Friday, February 29, 2008

Is Harper Interfering in the US Election?

That's the question that immediately came to mind when I read this ABC News story which names Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, as the person who leaked the Obama/NAFTA story to CTV on Wednesday. Here's the money quote from that article that has denials and non-denials being flung about so carelessly now:

Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.

The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.

According to ABC News:

Both the Canadian Embassy and the Obama campaign have repeatedly denied the CTV report.

However, a source close to the Canadian prime minister's office tells ABC News that the original communication was between Austan Goolsbee, Obama's senior economic adviser and an economics professor at the University of Chicago, and Georges Rioux, Canada's consul general in Chicago, about Obama's rhetoric against NAFTA.

According to the source, Wilson exaggerated the communication between the Obama campaign and the Canadian official during discussions this week with Ian Brodie, the prime minister's chief of staff, who leaked the story to CTV.

I had suspected from the outset that the Harper government was the source of that story since any talk of reforming NAFTA obviously has them worried - to the point where David Emerson threatened that oil and other energy resources might be on the table if a future Democratic president insisted on renegotiating the agreement - as both Clinton and Obama said they would during Tuesday nite's Ohio debate.

Putting aside the accusations flying back and forth between the campaigns, our government and various other unnamed sources, what we clearly have here is Harper's chief of staff trying to influence the Democratic primaries. NAFTA is a huge issue in states like Ohio and Texas, which are holding their primaries next Tuesday. And, with Emerson issuing his threats this week, it looks like it's a very coordinated effort coming straight from the top.

Related:

The latest CTV News update: Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada



The TO Star: Double-teaming NAFTA, for now

Susan Delacourt: Sourcing a cross-border smear. She notes what I spotted as well - you have someone "close to the Prime Minister's office" apparently slamming Ian Brodie and Michael Wilson. What's that about? Or are they all just so bloody incompetent that they have absolutely no idea what they're even talking about anymore? She's also posted an e-mail by Bob Rae on the entire affair. "This is Republican International in action," Rae writes.

(h/t to steve9631 at Daily Kos for pointing the way to the ABC News story.)
 

Updates on the Cadman Scandal

Accusations, more denials, investigations, audio-taped interviews, non-confidence motion speculation, bullying, ethical lapses, holier-than-thou pronouncements, proclamations of "nothing to see here, folks" - and that's just what's happened since the story about Dona Cadman's allegations of bribery to the tune of $1 million in the form of an insurance policy for her dying husband Chuck were made on Wednesday.

It's all been rather fast and furious and there's still much more to come.

- On Friday, Chuck Cadman's daughter Jodi backed up her mother's assertions when she was interviewed by CBC News: story and video here (Watch the other interview videos as well.)

- The Globe & Mail reports rumours of possible non-confidence motions to bring the government down over the scandal - as early as next week when the NDP might use their opposition day to make their move. The G&M story also has a 2005 audio-taped interview with Chuck Cadman about the offers he received (no specifics mentioned).

“There was certainly some, you know, some offers made and some things along those lines about not opposing me and helping out with the finances of the campaign and that sort of thing. But, again, you know, that's all part of the deal that goes on. It's what happens, especially in a minority situation,” Mr. Cadman says.

To add fuel to the growing fire, they also report that Cadman's son-in-law backs up the allegations.

And take a look at this lowbrow response from Sandra Buckler:

Asked what financial considerations Mr. Harper was talking about on the tape, and what case did he tell the party emissaries to make, the prime minister's communications director ducked the questions.

In an e-mail to The Canadian Press, Sandra Buckler said the tape — which the publisher of the book was selling for $500 a copy — is an excerpt of a longer interview between the prime minister and Mr. Zytaruk.

“We are deeply concerned that an edited excerpt of a taped conversation between Mr. Harper and the book's author is being bootlegged for five hundred bucks a pop by the author. We call on the author to provide Canadians with a complete, unedited audio copy of the author's conversation — from start to finish — with Mr. Harper.”

Ms. Buckler did not reply to a second e-mail asking her to respond to the two original questions.

And she's an official government spokesperson? Using language like that? She sounds like a vice cop.

Furthermore, there's no "bootlegging" involved. The author owns the rights to that interview and can do whatever he wants to with it. Educate yourself on the law, Ms Buckler. We already know you're just Harper's handy spokespuppet who will say anything to shield your boss.

As for Harper, here's what he told the book's author:

Author Tom Zytaruk taped an interview with Mr. Harper in September 2005 for his soon-to-be-released biography of Cadman. On the scratchy 2:37 recording, Mr. Harper, leader of the Opposition at the time, confirms party officials made a financial appeal to Mr. Cadman.

“The offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election,” Mr. Harper says.

Mr. Harper said he wasn't optimistic about their chances of persuading Mr. Cadman — a former Tory MP who had left the party to sit as an Independent MP — to vote with the Tories to bring down Mr. Martin's government, he urged two people “legitimately representing the party” to tread cautiously.

“I said ‘Don't press him, I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity, and you know, just, you know, if that's what you're saying make that case,' but I said, ‘Don't press it'.”

So he knew that party officials were trying to buy Cadman's way back into the Conservative party. As the opposition stated on Friday, [The]PM incriminated himself on tape over alleged Cadman bribe.

The ethics committee is set to deal with motions calling for an inquiry into this scandal on Tuesday. In the meantime, the RCMP are also on the case.

No matter how the Conservatives try to spin this, trying to entice a dying man with financial incentives to back their party is bound to leave most Canadians absolutely disgusted. The Cons won't be able to wiggle, bully or spin their way out of that reality.
 

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quote du Jour: The "Jihad" Against Brian Mulroney

Apparently, radical Islamofascists are after Brian Mulroney.

Via the CBC:

Earlier in the day, Mulroney's spokesman, Robin Sears, urged the Commons ethics committee to quickly end its "partisan" probe into the former prime minister's business affairs, suggesting it was part of a "15-year jihad" against him.

"This has been like a 15-year jihad against Mulroney and his family by his enemies — led by Mr. Schreiber and enabled by some in the media," Sears told CBC News.

"It is time to bring this to a close. There really is no case left to answer."

Right. You wish.

Anyway, apparently the ethics committee members, Karlheinz Schreiber, the Canadian media and anyone who has ever criticized Mulroney are all radical Muslim, jihad-issuing clerics. Who knew?
 

Chuck Cadman's Widow Alleges $1 Million Bribe

The widow of Chuck Cadman has alleged that Conservative party officials attempted to bribe her husband to the tune of $1 million to stop him from propping up the Martin government in 2005.

During question period today, Harper said he'd looked into this himself and decided there was "absolutely no truth in it". This obviously begs the question: Why would Harper take it upon himself to investigate such a serious charge? In politics appearances are everything and if Harper had any political sense, he would have turned this matter over to the appropriate officials right off the bat. Instead, he chose to cover it up and now the Conservatives are accusing Cadman's widow, a member and candidate of their party, of lying. The denials were flying fast and furious during Thursday's questions and, as one opposition MP said in response to Peter Van Loan's flailing, "Me thinks you dost protest too much".

