. My heart still breaks for you and your family.

Related: You can watch their press conference at CTV's site when it's up. (Update: the video is now available.)
CBC has a timeline of the Arar affair.
News release from the Prime Minister's office.
Reaction by US senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to today's announcement.

* During Maher Arar's press conference, lawyer Julian Falconer corrected the press reports stating that the settlement was $11.5 million plus $1 million for legal fees.

** Mr Falconer said the spirit of the apology was welcome even if the word "may" was used.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Is War With Iran Inevitable?

From the "who leaked this and why?" file, the Washington Post reports that the US military is under orders to kill any Iranian 'revolutionary guard/operative' it finds in Iraq.

As for why this merits a front page story, the answer seems to appear in the article itself:

"We were making no traction" with "catch and release," a senior counterterrorism official said in a recent interview, explaining that it had failed to halt Iranian activities in Iraq or worry the Tehran leadership. "Our goal is to change the dynamic with the Iranians, to change the way the Iranians perceive us and perceive themselves. They need to understand that they cannot be a party to endangering U.S. soldiers' lives and American interests, as they have before. That is going to end."

A senior intelligence officer was more wary of the ambitions of the strategy.

"This has little to do with Iraq. It's all about pushing Iran's buttons. It is purely political," the official said. The official expressed similar views about other new efforts aimed at Iran, suggesting that the United States is escalating toward an unnecessary conflict to shift attention away from Iraq and to blame Iran for the United States' increasing inability to stanch the violence there.

But some officials within the Bush administration say that targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Command, and specifically a Guard unit known as the Quds Force, should be as much a priority as fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Quds Force is considered by Western intelligence to be directed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to support Iraqi militias, Hamas and Hezbollah.

In interviews, two senior administration officials separately compared the Tehran government to the Nazis and the Guard to the "SS." They also referred to Guard members as "terrorists." Such a formal designation could turn Iran's military into a target of what Bush calls a "war on terror," with its members potentially held as enemy combatants or in secret CIA detention.

"Nazis". "SS". That plays nicely to the theme that Iran supposedly wants to "wipe Israel off the map" and this article is a shot across the bow to get the Iranian president's attention. That's why it's made its way into the press now.

I'd also like to know how the Bush administration can justify killing these Iranians in Iraq considering the reported extent of their involvement there:

Three officials said that about 150 Iranian intelligence officers, plus members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Command, are believed to be active inside Iraq at any given time. There is no evidence the Iranians have directly attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, intelligence officials said.

But, for three years, the Iranians have operated an embedding program there, offering operational training, intelligence and weaponry to several Shiite militias connected to the Iraqi government, to the insurgency and to the violence against Sunni factions. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the CIA, told the Senate recently that the amount of Iranian-supplied materiel used against U.S. troops in Iraq "has been quite striking."

That last claim was debunked by the LA Times earlier this week.

The accusations of Iranian meddling "illustrate what may be one of our greatest problems," said Anthony Cordesman, a former Defense Department official and military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"We are still making arguments from authority without detail and explanation. We're making them in an America and in a world where we really don't have anything like the credibility we've had in the past."

Nor should they.

And, as Scott Ritter warns, Bush may own the Iraq war but Democrats will own a war with Iran, if this situation escalates to that point. And, while congress is busy debating non-binding resolutions about the so-called troop "surge" in Iraq (which Bush and Cheney have already said they'll ignore) the real elephant in the room is Iran.

Democrats should seek immediate legislative injunctions to nullify the War Powers' authority granted to the President in September 2001 and October 2002 when it comes to Iran. Congress should pass a joint resolution requiring the President to fully consult with Congress about any national security threat that may be posed to the United States from Iran and demand that no military action be initiated by the United States against Iran without a full, constitutionally mandated declaration of war.

