Thursday, December 31, 2009

While Canadians die...


The audacity of Stephen Harper to shut down parliament, not once - but twice - while this country is at war ought to send a very clear message to Canadian voters that this Conservative government is simply irrelevant and that its' "leadership" is nothing but an empty shell.

Holed up in his political bunker on the same day that 4 Canadian soldiers and 1 journalist from his adopted hometown of Calgary were killed by an IED in Afghanistan, the best Harper could do was to release a statement extolling their "courage" while he exhibits absolutely none of his own. He couldn't even be bothered enough to show his face in public.

It's time for the opposition parties to band together and vote 'no confidence' in this Conservative minority government when it presents its next budget in March after its latest self-imposed holiday from accountability and responsibility.

Related:

8 US CIA Agents, 5 Canadians Killed in Afghanistan

Lang first Canadian journalist to die in Afghan mission

Michelle Lang's Afghanistan blog


 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Harper Shuts Down Parliament - Again


Stephen Harper is a coward.

Running from the Afghan detainee scandal, he has once again prorogued parliament - this time until March 3, 2010.

As the CBC reminds us:

Harper successfully appealed to Jean to prorogue Parliament last December, thwarting all three opposition parties in their attempt to defeat his government in a no-confidence vote, and replace it with a proposed coalition between then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion's party and the NDP, with support from the Bloc Québécois.

After Jean granted Harper's request, the proposed coalition collapsed and Dion was replaced by current Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who gave his party's conditional support to the Conservatives' budget last January.
When the going gets tough, Harper runs away. And Ignatieff's refusal to support the coalition while simply asking for "report cards" every few months has proved to be a sad joke.

Both the Liberal and NDP parties have propped up the Cons at times over the years when that party should have been forced to account for its incompetence at the polls. When Wannabe Dictator Harper's back is against the wall, he claims that parliament has become "dysfunctional", throws a tantrum, and ends proceedings while leaders like Layton claim they're only caving to Harper's demands because "Canadians want their government to work". Well, as Dr Phil would say, Jack: how's that working for you?

Ralph Goodale is right. This is a ""shocking insult to democracy". The question now is: what are the opposition parties going to do about it?
 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Obama Lies; Heads Explode; The Spin Begins

"I didn't campaign on the public option"

Barack Obama, Washington Post interview, Dec 22, 2009
Except that you did, Mr President.

But that won't stop the spinners from excusing that lie in any way possible.

Oh, it wasn't a "major" part of his plan.

Or, that's depends on what your definition of "campaigned on" is.

Okay, maybe it was on his campaign web site but that wasn't his campaign.

It was in the Democratic party platform? Everybody knows that Dem candidates don't campaign on that.

I don't recall him saying that, therefore it never happened.

Okay, maybe he campaigned on a "public plan" but a "plan" is not an "option".


And when the spin just can't be justified, the minimizing begins:

So what? Every president lies.

He didn't "lie". He misspoke.

He's tired. Leave him alone.

It isn't "progressive" to point out that he lied.

Look! Ponies!


And when the minimizing can't be justified, all hell breaks loose:

Hillary is STILL evil!

Why do you hate America?

Admit it, you luv Sarah Palin.

Teabagger!

That's racist!

You were never a Democrat to begin with.

You call yourself a "liberal"?

You are trying to destroy his presidency!

If we don't talk about it, the right-wing will never notice.

Every time you say he lied, the Baby Jeebus cries.



Just another day in Reality-Based Land...
 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

McChrystal on Torture in Afghanistan

US General Stanley McChrystal, speaking to reporters in Ottawa today had this to say about torture allegations:

The commander of the International Security Assistance Force said he was aware of allegations that some detainees may have been tortured, but he said he wasn't aware of any "specific incidents" in which Afghan detainees were tortured or abused by Afghan interrogators.
Pehraps because the ongoing reports of torture by US forces in Bagram prison are keeping him too busy.

On Saturday, the New York Times published interviews with three former inmates who also spoke of the black prison near Bagram. Each informant “was interviewed separately and described similar conditions,” the Times notes, and “[t]heir descriptions also matched those obtained by two human rights workers who had interviewed other former detainees at the site.” One of the three men was arrested months after Obama’s inauguration as US president, as were the two teenage boys interviewed by the Post.

All of those interviewed by the Times and the Post maintained that they were not “Taliban.” Without being charged with a crime, they were seized by US soldiers, then bound, gagged, and hooded, and taken to the “black prison.”

The jail, according to the Times’ sources, “consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day.” The cells are small; one prisoner said his was only slightly longer than the length of his body. US soldiers throw food into the cells through slots in the door.

Prisoners are exposed to extreme cold and sleep deprivation. The teenage boys told the Post that when they attempted to sleep on the hard floor, US soldiers “shouted at them and hammered on their cells.” Prisoners’ only respite from this extreme solitary confinement are twice-a-day interrogations, during which some are beaten or humiliated.
Or maybe he's denying the claims because, well, he has a history of lying.

I must say that I was quite surprised to hear Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh say on CBC's Power and Politics show today that he'd never heard of 'black sites' in Afghanistan. He definitely needs to get up to speed about what's happening there.

(I'll be putting up a separate post about Richard Colvin's rebuttal letter to the Special Committee on Afghanistan once I've had a chance to read through it.)
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Week in Being Barack Obama

There was much rejoicing in DemocratLand on Monday morning when it was announced that Citigroup announced that it was paying back $20 billion in bailout funds - especially since it came on the heels of Obama's Sunday nite teevee performance when he called the Wall Street crew "fat cats" (which really is an insult to actual fat cats everywhere).

But, as this administration keeps showing everyone, all that glitters in those shiny objects is certainly not gold.

That is, unless you're Citigroup:

Citigroup gains massive tax break in deal with IRS

The federal government quietly agreed to forgo billions of dollars in potential tax payments from Citigroup as part of the deal announced this week to wean the company from the massive taxpayer bailout that helped it survive the financial crisis.