Via the Globe & Mail:

In a statement released Thursday, Tory campaign director Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political science professor who is a close friend and former campaign chief of Mr. Harper, confirmed that they met with Mr. Cadman on May 19, 2005 to discuss his possible re-admission to the Conservative caucus – a fact “widely known in political circles” and on the public record, they said.

The statement does not address the insurance policy allegation, but suggests televised remarks by Mr. Cadman made later that day puts the matter to rest.

“We offered ways that we – as campaign officials – could help Mr. Cadman in the Conservative nomination process, and if successful, wage a competitive campaign in a general election,” the statement said.

“Later that evening, Mr. Cadman confirmed our offer of campaign assistance to a national television audience and further confirmed that this offer was ‘the only offer on anything.' As the record shows, Mr. Cadman declined our offer to re-join the Conservative Caucus.”

Mr. Harper is quoted in the book, Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, as confirming that a visit took place, and that officials were “legitimately” representing the Conservative Party. But he said any offer to Mr. Cadman was only to defray losses he might incur in an election. A copy of the manuscript, including an introduction by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, has been obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Here is Dona Cadman's version of the events:

According to the book, two Conservative officials arrived at Mr. Cadman's Ottawa office two days before the vote on the Liberal budget. It was apparent at that time that the House of Commons was evenly split on the money bill and the nod of the then-Independent MP would decide whether Mr. Martin's Liberal government would survive. “The Tories actually walked in with a list of offers written down on a piece of paper. Included in their proposal was a $1-million life insurance policy – no small carrot for a man with advanced cancer,” the book states.

Dona Cadman, who is now running for the Conservatives in the Vancouver-area riding of Surrey North, was not in the office at the time. But she says her husband was furious when he returned to their apartment. “Chuck was really insulted,” she said in a telephone interview with The Globe yesterday. “He was quite mad about it, thinking they could bribe him with that.”

Mr. Cadman died less than two months after the vote.

Ms. Cadman, who has read and approved the manuscript for the book, said she has “no idea” where the money for the life insurance was supposed to come from. “They had the form there. Chuck just had to sign.”

This is extremely serious business and won't be going away anytime soon, as much as the Conservatives would like it to and as much as they believe that simply shouting it down in the house of commons will make it disappear.

Stephane Dion announced today that the Liberals have "sent a letter to the police [RCMP]" to launch a proper investigation. NDP MP Pat Martin has asked for an ethics committee inquiry.

I'll bet the Conservatives are now wishing they'd managed to force a new election a few months ago considering just how damaging this could end up being to their party. It's a no-win situation for them since, in order to refute these allegations, they'll have to keep insisting that Dona Cadman, one of their own, is a liar. Such accusations against the widow of a much-respected MP will not do them any favours. Add that to the fact that Harper seems to think his dismissal of the allegations were enough to bury this story and you have a situation where he has set himself up to appear ethically-challenged (again). This is yet another example of abuse of power by this Conservative government.

Stock up on popcorn. This one is going to be nasty.

Related:

Steve at Far and Wide asks a good question: Why Do The Conservatives Allow Liars To Run For Office?
 

Canadian Embassy Officials Contradict Each Other on Obama/NAFTA Story

As I wrote here last nite, CTV news reported that an Obama staffer contacted Michael Wilson, the US ambassador to Canada, to reassure him about Obama's NAFTA "campaign rhetoric".

Now we have two conflicting accounts of what happened from two different embassy officials.

Via Politico:

Canadians deny Obama call

A spokesman for the Canadian Embassy to the United States, Tristan Landry, flatly denied the CTV report that a senior Obama aide had told the Canadian ambassador not to take seriously Obama's denunciations of Nafta.

"None of the presidential campaigns have called either the Ambassador or any of the officials here to raise Nafta," Landry said.

He said there had been no conversations at all on the subject.

"We didn't make any calls, they didn't call us," Landry said.

"There is no story as far as we’re concerned," he said.

That's a much stronger denial that the one issued by the Obama campaign:

Late Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign said the staff member's warning to Wilson sounded implausible, but did not deny that contact had been made.

And via TPM:

"No, none," Norton told me when I asked him if Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., had spoken to any Obama advisers recently. He added: "Neither before the Ohio debate nor since has any presidential campaign called Ambassador Wilson about NAFTA."

Norton did allow, however, that the embassy on the staff level had discussed multiple issues, including NAFTA, with the Obama and Hillary campaigns at various times, and had urged them to look at NAFTA in a positive light.

"We've impressed upon them the fact that NAFTA has been good for all three countries," Norton said. "They have made it clear that NAFTA is an issue of contention in the [U.S.], and that inevitably there would be discussion and debate surrounding NAFTA."

"They've heard us out on the issue of NAFTA and expressed understanding for our position. But the candidates and their campaigns have been very careful to refrain from making specific commitments," Norton continued, reiterating that no such conversation like the one described in the Canadian TV report ever happened.

So, who's telling the truth here? Tristan Landry? Ray Norton? CTV News? The Obama campaign? Without further information, (there is nothing about this story on Obama's official website), the only way to know is to see exactly what happens if Obama becomes the president.

Related:

Taylor Marsh reports that she has contacted CTV and they are sticking to their story.

"The facts of our story are accurate." - Greg McIsaac, Communications Manager, News Information and Current Affairs, CTV

Update, March 5, 2008:

I see from my referrals that I'm getting a lot of visitors to this post which was featured on Reuters' site. I've posted the latest news about this issue here. This story has developed on many fronts since I wrote this post so I'd urge those who are interested in keeping up to read my latest posts as I put them up. Thanks. And thanks for visiting. Feel free to leave a comment or two.
-catnip
 

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NAFTA: What the Obama Campaign Secretly Told Canada's Government

CTV News reveals that an Obama staffer was secretly in touch with Canada's ambassador to the US with a heads up about Obama's public stance on the NAFTA agreement, stating it was just "campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value".

Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.

What Obama's staffer told Wilson flies in the face of what Obama said during Tuesday nite's Democratic debate in Ohio, where NAFTA fallout has seriously affected the economy.

During Tuesday nite's Democratic debate, Barack Obama said this about NAFTA:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you did in 2004 talk to farmers and suggest that NAFTA had been helpful. The Associated Press today ran a story about NAFTA, saying that you have been consistently ambivalent towards the issue. Simple question: Will you, as president, say to Canada and Mexico, "This has not worked for us; we are out"?

SEN. OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate, in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced. And that is not what has been happening so far.

That statement prompted Canada-wide concern with the trade minister even warning that our energy deals with the US might be on the table as a result.

The reaction from the Obama campaign that someone on its staff had been in touch with Ambassador Wilson?

Via CTV - a non-denial denial:

Late Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign said the staff member's warning to Wilson sounded implausible, but did not deny that contact had been made.

The Clinton campaign was also accused of contacting Wilson to reassure him. That charge that has been staunchly denied by going further than the Obama campaign did and granting the Canadian government "immunity" to release any information it might have of any actual contact from its staff that may have been made.

So, the obvious question is whether Obama's opposition to NAFTA is genuine or is it just a ploy to get votes from people who oppose it?

Stay tuned.

Update:

See my update here.
 

Quotes du Jour: Flaherty v Dion on the Budget

Yes, that's right. Today you get 2 quotes for the price of one because they're both incredibly boneheaded on the same subject: Budget 2008.