Related: New US strategy on Iran emerges from Davos
Iran calls for summit with Iraq, Syria
Attack on Iran would be 'catastrophic', IAEA says
Escalation of US Iran military planning part of six-year Administration push
The Coming War Against Iran

Quote du Jour: Yes, Virginia, there really are thought police...

“They claim they own the portions of our brains that remember anything,” he said.

And who would 'they' be? Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department thugs.

The lengths the Bush administration will go to protect their secrets illegal activities are absolutely astonishing...

Liberals Want MP Colin Mayes to Resign

It never ceases to amaze me that some people can be so obviously obtuse when they're in denial or trying to cover their political butt.

Case in point:

OTTAWA (CP) - Liberals want a Conservative MP to resign as head of the Commons aboriginal affairs committee over his response to a racist e-mail.

At issue is a joke e-mail that refers to a native man as 'Tonto' and 'chief.' A British Columbia television station reported that Tory MP Colin Mayes received the e-mail and responded with a "good joke." Mayes didn't deny the response when questioned, but said he didn't mean to endorse such humour.

If "good joke" isn't an endorsement of that type of racist humour, what is?

And this isn't the first time Colin Mayes has been in hot water:

Vernon, B.C. — Soon after proclaiming some journalists should be thrown in jail, Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes apologized for his comments.

Mr. Mayes, a rookie Conservative backbencher, retracted his statements less than a day after sending an editorial column to several small newspapers in his B.C. riding, as well as the Vernon Daily Courier.

In the column e-mailed from his office Thursday, he suggested reporters who violate their public trust by producing inaccurate or fabricated articles should be imprisoned.

But by Friday morning Mr. Mayes had issued an apology.
Mr. Mayes had noted the Conservative government's top priority was to pass its accountability legislation. He argued the media held a public trust similar to that of business leaders, public servants and politicians.

"Boy, would the public get accurate and true information if a few reporters were hauled away to jail!" he wrote in his column.

"Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens."

Isn't it always the case that these tories who sit on their high horse of moral superiority and 'accountability' are the ones to fall off - landing in the hardest possible way? Just how many times do we have to watch that scenario play out before there are real consequences? And just how long do we have to watch this government pay lip service to the plight of our aboriginal people while snickering behind their backs?

Related: Liberal Party press release.

More conservatives behaving badly in Mayes' riding.

An e-mail that some directors found offensive led to the firing of a board member in the local Conservative riding association.

Miles Lehn said directors took offence to one of his e-mails resulting in his firing at a meeting Monday night. He said the e-mail was written in jest.

“I suggested to a board member that the board member take Jacquie and Colin (Mayes) out to Lumby and sign up members of a new congregation so they could stop any godless infidels from coming on to the board,” said Lehn who did not attend Monday’s meeting. “What I found on the board was that they were basically all members of (Mayes’ church) congregation.”

Is it something in the water in that riding or what?

Update: CTV has more, including the content of the joke and Mayes' response to the calls for his resignation.

"This is just a cheap, partisan smear levelled against me,'' Colin Mayes said in an interview after initially ducking out of a meeting on Parliament Hill without speaking to reporters.

"She has taken an e-mail and completely misrepresented it,'' he said of Liberal MP and aboriginal affairs critic Anita Neville.

"I find no humour (in anything) that insults the culture or the heritage of any group of people. Those types of jokes are completely inappropriate.''
It was leaked to a British Columbia television station by a man who was recently fired from the board of the local Conservative association in Mayes's riding of Okanagan-Shuswap.

Miles Lehn was voted off the board, ironically, by directors who took offence to an e-mail he said was written in jest.
Asked if he still thinks the story of the native man in the coffee shop was a "good joke,'' Mayes said he couldn't really remember the content.

"I get hundreds of e-mails.''

Besides, he added, he may have intended to convey sarcasm.

Mayes was less circumspect when buttonholed by a B.C. television reporter earlier this week.

"I just laugh,'' he said of any suggestion he's racist. "They're just grasping at straws.''

Keep digging yourself deeper into that hole you're in, Mayes.