The Internal Revenue Service on Friday issued an exception to longstanding tax rules for the benefit of Citigroup and the few other companies partially owned by the government. As a result, Citigroup will be allowed to retain $38 billion in tax breaks that otherwise would decline in value when the government sells its stake to private investors.

While the Obama administration has said taxpayers likely will profit from the sale of the Citigroup shares, accounting experts said the lost tax revenue could easily outstrip those profits.
So, let's see...it's only Tuesday and so far Obama et al have sold out to Citigroup, Joe Lieberman, the Blue Dog Dems, insurance corporations, Big Pharma, various and sundry lobbyists, and Obama's approval numbers continue to tank.

I guess his Nobel War is Peace But It's Only an Aspirational Prize Anyway speech last week didn't give him enough of a bump in the eyes of the American public. Surely, his trip to Copenhagen will change that. Or not.
 

Quote du Jour: Run away! Run away!


"Where the hell are the (Conservative) members?" said NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) asked reporters.
What if they called a committee meeting and no Tories came?

Meanwhile, the fugitive Cons are mulling over sending parliament to Prorogue-a-Tory again.

You can run but you can't hide...
 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Punking the Conservative Government on Climate Change


Tory heads are exploding in Ottawa and Copenhagen. Grab your umbrellas.

Fake releases claim Canada changed climate stance


The federal government is fuming Monday over a series of hoax press releases claiming Canada had committed to drastic greenhouse gas emission cuts.
That should have been the first clue that this thing was full of hot air. Read the article for details about how this all played out. It was quite impressive.

Meanwhile, to add insult to injury:

[PMO spokespuppet] Soudas also got in a heated exchange with Steven Guilbeault from the environmental group Equiterre, after Soudas sent an email to reporters saying the hoax may have been issued by Guilbeault.

"I had nothing to do with this and I demand an apology," Guilbeault said in an email to CBC News. "The Harper government is pointing fingers at me for saying the truth."

Guilbeault said he is being singled out because the government doesn't like what he has said about Canada's record on climate change.
The only thing missing was Marg, Princess Warrior.
 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How the Cons Enabled Torture in Kandahar


Back in February, 2008 when the Con government was faced with allegations it had covered up the torture being meted out by Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid, their Pit Bull du Jour, Peter van Loan, called those charges "histrionics and hyperbole".

Enter Richard Colvin, the former ambassador the Cons have been so busy demonizing, again:

OTTAWA–A former governor of Kandahar who is accused of personally torturing Afghans might have been removed from office as far back as 2006 if Canadian officials hadn't defended him, according to diplomatic memos that have never been made public by the Canadian government.
Not only did they defend him, they did nothing at the highest levels, including the PMO's national security adviser. They can't feign ignorance anymore in the face of this proof.

Yet another nail in the coffin of this lying government.
 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Torture Coverup: Today's Developments


- The military police complaints commission hearings are scheduled to resume in March, 2010, "but whether the federal government actually lets it proceed is uncertain." Meanwhile:

The Liberals turned up the heat on the Tories Thursday by using their opposition day to introduce a Commons motion to force the government to release documents on the detainee issue.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff accused the government of censoring with "Soviet zeal" and demanded to see all records related to incident referred to by Natynczyk.

- I really don't know why Ottawa-centered journalists think this issue has no legs outside of their little bubble. The latest EKOS poll shows that the majority think Afghan detainees were tortured and that this government knew about it.

Only Conservative supporters are slightly less likely to believe that the government was aware that prisoners might be tortured. Even so, nearly 68 per cent of Conservative supporters think the government was aware of that possibility.
That is definitely significant. And the fact that parliament will go on hiatus tonite for its holiday break does not ensure that this scandal won't come back with even more force in the new year - especially since Richard Colvin is drafting a rebuttal to the testimony of the government-friendly witnesses.

The fact that the one 2006 incident that we know of (and which alludes to others), thanks to the affidavit of Noonan in 2007, is front and center again 2 years of being shelved shows that the Conservatives can't run away from reality or accountability.

When that incident came to light in May, 2007, Peter Van Loan was the government's bully-boy who tried endlessly to make it go away. He called it "roughhousing". More recently, General Lewis MacKenzie, appearing on the right-wing talk radio David Rutherford Show in Calgary this week said he wasn't all that concerned about some guy being beaten up. Shit happens. It's a war. Rick Hillier recently minimized the incident as well. These generals don't seem to care that Canadian soldiers were so concerned about the fate of their transferred detainees that they resorted to taking before and after pictures because they knew abuse was happening. They weren't listened to. Their reports were dismissed and censored.

When Peter MacKay gave his opening statement to the special committee on Wednesday, he said that torture was "abhorrent". But it obviously was not "abhorrent" enough for him to pay attention to as foreign minister since he then went on to pathetically justify his inaction by droning on repeatedly about how "complex" the Afghanistan situation was. He should have just admitted that he was too incompetent to handle all of the duties he was responsible for at that time.

On top of all of that, and this is perhaps one of the most shocking revelations about this government's disdain for the law considering it's coming from our current Foreign Affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, in his opening statement he wondered why people were "fixated on the well-being of individuals who are suspected of being our enemies". (h/t BCCLA blog) He obviously refuses to even acknowledge the Geneva Conventions. This is the same man who banned the phrase "child soldiers" from the department's vocabulary and took "humanitarian" out of the phrase "international humanitarian law".

Typical of this Conservative party - thinking they can make issues of justice disappear by simply censoring them.

That obviously hasn't worked. And Cannon's performance has been despicable.

...this April [2009], when Cannon blamed Omar Khadr, a former child recruit of Al Qaeda held since 2002 at the U.S. detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, for making bombs that killed Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

"We saw this man apparently making the same bombs that have taken the life of a certain number of our soldiers," he said, referring to TV footage of Khadr making bombs. The comments were false.