First up, Mr Stingy:

“Sir John A. Macdonald used to say ‘look a little ahead my friends.' And if we look a little bit ahead, we see how morally deficient it is for us to live high on the hog now and pass our debt on to the next generation,” Mr. Flaherty told a breakfast audience in Toronto.

I suppose you might to have to go back to Sir John A's time to find a period when Conservatives weren't spending like drunken sailors while the Liberals had to bail them out and sober them up later.

And then there's Stephane:

'We'll find a way to not defeat the government'

I've misplaced my Dion to catnip translator but what immediately comes to mind is "I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!!!"

And we all know how that turned out.
 

Failing Afghanistan's Children

While Peter MacKay and Bev Oda are busy telling happy war stories in committee today, what they will predictably leave out are real indicators of the failed efforts over the past 6 years in Afghanistan.

As IRIN notes, the focus on military expenditures is basically handing poor, young Afghan men and children to the Taliban:

"In our district many young guys join Taliban ranks for pocket money, a mobile phone or other financial incentives," said Safiullah, a resident of Sangeen District in Helmand.

They don't want much, yet they are being deprived by the mishandling of foreign aid and so-called development funds. And they are willing to risk their very lives to get what they need.

High levels of rural poverty or unemployment are probably helping to drive young people like Malik to join the Taliban.

Due to insecurity in the southern provinces there are no available unemployment figures. However, a report by Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission on the social and economic rights of Afghans estimated that in some parts of the country the unemployment rate was as high as 60 percent.

Another reason why there are so many rural poor is the fact that agriculture, which employs over 60 percent of the estimated 26.6 population, has received only US$300-400 million of the over US$15 billion of international development aid given to Afghanistan since 2002, Oxfam International reported in January.

But, whenever US and Canadian government officials comment about Afghanistan's agricultural problems, their focus is on the issue of opium production, which has skyrocketed. The solution, they claim, is to eradicate the crops and offer legal substitutes to farmers in bed with the warlords and the Taliban. However, when such a minimal amount of foreign aid money is actually directed to such efforts, the farmers are cut off at the knees. They have no choice if they want to survive and feed their families.

US spending in Afghanistan amounts to approximately $65,000 per minute. In Iraq, that number is $250,000. Military spending in both countries far exceeds the amounts required to reach the stated goals of creating and sustaining anything nearing a civil society, while corrupt government institutions and officials also stand in the way of progress for the average Afghan.

So what are the children to do? Especially when they're also victims of domestic abuse who are expected to help out in any way they can - including contributing to the family's income? Obviously, joining the insurgency looks attractive as a quick way to accomplish that responsibility, especially considering that only "32 per cent of boys complete primary school while only 13 per cent of girls do so". (The next time you hear government officials boast about the fact that 6 million children are now attending school, remember those percentages).

And, as far as Canada's so-called contributions are concerned, the Senlis Council was highly critical of CIDA in 2007.

The failure to demonstrably address the extreme poverty, widespread hunger and appalling child and maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan — let alone boost economic development — is decreasing local Afghan support for Canada’s mission and increasing support for the insurgency."

Norine MacDonald, of the Senlis Council, said the problem is a structural issue because the money the agency does have is not ending up on the ground.

"When you're on the ground in Kandahar, it's sad to say, despite good intentions, CIDA's efforts are non-existent," MacDonald said.

"We are confronted every day by people without food, without water, without shelter, without medical aid. So our efforts are so minimal as to be non-existent."

Tuesday's Conservative government budget boasted that aid to Afghanistan would be increased by $100 million but, when you read the fine print, the majority of that money will go towards "security initiatives, such as training police, [and the] army". As Brian Hutchinson wrote in the National Post this week, you'd be hard-pressed to find any CIDA officials on the ground in places like Kandahar. Bev Oda, the minister now responsible for CIDA has come under attack recently by Senator Colin Kenny, who claimed that CIDA had no idea where its' aid money was ending up. CIDA officials countered that they have a solid trail, but note this reality:

"Last year, Canada spent $179 million in aid in Afghanistan, one-third of which flows through multilateral partners like the United Nations and World Food Program, with the remaining two-thirds given to the Afghan government.

The corrupt Afghanistan government:

Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, says the greatest threat to success in Afghanistan is not the resurgence of the Taliban but "the potential irretrievable loss of legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan."
[...]
President Hamid Karzai has admitted there is a problem.

"All politicians in this system have acquired everything – money, lots of money. God knows it is beyond the limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen," Mr. Karzai said in November.

As noted in that article, and according to Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board, Afghanistan's government rates as one the most corrupt in the world. Obviously, CIDA's defence that it knows where its' aid money is actually going is specious at best, and blatantly dishonest on its face. So, while Conservatives like MacKay and Oda are once again busy trying to sell this war, going after the hearts and minds of the Canadian people by insisting that they only have the best interests of the Afghan people in mind, the facts state otherwise. And the idea that the Liberal party would support an extension of this failed, misguided and completely mismanaged mission only adds further insult to far too many injuries.

The Afghanistan people need help, but the current NATO-structured mission plan has failed. Just ask the Afghan children who would sacrifice their fate for "pocket money" from the Taliban.
 

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mr Stingy's Budget

"Stingy". That's the word being used by the Globe & Mail.

"Modest" and "one mile wide and one inch deep". That was Stephane Dion's assessment. Apparently, long and shallow doesn't bother Dion one bit since he's said the Liberals will support it. The NDP and the BQ will oppose it, as expected.

So, how do we explain that the Conservatives seem to have been itching for an election the last few months, making confidence motions left and right, yet have proposed a budget without a poison pill - as the pundits call the one divisive issue that might push the Liberals to oppose it? (The National Post's Don Martin described the budget as a "sleeping pill" and "an uninspiring cure for insomnia" instead.)

Perhaps the Conservatives have realized, finally, that their poll numbers have barely moved in the 2 years they've been in power and that, despite the fact that the Liberals are not well-poised to challenge them, they'd only likely end up in a minority government situation again. That certainly isn't what they want. What changed? After all, with so many scandals currently plaguing the Conservatives, you'd think they would have played this differently just to avoid that accountability bogeyman that has reared its ugly head. And yet, they demurred - even compromised - by throwing in some Liberal-friendly spending. This, after having updated their first Afghanistan motion to include demands made by the Liberals as well.

Is Harper finally learning how a minority government works? Or is he just playing it safe enough so he doesn't cause any ripples that might lessen the party's popularity? He definitely tried hard to reel in Ontario voters with the new money allotted to the auto sector - a province he knows he needs to gain more support in if he wants majority power. But that focus is not enough, according to manufacturing sector analysts.

As for the rest of the country, there was absolutely nothing for anyone to get excited about in this budget and future economic projections are even more sobering.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what other tricks the Conservatives have up their sleeve if they really don't want to stay in power as a minority until the next legislatively mandated election in 2009. In the meantime, one thing we can count on is that they'll continue to behave badly - disrupting parliament as often as possible - while they plan whatever strategy is being cooked up in the back rooms in Ottawa.

Related:

You can find the budget here.
 

Mulroney Refuses to Testify Again

Okay, first of all, Brian Mulroney has a website? Who knew?