Khadr was not in the vicinity where Canadians were operating at the time. A retraction followed.
It's clear that the Conservative agenda is to fearmonger and paint their critics as enemies of the military as long as they think they can get away with it. The problem is that actual evidence is corroding what little shred of credibility there was that they thought they had in the first place. They are their own worst enemies. If they truly believed in their collective innocence, they would release all of the documents they have - unredacted - in order to prove it. Instead, they are fighting their release every step of the way using the tired "national security" excuse.

And, in case you're keeping score, it's now:

Former Canadian ambassadors: 71

Conservatives: 0
 

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Natynczyk Changes his Testimony


Schadenfreude:

General changes story on Taliban suspect

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's top military commander, is now saying a suspected Taliban fighter abused by Afghan police in June 2006 had been detained by Canadian troops, contrary to comments the defence staff chief made Tuesday.

"The individual who was beaten by the Afghan police was, in fact, in Canadian custody," Natynczyk told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Natynczyk had told a parliamentary committee that Canadian troops questioned the man who was picked up during operations in Zangabad. But Natynczyk said it was the Afghans who took him into custody.

On Wednesday, Natynczyk said he has since received new information and has learned that Canadians had taken the suspect into custody before handing him over to the Afghans.

Natynczyk read from a report of the incident by the section commander, who said they had the suspect get down on his stomach before they conducted a detailed seach [sic] of the Afghan, which included emptying his pockets, cataloging all the items and photgraphing him.

"I did not have this information in May of 2007 nor yesterday when I made my statement. But I am responsible for the information provided by the Canadian Forces and I am accountable for it today," Natynczyk said.
Damn straight he's responsible. And he's either lying or incompetent:

The Canadian soldier's account, handwritten in a field notebook in the hours after the June 19, 2006 incident, is corroborated by a medic's examination of the detainee's injuries and photographs, which the government refuses to release. The account, first outlined in a May, 2007 affidavit by Colonel Steve Noonan, Canada's first task force commander, was subsequently confirmed by then Brigadier-General Joseph Deschamps, who was chief-of-staff for operations in Canada's expeditionary forces command when he was cross-examined about it in January, 2008.

After Col. Noonan's first disclosure of the incident, the military denied the detainee ever really qualified as a Canadian captive. Then Lieutenant-General Walt Natynczyk – who has since been promoted to chief of defence staff – issued a statement in May 2007 denying that the beaten detainee had originally been captured and transferred by Canadian troops.

“Media reporting of a specific example of an individual detained by Afghan Authorities are inaccurate,” Gen. Natynczyk said in a statement.
And Peter MacKay, who's been pushing the Canadian heroes [read: generals] always tell the truth - screw the diplomats and soldiers on the ground meme for weeks just got his already red face politically slapped.

On top of that, the number of former ambassadors chiding MacKay for going after Richard Colvin has now risen from 23 yesterday to near 50 today (h/t this-on-that) and calls for his resignation and a public inquiry are growing.

"The minister has on nine separate occasions told the House there is not a scintilla of evidence of mistreatment even as the entire country was shown evidence that torture did take place," said the NDP's defence critic Jack Harris. "Will he resign?"

Instead, Mr. MacKay's parliamentary secretary, Laurie Hawn, mouthed "bullshit" as opposition MPs insisted the government knew of transfers to torture.
There's "bullshit" and then there's Toryshit.

In response to Ignatieff's question about this bombshell today, Harper said (with a straight face), "General Natynczyk has indicated what the government has said from the very outset."

And what would that be, Steve? That there were no credible reports of abuse?

Stay tuned this afternoon when MacKay is set to appear before the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan along with Lawrence Cannon and former defence minister (who was forced to resign over his lies on this file) Gordon O'Connor. (This is turning out to be all rather special, isn't it?) You can watch it live on CPAC's site at 3:30 pm ET.
 

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Cons vs 23 Former Ambassadors


You know your attack style of governing sucks when...Former ambassadors condemn Ottawa's attack on diplomat

Twenty-three former ambassadors are speaking out against the Conservative government's attacks on the credibility of diplomat Richard Colvin, saying Ottawa's response to his Afghan detainee abuse testimony threatens to cast a chill over Canada's foreign service.

The ex-heads of Canadian diplomatic missions say in a letter released to the media that they're worried the treatment of Mr. Colvin will discourage diplomats from reporting frankly to Ottawa from their foreign postings.

Guergis Attacks Dead Student's Mother


From Monday's Question Period:

Mr. Serge Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, BQ):

Mr. Speaker, Suzanne Laplante-Edward, mother of Anne-Marie Edward, who was killed when just 21 years old in the École Polytechnique massacre, deplores the fact that the Conservative government is perversely dismantling the firearms registry. By relaxing firearms controls, the Conservatives are attacking, and I quote, “the monument erected in memory of our young women.”

When will this government acknowledge that the firearms registry helps prevent violence against women?

Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC):

Mr. Speaker, any suggestion that any member in this House would not want to see an end to violence against women is not only wrong, it is hateful. The ineffective Liberal gun registry has done absolutely nothing to protect Canadians and it has done nothing to make Canadian women safer. The hon. member will know this if he looks deep inside himself.
Last week, Guergis refused to denounce Saskatoon MP Maurice Vellacott's ridiculous comments about abortion, responding in the house that members are "required" to have their opinion. Obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Then again, neither is Vellacott:

Vellacott's release also says the current abortion process in Saskatoon is "conducive to abuse," and says "aborted women tell stories of being badgered, harassed and coerced into getting their abortion by boyfriends, partners, parents and employers."

He says pro-life feminists view abortion as "part of a male agenda to have women more sexually available," and adds abortion has been used to cover up the sexual abuse of young girls.
And here I thought Guergis didn't like crazy stories.
 

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pics du Jour: Greenpeace Protests on (literally) Parliament




19 Greenpeace protesters scale the parliament buildings in Ottawa




At least they found something green in the capitol.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

There's Steve: Embarrassing Canada - Again


Hypocritical headline of the day: Canada, China should meet more often: Harper:

In Beijing for the first time to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Harper was reminded that a Canadian prime minister had not visited in five years.