Here's what's posted there tonite:

Guy Pratte today wrote to the House of Commons Ethics Committee Clerk declining Paul Szabo’s request for Mr. Mulroney to appear on Thursday, February 28, 2008.

A detailed response will be sent to Mr. Szabo on Wednesday, February 27, 2008.

Mr. Pratte and Robin Sears will be available for media inquires on Thursday, February 28, 2008 at the National Press Theatre, 10am EST.

Hmmm...I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that neither Allan MacEachen nor Elmer MacKay backed up Mulroney's lies.
 

Conservatives Behaving Badly: The Afghanistan Debate

From Monday's Hansard, our so-called "honourable" minister of Veterans Affairs:


Hon. Greg Thompson:

Missing in action, Mr. Speaker, hiding under the furniture. The member from Sackville is always on his hind legs in here ranting about what he would do, I guess, but his record speaks for itself. Those members have done absolutely nothing. For them to suggest that we are doing nothing is just fundamentally wrong, because we were asking for their support on the floor of the House of Commons in a minority Parliament. We were asking for their support to make this happen and they denied us that support. They voted against our veterans.

An hon. member: They scurried out.

Hon. Greg Thompson:

They did scurry out, Mr. Speaker, and they will continue to do that because they do not believe in the mission, they do not support our veterans, and they do not support our men and women in uniform. That is the sorry state of the NDP: all talk and no action. I guess that is why they are the fourth party in the House of Commons. I just wonder where their support is.

It is no secret that in military circles the leader of the NDP--and I have a base in my riding as members well know, Camp Gagetown, and I have met many of the military types across the country--is referred to as “Taliban Jack”. That tells it all. The NDP does not support our men and women in uniform and they know it. The NDP record is deplorable. Those members should be ashamed of themselves.

[...]


Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this evening, despite my mild laryngitis, to debate the motion that is now before us.

I am pleased to follow my colleague who very ably represents Ottawa Centre. I am also pleased to say he has succeeded me as the foreign affairs critic for the New Democratic Party and doing an excellent job.

When I entered the chamber this evening, I was listening attentively and respectfully to the Minister of Veterans Affairs who was commenting, and I thought quite appropriately, that we all share a duty.

Those of us in this House who are privileged to serve the people of our communities, and Canadians generally, have an obligation to honour our military men and women, both in times of peace and in times of war. I was nodding in assent and was actually going to compliment him on being inclusive in representing all of us in those comments.

Then he turned and engaged in the most viscous, most vile, and most virulent attack on the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore who is not here in the House in any way, shape, or form to defend himself and who, I have to say, has probably done more for veterans and for the military in my 10 years in Ottawa than any other member in this chamber.

Let Canadians be the judge, but I thought it was unfortunate and ironic. For a few brief moments the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I thought, was going to rise to the occasion, however, he actually descended into the depths and conducted a viscous attack on a man who has championed the veterans independence program and the widows that have been left behind. He has championed the children who are not getting the kind of treatment needed to deal with their wounds resulting from the death or injury of absent family members and returned family members.

He is also the man who has championed the victims of agent orange. I could go on and on, but I think we will just let those Canadians who know better come to their own conclusions based on the evidence and not based on this astounding rant that we just heard and is now on the public record.

I listened earlier this afternoon when the Minister of Veterans Affairs actually made some very sweeping statements that were dead wrong and utterly disrespectful. How those members elevate the debate, how they act to contribute to a respectful debate, I do not know, but I have to say he hit a raw never. He made a sweeping reference that New Democrats do not care about our troops. They never cared about the military. I do not know if he said never will, but I am sure that was in his mind too.

more...

At that point, Peter MacKay joined in and piled on the accusations against the NDP.

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I am always puzzled when that member and members of the NDP cloak some of their questions and comments in this rhetoric of casting aspersions on everyone else in the House but then somehow draping this sanctimonious cloak over themselves to say that anybody else who makes a comment that might be the least bit offensive or rubs somebody the wrong way is terrible but they can do the same thing and not have that standard apply to them.

What I find even more troubling and contradictory is the suggestion that peace is just going to arrive, that it is just going to fall out of the air somehow in Afghanistan, that development will expand, that we will be able to build more schools and roads and that more programs will simply appear without any security. That is where there is such an absolute disconnect, bordering on disillusionment, when we hear this coming from the NDP.

As for her umbrage taken at the comments made by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, she should check the record. The truth hurts. When we check the record and see the actual voting pattern over the last 10 years by that member and other members of the NDP when it comes to support for the military and veterans, the record speaks for itself.

Yes, it does speak for itself, MacKay. The NDP has no interest in engaging in endless wars just to prop up the military-industrial complex - disguised and sold as humanitarian intervention. It also has no interest in seeing more Canadians killed in the name of Bush's war on terror. The truth hurts, doesn't it Mr MacKay?

This "debate", with Conservatives flinging out whatever charges they think might stick, is absolutely insulting to Canadians. This is about life and death, but the Conservatives are treating it like a schoolyard fight and the fact that the Liberals are propping them up and cheering them on is disgusting. The Liberals - who still claim to have so many questions about the compromise motion offered by the Conservatives - yet who refuse to suggest any amendments. You would think that the one thing they would know by now is that when you support the Conservatives, you end up getting stabbed in the back. And, worse, our soldiers will be paying the actual, physical and psychological price for their willingness to trust such a vile bunch of warmongers who have repeatedly failed to tell Canadians the truth about what's happening in Afghanistan. It's an endless cycle of death and destruction, thanks to the incompetence of the Bush administration, and no motion in our parliament can fix that, no matter how its spun.

Bring our troops home now.
 

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quote du Jour: Flaherty as Jesus

Via The Star:

The finance department estimates that once this year’s bounty is spent, the treasury will be all but bare for the next two years with tiny surpluses of $1.4 billion and $1.3 billion, not counting the annual $3 billion set-aside for debt repayment.

Flaherty’s challenge is to the make meagre offering of loaves and fishes he has on hand appear like a banquet so that if the government falls, he can not only paint the opposition as irresponsible spenders but his budget as an investment in future good times.

And it seems he's already performed one miracle:

OTTAWA–The Conservative government will disclose tomorrow, when it tables its budget, that it has on hand at least $1 billion more in spending money than it had anticipated, sources have told The Canadian Press.

Well, there is a slight resemblance...




 

What are we doing in Afghanistan?

If you've had the chance to listen to various Conservatives on the floor on Monday speaking to their government's motion to extend the mission until 2011, you would assume that Canada wields a tremendous amount of power over the future of that country and that, as the Veterans Affair minister, Greg Thompson, stated (vilely) that those who oppose the extension are friends of the Taliban and enemies of our Canadian troops. Yes, he even repeated the smear (in the guise of hearing it from soldiers who live in his riding) that the NDP leader, Jack Layton, has been nicknamed "Taliban Jack". Speaking not long after that, Peter MacKay backed up Thompson's insults, feigning outrage to the point where he almost needed a fainting couch and a cold compress for his forehead. MacKay continued to hurl his insults at Alexa McDonough as she had the floor to the extent that she had to ask the chair to call for order.

This, from a government that vowed to restore dignity to the house.