"Five years is too long a time for China-Canada relations and that's why there are comments in the media that your visit is one that should have taken place earlier," Wen said.

Harper also said he would like see Chinese leaders come to Canada more frequently. "I think on both sides, more regular visits would make sense," he said.
He then threw up a little bit in his mouth.

In an earlier meeting, Chinese President Hu Jintao also pointed out twice that it was Harper's first visit. Harper said it has been five years since a Chinese leader visited Canada.
"Beatdown in Beijing" was the banner headline during Thursday nite's At Issue political panel.

Steve is definitely on a roll when it comes to tarnishing this country's image on the world stage. Stalling on climate change, the the torture cover up, refusing to reptriate Omar Khadr etc etc. What's next? There's apparently no stopping him now. Especially with a spineless opposition at home.
 

Quote du Jour: Suspicious Red Things


"I don't think it is an issue of the Canadians being the bad guys," the Pentagon's counterintelligence chief wrote, "but then again, who knows."
Yeah. Who knows...?
 

War is Still a Racket

As US Major General Smedley Butler said in 1933, 'War is a racket'. And the obscenties of corporate war profits continue. Harley Davidson dealerships on US bases in Afghanistan? What's wrong with this picture?

It's quite something to reflect on the numbers as Butler did - in the millions of dollars at the beginning of the last century - involved in waging war at that time. Today, it seems that we barely bat an eye at the idea that billions are being wasted while the uber-rich get richer thanks to the spilling of blood on foreign soil. Perhaps because that amount is just too much for the average citizen to even fathom. And certainly because we, who seem to believe that our so-called democracies are really about what "we the people" actually want, refuse to admit that we really live in oligarchies in which we are more than willing to cede control of our affairs to those who know what's best for us. It isn't only the right that believes in the type of authoritarian, Father Knows Best form of government that we on the left often chastise them for. Just take a look at the rationalizations for Obama's surge emanating from so-called progressives this week. The pro-war propaganda coming from people who would have roasted Bush on a stick for the same decisions is quite frightening.

In recognition of the popularity of National Exploding Head Day held on Wednesday - a day in which both the right and the left (and those in between) reacted hysterically to Obama's surge (as if it was some sort of surprise since, for so many Americans, "War is Freedom") - Exploding Head festivities will now continue throughout the week (and probably the month and into next year).

We certainly live in an upside-down world in which western governments strain at the idea of providing humanitarian aid in relatively paltry amounts while endlessly funding the military industrial complex based on overblown and logically irrational justifications - as just the cost of "keeping us safe" or "protecting our national security interests" or "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" or "protecting our way of life". No matter how you dress it up, it is obscene.

And the fact that Obama invoked 9/11 as one of those justifications is a reminder of how quickly history is forgotten and how eager Obama's war-supporters are to believe the talking points du jour. As Pepe Escobar writes in the Asia Times today:

Obama still says Afghanistan is a "war of necessity" - because of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Wrong. The Bush administration had planned to attack Afghanistan even before 9/11. See Get Osama! Now! Or else ... Asia Times Online, August 30, 2001.)
So, as Robert Scheer writes, Here We Go Again...:

The current president’s military point man, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, served in Carter’s National Security Council and knows that Obama is speaking falsely when he asserts it was the Soviet occupation that gave rise to the Muslim insurgency that we abetted. Gates wrote a memoir in 1996 which, as his publisher proclaimed, exposed “Carter’s never-before-revealed covert support to Afghan mujahedeen—six months before the Soviets invaded.”

Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asked in a 1998 interview with the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur if he regretted “having given arms and advice to future terrorists,” and he answered, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?” Brzezinski made that statement three years before the 9/11 attack by those “stirred-up Muslims.”

So here we go again, selling firewater to the natives and calling it salvation.
But the selling of that firewater in modern times is one of the most lucrative business ventures ever. It doesn't matter now, any more than it mattered back during Smedley Butler's day, who pays the price.

Related:

Fafblog! - Victory Science

You're A Good Man, Barack Obama: Afghanistan War Meets Classic Animation

FAIR: In Afghan Debate, Few Antiwar Op-Eds - Elite papers marginalize public opposition (sound familiar?)
 

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Actually Cons, Colvin WAS Muzzled


The Conservatives are living in their own twisted version of Through the Looking Glass.

Last week, when David Mulroney testified in front of the special committee on Afghanistan, he attempted to rebut Richard Colvin's allegations that he was "muzzled" when he tried to report on detainee abuse allegations. Mulroney admitted that he told his officials that he preferred that they communicate by phone first - because all of those e-mails (which could be tracked later) were just too confusing to those in charge. No paper trail. How convenient.

Now we learn, via the Globe and Mail that parts of Colvin's reports were "edited":

Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan asked a diplomat to erase two bluntly worded sections from an April, 2007, report on how Ottawa's delays in notifying the Red Cross of prisoner transfers to Afghan authorities left these detainees vulnerable to abuse.

The Globe and Mail has learned that Arif Lalani asked for the edits from Richard Colvin, a diplomat at the centre of an unfolding controversy over whether Canada turned a blind eye when handing prisoners to Afghanistan's torture-prone authorities.

This editing took place in April, 2007, only days after a Globe investigation revealed disturbing allegations of abuse and torture among prisoners transferred by Canadians to Afghan detention - stories that kicked off a stormy debate in Ottawa.

In one of the sections he was requested to delete, Mr. Colvin remarked on a pattern observed by the Red Cross: that abuse took place almost immediately after prisoners were transferred to the Afghans - timing that meant Canada's tardiness made it very hard for the human-rights monitor to guard against torture.

"[A Red Cross official], who had read The Globe and Mail's reporting, said that the allegations of abuse made by those Afghans interviewed by [reporter] Graeme Smith fit a common pattern," Mr. Colvin wrote in text that was cut out.

"In the International Committee of the Red Cross's experience, 'a lot of abuse happens in the first days,' " he wrote, adding that the human-rights monitor argued this was cause for "more rapid notification" that "would offer better protection to the detainees."

[...]

In another section he was asked by Mr. Lalani to erase, Mr. Colvin reminded Ottawa that it had been warned about 10 months earlier of these dangerous delays in notifying the Red Cross of detainees.

In the deleted text, Mr. Colvin even acknowledged that Ottawa's own internal statistics on notification delays corroborated the Red Cross's estimates. "Our own records substantiate ICRC's comments about continued delays in notification," the diplomat wrote. "For the four-month period of December 1, 2006, to March 30, 2007, the gap from detention by Canadian Forces to ICRC being informed was as long as 34 days," he wrote.
Somebody in Steve's government needs to look up the word "muzzled" in the dictionary.
 

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Liveblogging Obama's 'Get your war on' Speech

I've already written about what I think about this surge. In summary, there is nothing Obama can say that can convince me that it's necessary or that this war is winnable - in any sense of the word.

The Washington Post reports that he is sending an additional 30,000 troops and that he has chosen July 2011 as the date to begin his withdrawal. That process is bound to take a long time though - as we've seen with the process of leaving Iraq. (Although the US never really completely withdraws from any war/occupation that it's been engaged in.)

I'll post speech highlights as they come in...

Sept 11th...history..blah blah blah...justifying the war...

Talking about the withdrawal of troops from Iraq...no mention of the contractors though...and that HUGE honking embassy...

5 minutes in and I think he's said 'Taliban' about 59 times already...

Said that although the Afghan government was produced by fraud, it's legitimate according to their constitution...like that means ANYTHING...

30,000 troops - it's official...says he opposed the Iraq war because he believes in using "restraint" with military forces...that's funny...I thought he said it was a "dumb" war...

'our security is at stake'...9/11 (drink!)...

here comes the push for more NATO troops...yeah...good luck with that...

Pakistan has nukes (drink!)

all of those cadets in their identical grey uniforms in the West Point remind me of a scene from 1984...

as reported, start withdrawing in July 2011...

now he's looking onto the camera and speaking to the Afghan people...because so many of them actually have teevees and are watching this at whatever time it is there now...

yay! more drone attacks in Pakistan (that was paraphrased)

trying to rebut the Afghanistan=Vietnam analogy...it's not working...

zzzzz...are we there yet?

Cake, anyone?

obligatory shots of Hillary looking adoringly at her commander-in-chief...

pontificating about how the yanks are going to protect human rights of 'the world' when he's still allowing renditions and hiding torture pictures...yeah...that was convincing...not...

oh...now his voice is racheting up...stay tuned for 'amens' and 'praise the lord' from the audience...okay...maybe not that reaction but he did get his first moment of applause for saying that America isn't into world domination..(haha, now where's that quote I have of him saying during the campaign that he wants to "remake the world" in America's image? I kid you not.)

oh, cutesyness..."right makes might"

Hoo-ah, it's over.
 

Torture in Afghanistan: There WILL be a Public Inquiry


The house has voted on the NDP's motion to hold a public inquiry into the fate of Afghan detainees amid allegations that some may have been tortured after they were transferred to Afghan authorities.

The vote, with the support of all of the opposition parties, has passed.

There's no more hiding the truth, Cons. You have lost.

By the numbers:

Yea: 146

Nay: 129
 

Monday, November 30, 2009

Quote du Jour: How Low Can Steve Go?


Via The TO Star:

PORT OF SPAIN–Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a partisan shot at his opposition critics while touring the HMCS Quebec in Trinidad-Tobago Sunday.

The Canadian ship and navy officers are helping with security for the Commonwealth summit. Harper, in brief comments to the Canadians, was addressing allegations that Canadian civilian and military leaders ignored warnings of a risk of torture in Afghan prisons.

"Let me just say this: living as we do, in a time when some in the political arena do not hesitate before throwing the most serious of allegations at our men and women in uniform, based on the most flimsy of evidence, remember that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are proud of you and stand behind you, and I am proud of you, and I stand beside you."
What Jeff Jedras said.

And, let me just add: Peter MacKay is a Terminally Confused Man.

First there were no allegations. Then there were "credible" allegations so they changed the transfer agreement. Then Richard Colvin was lying because he said there were allegations. Then David Mulroney said there were no allegations (but he could not vouch 100% that Canadian soldiers did not, in fact, hand over detainees who were then abused). Then Peter MacKay said there were no allegations - credible or otherwise - but they changed the agreement apparently just for the hell of it.

2 questions remain:

1. Will there be a public inquiry?

2. Will MacKay lose his job?

The answer to both is: doubtful.

The Cons are running scared from an inquiry - looking as guilty as the cat that ate the canary. And MacKay, the Con who allowed Harper to take the lead when the old Reform and Progressive Conservative parties merged, isn't likely to go down easily. Steve owes him. That's why he's held the high-ranking government positions he's had since that mismatched marriage.

When this scandal came up a couple of years ago, then incompetent Defence minister Gordon O'Connor was turfed - having become a political liability once his inconsistencies and lies began to emerge. He was expendable. MacKay is following the same path of untruthfulness. But he is being heavily protected at every turn. If he does fall on his sword, the resulting ripples that would run through the party could cause a major mess for the Harperites. I could be wrong about the current state of the inside baseball. But that's the way I see it.

The Cons are struggling to contain this scandal and the opposition parties have to keep pushing as hard as they can. This cannot be one of those issues over which the Cons are given another pass - especially since the ICC has now injected itself into the affair.

The ICC's chief prosecutor, though, has no intention of waiting for Washington to submit to the court's authority. Luis Moreno Ocampo says he already has jurisdiction—at least with respect to Afghanistan.