But that's not my main point.

Last week, the British government admitted its part in torture flights at the behest of the US government. Today, a former member of the SAS revealed that:

Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture...
[...]
Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.

As we know, the US SecDef Robert Gates has been on a tour to guilt EU countries into sending more combat troops to Afghanistan. His repeated insults haven't worked. Nor should they.

The Bush administration and the Pentagon have undermined the Afghanistan mission for years by not providing enough troops, through the use of useless contractors like DynCorp who failed to train Afghanistan's police, by its unbalanced focus on military rather than reconstruction spending and by continuing to fund Musharraf to the tune of $10 billion while he has done nothing to stop the flow of fighters from Waziristan - not to mention the horrendous human rights abuses it continues to foist on the Afghan people, as noted above. Our Veterans Affairs minister stated very clearly on the floor today that Canada "will continue to support Pakistan" unconditionally despite concerns about its massive failures. And, as this government's record shows, it prefers to cover up allegations of torture and corruption rather than dealing with it head on.

So, as much as some Canadians might want to think that our troops can actually make a difference in Afghanistan, the larger picture shows that we are being hoodwinked, indeed sabotaged, every step of the way by the US government which only recently has taken a renewed interest in this forgotten war by resorting to the tactics it knows best: bullying and intimidation. Sound familiar?

The Conservatives, however, will have none of that talk. They prefer to push the idea that we are there in a peacekeeping role; that we have to stay there or else the scary terrorists will attack us here even though the longer we're there the more we place our country at risk. They proclaim from their moral pulpit that we owe it to the Afghan people to stay there until they are safe (which, apparently, will automagically happen in 2011 according to their motion). They certainly refuse to talk about their military spending increases because that's supposed to be seen as being patriotic. They rehash numbers about how things are going in Afghanistan that are the same ones they've been using since they first came into power. They believe that only foreign intervention can save the Afghan people while they spend massive amounts of money on military hardware. How insulting. They insist that Canada is such a great country that it can make all the difference there. What they fail to explain is how that's possible when our allies are detaining, torturing and killing innocent people.

That's the question that needs to be asked in all of this. The rest is just moot, empty rhetoric.

Related:

Since the Conservatives like to talk about how far Afghan women have supposedly come, I thought I'd provide this link to The Plight of the Afghan Woman for a realistic look at what they still face despite the fact that foreign forces have been in Afghanistan to "help" them for more than 6 years now.
 

The Afghanistan War Debate is On

Today in parliament, the debate is on over the Conservatives' motion to extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan until 2011. Since the Liberals are already on board, there won't be any surprises once it comes to the vote. Dion has said he'll whip it. At least the NDP and BQ are set to vote against the continuation of this madness.

You can watch the debate online here or here. (There will be a break for question period).

Peter MacKay finished off his fearmongering remarks today with a plea to think about the children!!. As if on cue, CBC Newsworld showed pictures of them. Quite bizarre.

"How will history judge us if Canada walked away from Afghanistan?", MacKay asked, speaking to his party's motion that actually sets an end date to walk away in 2011. So, just how will history judge you, Mr MacKay? (Conservatives - they just can't see the forest for the trees.)

Alas, it's not like you can expect reasoned debate from a party that's so mired in its own talking points (the same ones it's been using the past 2 years without change).

Anyway, grab your popcorn and watch as the Liberals try to show that they're kind of, sort of against the motion too (without proposing any actual amendments) while the Cons get all defensive and throw bully tantrums.

Related:

Flashback: NATO Saved the Lives of 40,000 Afghan Children?

My update on Monday's debate.
 

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Straight Talk on Afghanistan

Tired of the endless talking points? Want to hear from someone who actually lives in Afghanistan about what life is really like there?

Watch Bill Moyers' interview with Sarah Chayes.

Anyone who's read this blog won't find her perspective on what's happening there as being earth-shatteringly new, but Ms Chayes puts it all together very succinctly.

If Canadians are going to have an honest debate about what's going on in Afghanistan, we need to face the facts and stop buying into the west's political rhetoric about what's possible in Afghanistan according to how we want to shape it. This western imposition of "freedom" and "democracy" through military means is unworkable.
 

Friday, February 22, 2008

Quote du Jour: Hiller's Emotional Blackmail

Via the G&M:

"I'm not going to stand here and tell you that the suicide bombings of this past week have been related to the debate back here in Canada. But I also cannot stand here and say that they are not.

"And, certainly, there is a perception out there that the Taliban will try to take advantage of the debate back here and try to prevent a cohesive mission and will indeed attempt to attack our Canadian Forces in Kandahar."

Hillier, once again sticking his nose in the politics - where it doesn't belong - while he also gets things ass backwards.

Let's look at his logic: the Taliban are increasing their attacks because Canada's government is talking about pulling out in 2011 while it's also asking for more NATO troops and equipment. Now, if I were a member of the Taliban, I'd be thinking "hmmm...if we increase our attacks, that will actually justify more NATO troops being sent here right now...not good for me." But Hillier seems to think that the Taliban are attacking because Canada's looking shaky in its commitment.

Look General Hillier, no matter what happens, it's obvious that Canadian troops will be in Kandahar until at least the end of our current commitment in February, 2009 and if the Taliban increases its attacks, that's one huge argument for extending the mission beyond that. So wtf are you talking about?

Stop treating our troops like pawns in your political game. If you had any respect for them, you wouldn't accuse them of not having a "cohesive mission". And beyond that, if you were truly concerned about their welfare, you'd insist that they be brought home because this war is a no-win situation no matter how you slice it.

Big sale at the Clue Store™ this week - stock up, Hillier. While you're at it, pick up the book, "How Not to be a Conservative Government Mouthpiece". You might learn something.

Update:

Great minds think alike. I see pogge used the term "emotional blackmail" as well.

Dave has more.
 

Only 332 days left of this...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Harper Offers Revised Afghanistan Mission Motion

Keeping Canadian troops in Afghanistan until 2011 is pretty much a done deal now that Harper has revised the government's previous motion to compromise with the Liberals' position.

Here's where things stand now:

- the newly proposed end date for Canada's mission is July, 2011. The Conservative motion had originally stated the mission would conclude at the end of 2011 while the Liberals had suggested February, 2011 (with troops withdrawn by July, 2011). Technically, in terms of the completion of troop withdrawals from Kandahar, that is now projected to be completed by December, 2011.

- "It also says the mission will focus on training and reconstruction, as the Liberals have demanded." However, avoiding combat in a place like Kandahar seems virtually impossible. During Harper's press conference, he redefined peacekeeping as "imposing peace" (by force).

- Harper announced a proposed annual increase in the defence budget and said that Canada's government will now purchase or lease the military equipment (drones and helicopters) it had originally requested from other NATO countries in order to continue the mission.

- on the issue of the detainees, via the Globe & Mail:

The motion does not adopt the Liberal language on detainees, which would require continued suspension of transfers. Instead it commits to "meeting the highest NATO and international standards."

That's not good enough but I'm sure the Liberals will sacrifice their principles to support this motion anyway.