Because Kabul in 2003 ratified the Rome Statute—the ICC's founding treaty—all soldiers on Afghan territory, even those from nontreaty countries, fall under the ICC's oversight, Mr. Ocampo told me. And the chief prosecutor says he is already conducting a "preliminary examination" into whether NATO troops, including American soldiers, fighting the Taliban may have to be put in the dock.

"We have to check if crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide have been committed in Afghanistan," Mr. Ocampo told me. "There are serious allegations against the Taliban and al Qaeda and serious allegations about warlords, even against some who are connected with members of the government." Taking up his inquiry of Allied soldiers, he added, "there are different reports about problems with bombings and there are also allegations about torture."
Wait a minute there: did he just impugn the might military? Quick. Someone alert Steve and his bully buddies so they can jump all over Mr Ocampo too.

And, if you need more proof of our western exceptionalist attitude, check out this bit by the author of that same WSJ article:

I asked the obvious follow-up. "If this is the 'new world,' why do you bother collecting information about NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan?" Why, in other words, when his task is to end the impunity for the worst war crimes, does he spend his limited resources on the most advanced democracies in the world—which operate under strict rules of engagement, have their own chain-of-command investigations and swift prosecution of criminals? Mr. Ocampo got slightly irritated.
No doubt. The arrogance of that reporter is astounding. But it's only symbolic of how we view ourselves and our conduct in these so-called wars of "necessity" despite the fact that we have failed miserably to be anything near accountable for the horrors we are responsible for.
 

How to hide torture: Obama-style

Oh Yes We Can!, so oh yes he did.

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has thrown out an appeals court ruling ordering the disclosure of photographs of detainees being abused by their U.S. captors.

In doing so Monday, the high court cited a recent change in federal law that allows the pictures to be withheld.

The justices issued a brief, and expected, order Monday directing the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to take another look at a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain the photos of detainee abuse. President Barack Obama at first didn't oppose the release, but he changed his mind, saying they could whip up anti-American sentiment overseas and endanger U.S. troops.

The administration appealed the matter to the Supreme Court, but also worked with Congress to give Defense Secretary Robert Gates the power to keep from the public all pictures of foreign detainees being abused.

Gates invoked his new authority in mid-November, saying widespread distribution of the pictures would endanger American soldiers.
Just substitute the names "Obama" and "Gates" with "Bush" and "Rumsfeld" and you'll see just how much has changed.

In case you weren't paying attention (and who could blame you with all of those shiny photo ops Obama and Michelle have been hiding behind), back in June the US senate passed a law [the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act] barring the release of those photos.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, had originally been part of the war funding supplemental bill passed Tuesday by the House.

But House Democrats stripped that part of the measure from the bill, and the senators proposed it as stand-alone legislation.

Earlier Wednesday, Graham said at a Judiciary Committee hearing that he had received assurance from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel "that the president will not let these photos see the light of day."
Yes, Obama sided with those progressive beacons of light: Lieberman, Graham and Emanuel using the same fearmongering tactics that the Bush administration was quite fond of. In October, the provision passed when it was included in a homeland security appropriations bill.

The photos have been at the center of a years-long lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Congress last month gave the Obama administration specific authority to prevent any release of the 44 photos. Afterward, Gates signed a certificate of authorization, or order, to prevent the photos' release, saying their disclosure would endanger U.S. troops serving abroad.

The order covers all photographs taken of people captured or detained in overseas military operations between September 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and January 22, 2009, shortly after President Obama took office.
Obama: Fear you can believe in! while hope is fading fast
 

Leaving the poor out in the cold - again...


Less than 1% of $1.9-billion social-housing fund spent so far

Less than 1 per cent of a $1.9-billion federal fund for social housing has actually been spent – more than a year after it was announced by the Harper government in the midst of the 2008 election campaign.

[...]

The figures released by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley show the three other funds are also moving slowly.

Only 4.6 per cent of a $1-billion fund to renovate existing social housing units has been spent, while 1.9 per cent of a $400-million fund for low-income seniors' housing is out the door. Only 0.1 per cent of a $75-million construction fund to house people with disabilities has been spent.

The percentages of money actually spent are dramatically lower than the 80- to 90-per-cent figures cited in government-funded Economic Action Plan ads that use terms like “already being implemented.”
Well, that last line is quite the dramatic understatement, isn't it?

These clowns are supposed to be held accountable by the Liberals and their useless report cards. But they know that, even if they get an F, the Libs are too scared to call an election.

So, who loses in the end - again? Certainly not all of those opposition MPs who have nice, cozy places to go home to.

Not to worry though, I'm sure Checky will be on his way soon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback: How to derail a committee


Frustrated about how things are going in the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan?

Let's take a trip down dirty tricks lane:

Opposition demands release of alleged Tory 'dirty tricks' manual

Last Updated: Friday, May 18, 2007 | 2:28 PM ET
CBC News

Opposition parties on Friday demanded the Conservative government make public a reported 200-page guidebook on how to create chaos in parliamentary committees.

MPs from all three opposition parties used question period to call on the government to table the alleged document, which was reported in the National Post.

The guidebook, reportedly handed out to selected Conservative MPs, offers advice on how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, obstruct debate and, if needed, storm out of committee meetings.

"Table this playbook so Canadians can see how petty, vindictive and undemocratic this government is," said NDP MP Libby Davies.

Bloc Québécois MP Monique Guay said the document shows a "flagrant lack of respect for government," alleging it was being "deliberately guided by the Prime Minister's Office."

"Table the manual of dirty tricks. It's a contempt for democracy akin to Richard Nixon," said Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, referring to the former American president forced out of office by the Watergate scandal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mulroney Contradicts MacKay


Ever since Peter MacKay has been under fire about allegations of torture in Afghanistan during the period of 2006-2007, he has repeatedly said in the house that the transfer agreement was changed once the government had credible evidence to back up those claims.

From November 25, 2009, Hansard:

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, when officials at Foreign Affairs and officials at the Department of National Defence were in possession of credible allegations, they acted. Going back two and a half years the action began. The action began to clean up the mess that we had inherited from the party opposite. The action began to rewrite the transfer arrangement, to arrange for more prison visits and to train officials inside the prison.

But, here's what David Mulroney said during his opening statement when he testified in front of the special committee today.

From the video (approximately 7 minutes in)

When I took up my responsibilities at Foreign Affairs in February, 2007, the department was already exploring ways of engaging in monitoring and tracking detainees. At the same time, we had an exchange of letters with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, an organization for which we are a major funder, in which the AIHRC agreed to notify Canada should it learn of any mistreatment of Canadian-transferred detainees. In mid-March, we began detailed work to create a detailed contingency plan, a standard operating procedure in the event of well-founded allegations of mistreatment. We did this not because of confirmed instances of real and substantial risk of torture or mistreatment of Canadian-transferred detainees but because it was clear that what we had in place at the time could and should be further reinforced.
One of these men is lying.
 

This So-called "War of Necessity"

With Obama reportedly set to announce an increase of US troop levels in Afghanistan by tens of thousands next week - for this "war of necessity", as he calls it - we need to be reminded that the public has been repeatedly told that if that war is a failure (and actually "winning" it has been questionable since Day One) NATO's credibility is on the line.

So, what is this really about? "Democracy promotion"? Been there - done that. Ended up with corrupted election results once again propping up Karzai and his corrupt government.

Improving human rights? Well, the Canadian government would like you to believe that that's what we're they for and they've proven that they'll lie about that - shortchanging humanitarian spending while boosting the military budget.

Defeating al Qaeda? According to General McChrystal, the architect of the proposed troop surge in Afghanistan, he does not "see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now".

And the Taliban? First of all, we need to be reminded of who they are since "the Taliban" is too often referred to as some monolithic, organized threat. We also need to admit that the Afghans blame poverty for [the] war, making corruption a very lucrative business for those with regional power aka those lumped together as "the Taliban" so we can have a conveniently-named enemy. We also need to question why it is that the US is using [extremely irresponsible and anti-Pakistani sovereignty] drone attacks in Pakistan to go after "the Taliban" there but feels it needs to put tens of thousands more boots on the ground in Afghanistan to achieve the same end. The answer surely can't be about concern for civilians being struck down in Afghanistan since scores of civilians have been wantonly killed by drones in Pakistan.

Obama stated this week that he intends to "finish the job" in Afghanistan - to "dismantle and destroy" al-Qaida terrorists and extremist allies. If that is truly his goal, he and the military will have to be there for decades no matter what his new strategy might entail.

"I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive," he said, speaking at a White House news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Recent polls show that his confidence is misplaced.

If the full expansion that U.S. military planners anticipate does happen, it would take up to two years to get all the additional U.S. forces into the landlocked country.

The United States is quietly pressing NATO and other allies to increase forces as well, with a goal of between 5,000 and 7,000 additional non-U.S. troops.
NATO countries involved in the war have been begging for years for more troops from the US in order to hang on to that NATO credibility.

In the meantime, due to the lack of proper oversight, the US doesn't even know how many contractors it has in country.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bipartisan, independent commission mandated by Congress, presented data at a hearing showing major discrepancies in different accounting methods used to determine the number of U.S. contractors.

A traditional manual count by the U.S. military's Central Command turned up nearly 74,000 U.S. Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan as of June 30 -- more than twice the number shown in another survey by the Pentagon.

"I kind of want to scream.... Why if it's so important, are we failing to do something so basic?" said Christopher Shays, a former Republican lawmaker and a co-chair of the bipartisan committee.

Gary Motsek, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense, acknowledged in testimony that U.S. efforts to create a system to better count the number of contractors in Afghanistan had so far come up short.

"We failed," Motsek said, calling for better funding and regulations to require all U.S. agencies to report figures for contractors. "You should be concerned about the gap, because we are concerned about the gap."
Yet we're supposed to trust these guys to run a war?

Let's not fool ourselves. The fact that Obama is now the US commander-in-chief does not mean that this will suddenly morph into some new and better war. There are only limited war strategies to choose from. More troops does not necessarily equal mission accomplished. That was certainly the lesson from Vietnam. And if we're supposed to be comforted by the so-called success of the "clear, hold and build" strategy employed in Iraq, we have to ask why - if that was indeed a victory - the coalition of the shilling is still at war in that country.

The only honest answer we need to hear from Obama when he addresses his nation next week is that to the question of, "Why is the military still in Afghanistan?" And any answer that includes "national security concerns" must be forcefully challenged.
 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Hillier Time


General Rick Hillier, who has already told the press that he doesn't recall reading any reports about Afghan detainee torture from Richard Colvin, testifies at the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan this afternoon along with two of his military colleagues. (Watch online at CPAC.)

The denials by Harper et al continued today during QP even in the face of media reports that the Red Cross [was] told late about prisoner transfers and a revelation in Le Devoir that supports Colvin's testimony:

...the lead story in Le Devoir, “Torture: Ottawa should have acted sooner," which has a senior official reporting that the prisoner transfer issue finally appeared on Ottawa’s radar screen around Christmas 2006. By then, “it was increasingly apparent to everyone that there were big holes in the Protocol and that there was a real possibility that inmates were being abused.” While not criticizing the Army, which was doing "difficult work in a difficult environment" our source says that they "did not take this issue [of torture] seriously".
The Cons are betting the farm on Canadians lapping up every word of David Mulroney, who is hurriedly flying back from China this week to contradict Colvin's testimony when he appears before the committee on Thursday. Mulroney, without offering up any documentation, is more credible you see because Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay say he is. Case closed.

Except that it isn't. Not by a longshot.

During Hillier's opening statement, he said that he didn't receive any reports of torture in 2006. If that's true, why was it necessary to change the detainee transfer agreement? He even contradicted himself about who the detainees were. They weren't just "farmers", he maintained - then saying that, okay, maybe some of them were farmers but the military let them go. Or they were "farmers by day, Taliban by nite".