Harper made his announcement at the Conference of Defence Associations on Thursday. And, as the CBC noted, "a prime minister hasn't appeared before them since the 1970s." So why the sudden change? As Amir Attaran revealed in Thursday's G&M:

he Department of National Defence is intruding on academic financing, spending millions of dollars sponsoring think tanks and scholars to offer up agreeable commentary. When these intellectuals comment, they are not always quick to disclose that the military funds them.

Take the Conference of Defence Associations, a think tank that got $500,000 from DND last year. That money comes not with strings, but with an entire leash. A current DND policy reads that to receive money, CDA must "support activities that give evidence of contributing to Canada's national policies." Apparently, if CDA's activities were neutral and unbiased, or even-handedly supported and questioned government policy, DND would refuse to pay!

Attendees at CDA's annual conference, which begins today, will hear speeches by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and MP Laurie Hawn, a retired lieutenant-colonel. Curiously for an organization that calls itself "non-partisan," no opposition politicians will speak. The agenda includes a session titled "Contemporary Security Concerns" -- a discussion on Russia and Iran.

Now consider: If the Prime Minister staged a government event and declared Russia and Iran "contemporary security concerns," some Canadians would be made uneasy by the signal that sends. But if the government finances CDA, which stages an "independent" event where the Prime Minister rubs shoulders with military officers, weapons company executives and intellectuals addressing those same security concerns, it might just pass without Canadians noticing. CDA gets away with shilling because it is so discreet. Nowhere on its website does CDA disclose its half-million dollars of DND sponsorship.

So, while Harper pretends that he's getting more honest with Canadians about the Afghanistan mission - as he was urged to by the Manley report conclusions - he's busy hobnobbing with the titans of the defence industry to assure them that big bucks will still be flowing their way until 2011 - while paying their association at the same time for pumping out proposals to defend him in the form of "op-eds to the press". Nice work if you can get it.

But it doesn't end there, as Attaran points out. Several universities are also receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to express favourable opinions on DND operations. These types of tactics are straight out of the Pentagon's psyops playbook and ought to be a cause for major concern to Canadians.

So, what will happen now that the Liberals have received this compromise motion? I have no doubt they will pass it through parliament with only the necessary grumblings while the rest of us will be fed happy shiny stories from the war front for the next 3 years so we can sleep at nite with assuaged consciences knowing that we are spreading freedom and democracy (pay no attention to all of those civilians NATO is killing over there). Meanwhile, the US powers that be won't threaten us with economic extinction if we don't play along, Canada will have saved NATO, and those defence contractors and opinion-shapers whose pockets are being filled with bucket loads of taxpayer money will be laughing all the way to the bank. But fear not, this is all about the troops and the Afghanistan people, right?

Wrong.

Related:

According to the latest Strategic Counsel poll, the Conservatives now have the support of 39% of Canadians while Liberal support has dropped to 27%, so there's no way the Liberals (unless they're completely foolish) would risk trying to bring down the government now over the Afghanistan mission or the budget. After health care, the Afghanistan mission is currently the second priority of Canadians. When it comes to who Canadians think is "best able to manage the war", Conservatives sit at 36% and the Liberals are at 21%.

The Harris-Decima numbers are not quite as devastating for the Liberals:

A Harris-Decima poll released to the Canadian Press late on Wednesday put the Conservatives at 35 percent, six points higher than a survey done by the same firm at the end of January. The Liberals were up one point to 33 percent.

Federal Liberals are backing the wrong horse

Canadian TV Network Seeks Release of Afghan

Afghan farmers earn about $1 bln from opium- IMF
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Video: Awk-ward! Tx Senator Can't Name One Obama Accomplishment


A Texas-sized faux pas - state senator Kirk Watson: all hat, no cattle.
 

Breaking: Fidel Castro Resigns

I was sure he'd stick it out until his death. Not so.

Via the BBC, Fidel Castro announces retirement

Cuba's ailing leader, Fidel Castro has announced he will not return to the presidency in a letter published by official Communist Party paper, Granma.

"I neither will aspire to nor will I accept, the position of president of the Council of state and commander in chief," he wrote in the letter.

Mr Castro handed over power temporarily to his brother, Raul, in July 2006 when he underwent intestinal surgery.

CNN is reporting that this retirement will come into effect on Sunday.

h/t to Marisacat at Opera Glasses & Popcorn

Related:

Profile: Raul Castro

Text of Castro's announcement
 

Monday, February 18, 2008

NATO Commander Contradicts Peter MacKay


As I noted in an earlier post on Monday, Peter MacKay had this to say following the two most recent suicide bombings:

...Peter MacKay said he he would not describe the latest violence in Afghanistan as an escalation.

However, NATO commander Craddock has a different view of the situation:

BRUSSELS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Guerrilla attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan will rise this year as insurgents resort to such tactics in the face of a growing NATO presence, the alliance's top operations commander said on Monday.

Why would MacKay say otherwise?

a) to lull Canadians into a false sense of security while the Harper gov't plans to extend the combat mission.

b) because MacKay doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

c) because MacKay doesn't talk to the NATO commander.

d) because the Conservatives are completely inept.

e) because that's what Stephen Harper told him to say.

f) all of the above.
 

AFRICOM: African Military HQ Plans Dropped

Important news, as the BBC reports:

The US military has decided to keep the headquarters of its new Africa Command in Germany, after only one African nation, Liberia, offered to host it.

While Gen William 'Kip' Ward had tried to calm African leaders' fears by insisting that AFRICOM was just created to help Africa with "security" and "peacekeeping", well-founded concerns about a hidden agenda were expressed by African leaders:

There has been concern that Africom is really an attempt to protect US oil and mineral interests in Africa, amid growing competition for resources from Asian economies, says the BBC's Alex Last in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

Then there are fears about the continent being drawn into the US war on terror, our correspondent ads.

Now, in case you're of the opinion that this was just a Bush administration ploy to exercise American imperialist dominance on the continent, read the words of Barack Obama who, along with the other major Democratic presidential candidates, pledged support for AFRICOM. And you'll see that those "fears about the continent being drawn into the US war on terror" are grounded in reality as well:

AFRICOM, the new unified command, should serve to coordinate and synchronize our military activities with our other strategic objectives in Africa. Working under the foreign policy leadership of the State Department, this command should help to integrate military (especially non-lethal capabilities) with all the other elements of US power and diplomacy. AFRICOM should promote a more united and coordinated engagement plan for Africa.

Security cooperation at the AU and national level is extremely important, and the US military has made great strides in this area. This effort must be matched by a similar interagency commitment to enhance and fund a more robust “stability cooperation” program. Increased security depends on better governance and plans for long-term stability that foster a believable hope among Africans that tomorrow will be better. This means cleaner water, adequate food, better schools, available and affordable healthcare, improved infrastructure and communications, more employment opportunities, human rights, and total gender equality.

There will be situations that require the United States to work with its partners in Africa to fight terrorism with lethal force. Having a unified command operating in Africa will facilitate this action. That means AFRICOM must forge genuine military partnerships that are predicated on mutual respect and responsibility. There must be joint training exercises to ensure interoperability in operations and logistics. The effort against terrorists operating in Africa will require a joint and combined effort with African countries to achieve lasting mutual progress—that is one of AFRICOM’s missions.

An Obama Administration, therefore, will pursue an Africa policy that seeks to work with its partners in Africa to realize the goals of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. These include the eradication of poverty, putting Africa on a sustainable path of growth and development and reversing the marginalization of the continent in the global economy. An Obama Administration will work to help ensure that Africa is seen as a desirable destination for American trade and investment and that the continent is a priority for the United States. It will also work to ensure that transparency, accountability, and rule of law are widely upheld. An Obama Administration will pursue effective partnerships to combat terrorism while making the continent a safer and healthier place to live.

Contrast what Obama said about the US military plans for AFRICOM and what General Ward has said publically: "Gen Ward said Africom was not about militarisation..." That obviously is not what Obama has in mind with his statement about "interoperability".

The fact that Liberia's was the only government willing to host the AFRICOM base on the continent and that others have refused is a huge slap in the face to the US government. It's a rejection based on preserving African interests. Meanwhile, the Americans will continue to attempt to run their AFRICOM operations from Germany. The age of colonialism in one form or another lives on.

As a recent column NYT discussing a president's power to influence the economy concluded:

And if you’re still worrying about how to vote, I have two pieces of advice. First, spend your time studying foreign policy, where the president has more direct power, and the choice of a candidate makes a much bigger difference.

In this election, however, all of the candidates are reading from the same playbook when it comes to Africa's fate, so there is no choice. Perhaps they should heed the words of Uzodinma Iweala: Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa.

Related:

The controversy over Africom
 

Kandahar's Governor Blasts the Canadian Military After Suicide Bombing

On the heels of the second suicide bombing in Afghanistan in two days, the death tolls from both attacks currently standing at 136, the notorious governor of Kandahar accused the Canadian military of ignoring 6 warnings that such an attack might happen in the area, concluding it had put Afghan civilians in danger.

The military's response was this:

...a military spokesman said the Canadian Forces make the decisions on where its soldiers will patrol.

"We regularly receive threat warnings and obviously we go where we want to, when we want to in our area of operation," said Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky.

"We obviously take notice of these warnings but our aim is to operate freely within our area of operation despite those."

Shorter Babinsky: you're not the boss of me.

Fine. But at what cost?

NATO troops have repeatedly been slammed by Karzai over civilian deaths and in a country where our soldiers are supposed to be winning hearts and minds as part of the counter-insurgency tactics, that arrogant statement by Babinsky certainly won't help the mission. There's a difference between being in charge of military maneuvers and writing off Afghan intel efforts that another suicide bombing is being planned. 4 of our soldiers were also wounded as a result. Was it absolutely necessary that Canadian troops be in Spin Boldak on Monday to the point where the commanders decided to move through despite the warnings?

Meanwhile, our utterly clueless defence minister, Peter MacKay, said these bombings don't signal an "escalation" in violence. Well, when 136 people are killed in 2 days, I certainly don't know what else you can call it. Just how many more people have to die in record numbers before MacKay acknowledges reality?

Update: The death toll from today's bombing has reached 38, with 30 Afghans critically wounded.
 

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Video: Olbermann to Bush, 'You're a fascist'

Watch it:



Read the transcript.

In part:

As recently ago as 2006, we spoke words like these with trepidation.

The idea that even the most cynical and untrustworthy of politicians in our history, George W. Bush, would use the literal form of terrorism against his own people was dangerous territory. It seemed to tempt fate, to heighten fear.

We will not fear any longer. We will not fear the international terrorists, and we will thwart them. We will not fear the recognition of the manipulation of our yearning for safety, and we will call it what it is: terrorism. We will not fear identifying the vulgar hypocrites in our government, and we will name them. And we will not fear George W. Bush. Nor will we fear because George W. Bush wants us to fear.

Video: The Republicans Channel the Liberal Party

And stage a walk out:



The difference between the two stunts though is that the Liberal party left the building over Harper's attempt to bully the senate over the crime bill.

The Republicans refused to deal with two of their own being slapped with contempt charges:

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to cite Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, a former White House counsel, for contempt for refusing to testify about their participation in the firing of federal prosecutors.

The measure calls for House officials to seek enforcement of the contempt citation by the courts if, as expected, the Justice Department declines to act on the resolution.

The vote was a lopsided 223 to 32 in favor of the contempt citation, after most Republican members walked out to protest what their leaders called a political move.

Call the whambulance.
 

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Afghanistan: The Conservative Position is as Clear as Mud

Ever since the Harper government released its proposed motion of the fate of Canada's role in Afghanistan, the Liberals have repeatedly asked the government whether the mission will really end in 2011 - a deadline the Liberals support. Harper's answers have been anything but clear, of course, since that's not what their motion says.

whereas the results of progress in Afghanistan, including Canada's military deployment, will be reviewed in 2011 (by which time the Afghanistan Compact will have concluded) and, in advance, the government will provide to the House an assessment and evaluation of progress, drawing on and consistent with the Panel's recommendations regarding performance standards, results, benchmarks and timelines;


Today, during question period, Harper said he expects the mission to end "around" 2011. That drew some loud guffaws.

Note the following passage in the Cons' motion as well:

therefore, the House supports the continuation of Canada's current responsibility for security in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to the end of 2011, in a manner fully consistent with the UN mandate on Afghanistan,

Actually, the most current expression of the UN Mandate on Afghanistan makes no mention of that 2011 date. In fact, it says this:

The resolution says the Security Council agreed to, "extend the authorization of the International Security Assistance Force, as defined in resolutions 1386 (2001) and 1510 (2003), for a period of 12 months beyond October 13, 2007."

So, where did the Conservatives get that 2011 date from?

The Liberals' motion notes:

this House takes note that in January 2006, the government participated in the London Conference on Afghanistan which resulted in the signing of the Afghanistan Compact which set out benchmarks and timelines until the end of 2010

According to the Afghanistan Compact, "end-2010" is indeed the date agreed upon.

Since the last house motion on Afghanistan committed Canada to the mission until February, 2011, the Liberals have offered this proposed timeline for withdrawal.

(c) the government of Canada immediately notify NATO that Canada will end its military presence in Kandahar as of February 1, 2011, by which point the time allotted to reach all of the benchmarks set out in the Afghanistan Compact will have expired, and as of that date, the redeployment of the Canadian Forces troops out of Kandahar will start as soon as possible, so that it will have been completed by July 1, 2011;

Compacts, mandates, UN resolutions - it would be helpful if these parties would at least agree on what these agreements actually say. That would be the place to start.

As the Manley report stated, the Conservative government has a major communication problem when it comes to informing the public and parliament about what's happening in Afghanistan. You would think that any motion it would attempt to present on the mission would start from a factual and crystal-clear basis.

I suppose that's too much to ask from this government - as has been proven time and time again.

As for the Liberals position, as The Star's columnist, Thomas Walkom, points out:

Nowhere in the new Liberal motion is there a specific call for an end to the combat mission. Dion says the Liberals want to end the fighting role, but their motion does not.

He's right.

So, while the Liberals and Conservatives perform their confrontational kabuki dances in parliament every day over who wants to do what when, the fact is that both parties are determined to commit Canada's soldiers to more fighting and dying past February, 2009 in a mission about which it was long ago concluded that, just as in Iraq, there can be no military solution.

I'm with the NDP and the BQ on this war: bring the troops home now. Enough is enough.

And, to the Conservative and Liberal leaders: stop the dancing and tell the truth.

Update:

According to the National Post:

A government source said Wednesday the government is "fairly certain" it will withdraw its motion and table a new one after reviewing the Liberal amendments over the next "few days."

That should be interesting.
 

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh, the irony! 'US Compares 9/11 Trials to Nuremberg'

Via the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration has instructed U.S. diplomats abroad to defend its decision to seek the death penalty for six Guantanamo Bay detainees accused in the Sept. 11 terror attacks by recalling the executions of Nazi war criminals after World War II.

A four-page cable sent to U.S. embassies and obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press says that execution as punishment for extreme violations of the laws of war is internationally accepted and points to the 1945-46 International Military Tribunals as an example. Twelve of Adolf Hitler's senior aides were sentenced to death at the trials in Nuremberg, Germany, although not all were executed in the end.

The unclassified cable was sent by the State Department to all U.S. diplomatic missions worldwide late on Monday.

In it, the department advises American diplomats to refer to Nuremberg if asked by foreign governments or media about the legality of capital punishment in the 9/11 cases.

"International Humanitarian Law contemplates the use of the death penalty for serious violations of the laws of war," says the cable, which was written by the office of the department's legal adviser, John Bellinger.

"The most serious war criminals sentenced at Nuremberg were executed for their actions," it said.

That, from war criminal Condi Rice's state department and following the admission by the CIA's Michael Hayden that the company has waterboarded prisoners of war - including Khalid Sheikh Mohammmed who is, of course, a defendant in these new & improved Nuremberg-style trials.

The Bush administration, as usual and in the style of 1984, has once again flipped the truth upside down. (War is peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength).

The only trial that would truly resemble Nuremberg would be one in which Bush and his torturing, war-mongering, lying criminals sat in the defendant's seats while the rest of the world rightly passed judgment on their absolutely horrendous actions and Benjamin Ferencz, a former chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials, agrees.

And, as UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour said recently following the US admissions about waterboarding:

Violators of the U.N. Convention against Torture should be prosecuted under the principle of 'universal jurisdiction' which allows countries to try accused war criminals from other nations, Arbour said.

"There are several precedents worldwide of states exercising their universal jurisdiction ... to enforce the torture convention and we can only hope that we will see more and more of these avenues of redress," Arbour said.

Although German courts refused to use that right to prosecute Donald Rumsfeld et al for war crimes, that case has since been filed in Spain while Sweden (2007) and Argentina (2005) also filed cases against Rumsfeld.

This is far from being over. The only question in these cases is whether or not those countries will eventually cave to political pressure.

If the Bush administration admires the Nuremberg process as much as it claims to, it shouldn't stand in the way of real justice for its millions of victims while choosing transparency for the so-called justice it intends to mete out in the cases of these alleged 9/11 defendants with the first step being the refusal to admit evidence gained by the government through the use of torture.


Related:

Gitmo Charges: Why Now? And What About the Torture?
 

Quote du Jour: Harper Cozies up to Stephane Dion

Following the news that the Liberals have offered a compromise amendment on the Afghanistan mission, Stephen Harper channeled Barack Obama's 2004 DNC speech during his press conference today.

Obama:

...there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America.

Harper:

"I don't think it can be a Conservative mission or a Liberal mission. It must be a Canadian mission".

Of course, it was definitely a "Liberal mission" when it came to the Harper government defending its convoluted handling of the Afghan detainees who were allegedly tortured until the new Conservative government came in and saved the day with their new agreement. (Right.)

And it was a "Conservative mission" whenever any opposition member challenged the new Conservative government on anything to do with its handling of the mission because any questions were obviously coming from people who supported the Taliban, according to Harper and his bullies.

It's also a "Conservative mission" when the government hides behind never-ending secrecy and refuses to communicate appropriately with Canadians about what's really happening in Afghanistan, as the Manley report made clear.

But, suddenly, Steve has strong words of praise for the Liberals because he sees that they're willing to let Canadian troops stay in Afghanistan until 2011. (text of the Liberals' amendment)

Via The Star:

Missing from the Liberal amendment was a specific call for Canada to quit all offensive operations in Kandahar, which had been Dion’s consistent condition for any mission extension.

The devil is in that detail. How will the Canadian troops engage in the lofty goals outlined in the Liberal amendment without being involved in combat in Kandahar?

The Liberal leader told reporters that he had chosen to emphasize what the military can do in Afghanistan rather than impose restrictions on movements or operations.

Dion said it is up to military commanders on the ground to decide how to carry out the mission, but stressed that he believes another NATO country should take over so-called search and destroyoperations [sic] in Kandahar.

And just how likely is that? The Canadian government can't even get a promise from any NATO ally to send in 1,000 extra troops at this point. If Canada redefines its mission in the way the amendment states, who will take over? The loophole he's left open for the military to decide what its role needs to be is wide enough to drive a truck through. In other words, Harper is getting what he wants - a continuing combat role for Canadian troops.

Dion said he chose his words carefully to maximize the party’s chance for an agreement with the government “without compromising our principles.”

What "principles"? Canada's national interests, as expressed by Bill Graham when he recently said, "anything that adds to an American sense of security and puts Canada firmly on side as an ally translates into billions of dollars in benefit for Canadians"?

Money or altruism? Which is it, Dion?

As far as I'm concerned, Canadians can't be suspicious enough when we watch Stephen Harper cozying up to Stephane Dion over any issue. That has to set off alarm bells.
 

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gates, The North Atlantic Treaty, and the Afghanistan War

Robert Gates has been on a steady PR tour to pressure NATO allies to send more military combat troops to Afghanistan the past couple of months.

This has been his rallying cry:

Mr. Gates said NATO could not afford "the luxury" of letting some nations conduct less dangerous missions while others did more fighting and dying...

While pushing that guilt trip, Gates seems to have forgotten what the North Atlantic Treaty actually says:

The Parties of NATO agreed that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. Consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence will assist the Party or Parties being attacked, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

We're already quite aware of the disdain the US government has for other countries' expressions of their own sovereignty and that is more than obvious in the message Gates, Rice, and others have been pitching in order to shift responsibility from US mistakes.

As Gates confesses:

Mr. Gates said the Sept. 11 attacks were especially poignant as the United States had been heavily involved in Afghanistan in the 1980s only to turn its back on the country after Soviet troops withdrew and it become a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

He described the decision to abandon Afghanistan as "a grievous error, for which I was at least partly responsible".

Mr. Gates was a senior official in the CIA when it helped mujahideen guerrillas fight the Soviets and later served as U.S. deputy national security adviser and then CIA director.

So, while Gates is on his personal redemption tour trying to force others to clean up his mess and to take responsibility for what was "a grievous error" made by himself and successive administrations of the United States government, why should other countries be willing to ease his conscience? Why should we be his personal saviour?

We have a right to decide what our participation will consist of, Mr Gates, and the fact that your government has no use for international treaties is not our problem. Contrary to what you may believe, all of the NATO allies in Afghanistan are living up to their obligations - not to you and your neocons who orchestrated this disaster, but to the North Atlantic Treaty which they signed on to.