Between Harper and his various denialists, there are holes big enough to drive a truck through.

Related:

Colvin says he sent torture reports to minister's office

and...

Canadians tend to believe Colvin: poll

A Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey released Wednesday suggests twice as many Canadians believe Colvin's testimony than believe, as the government states, that he lacks credibility.

The survey found 51 per cent of respondents believed Colvin's statement that prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers to Afghan authorities were likely abused and that the government knew of the problem.

Twenty-five per cent said they believed the Harper government's assertion that Colvin's claims are flimsy.
Update:

Colvin testimony on detainee torture 'ludicrous': Hillier

Feds bar whistleblower diplomat from handing over torture documents to MPs

but...

Evan Solomon on CBC this afternoon reports that Colvin's lawyer said today that Colvin will give the documents he has to the committee - obviously risking the legal sanctions the Harper government has threatened him with.
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Diane Finley Lies About Child Poverty Rates



Faced with opposition questions during QP today about the abhorrent fact that child poverty is still a major problem in Canada, minister for HR and Skills Development, Diane Finley, stated that the child poverty rate is half of what it was under the Liberals.

Wrong.

OTTAWA — Some 637,000 Canadian children are still living in low-income families, 20 years after Ed Broadbent and other federal politicians unanimously agreed to end child poverty, according to a new report.

The rate of child and family poverty has gone down only slightly over the past 20 years, to 9.5 per cent in 2007 from 11.9 per cent in 1989 — a "national disgrace, " the former NDP leader says.

The 2009 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada, released by the national awareness group Campaign 2000, says the most recent figure is 637,000 Canadian children who live in a family where a majority of money is spent on necessities such as food, clothing and shelter.

Despite what anti-poverty advocates call an unprecedented period of growth since 1998, Canada has failed to make advances to alleviate a problem which affects one in 10 children in this country.
It seems Ms Finley needs to develop her math skills.
 

The 'no-good bastards' of Nova Scotia


Ouch.

OTTAWA — If anyone ever stops Nova Scotia farmers from hiring migrant labourers to harvest their crops, they would destroy a lot of businesses because unemployed Nova Scotians don’t want those jobs, says Gerald Keddy, the Conservative MP for South Shore-St. Margarets.

"Nova Scotians won’t do it — all those no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk in Halifax that can’t get work," Mr. Keddy said Monday.
Queue the forced apology.
 

Torture: Layton Takes a Swipe at Ignatieff


From Monday's Question Period:

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to this whole question of torture, unlike other party leaders, we are not going to stand for denying of the evidence. We are not going to cover up the truth. We are not going to write books justifying torture in any way, shape or form. Nothing can justify torture and nothing can justify the full-scale denial mode that we see from the Conservatives right now.

Why will the government not do the right thing and launch a public inquiry, as we have called for, so that we will have all the facts on the table?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Torture in Afghanistan: The Coverup Continues


This is all very simple: if Peter MacKay wants to be believed when he says that no Afghan detainees handed over to Afghan authorities by the Canadian military were victims of torture, he needs to release all of the relevant documents to prove his assertion. As long as he refuses to do so, he and his Conservative government don't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

(And they certainly don't deserve to be cut any slack, no matter what Chantal Hebert thinks. Is anybody out there denying that this "mess" started with the Liberals? No. I didn't think so.)

Peter MacKay can't have it both ways - but he'll definitely keep trying. He and his Con buddies have spent days smearing Richard Colvin and insisting that he couldn't prove that there were any "credible" allegations of detainee abuse. Yet, here's what MacKay admitted today when his back was against the wall because of General Natynczyk's weekend revelations:

"Most recently the reason that the transfers stopped was that the Afghan officials were not living up to ... expectations," MacKay said during question period in the House of Commons.

He told Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff that the government acted as soon as "credible allegations came to our attention."
Meanwhile, Colvin is unable to properly defend himself.

As he stated during his opening statement last week:

In October 2007, I left Afghanistan and started a new job in Washington, D.C. In April 2009, I was subpoenaed by the Military Police Complaints Commission. In response, DFAIT, in collaboration with the Department of Justice, took three significant steps.

First, they’ve made it very difficult for me to access legal counsel. This ongoing problem has still not been resolved.

Second, DFAIT and the Department of Justice, again working together, blocked my access to my own reports from Afghanistan. I was told, “We will decide which of your reports you require.” I was given none of them.

Third, government lawyers have threatened me under section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act. This had the effect of placing me in an impossible position. If I refuse to co-operate with the MPCC subpoena, I could be jailed for up to six months, but I did co-operate under section 38 I could be jailed for up to five years.

When this warning was sent, DFAIT and the Department of Justice, again acting together, were still withholding approval for legal counsel, depriving me of legal advice and protections.
So, MacKay is free to strut and crow while Colvin remains under threat from a government that absolutely refuses to allow the man to back up his testimony with actual evidence.

This is democracy? This is Canada?

With General Hillier set to invoke the Alberto Gonzales "I don't recall" defense when he testifies this Wednesday, followed by an emergency damage control effort by David Mulroney who has requested to appear as well, the Cons will continue to dig in their obstructionist heels as they attempt to hide the truth.

The lingering question is why?

And the only obvious answer is that they can't afford to let that truth be known. And not for Canada's sake - as they continue to insist. This is all about politics. Human rights be damned.
 

Chris Matthews vs Bishop Thomas Tobin on Abortion

Chris Matthews, like a broken clock, can be right twice a day too.

Watch as he takes on Bishop Tobin, who Patrick Kennedy says barred him from taking communion due to his pro-choice stance.


 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quote du Jour: Free the Journalists!


Today's news from the Department of Hypocrisy is brought to you by:

"Our government does not tell journalists what to say, or attempt to intimidate those with whom it disagrees," he [Stephen Harper] said.

"Instead we believe strongly that Canadians' freedom is enhanced when journalists are free to pursue the truth, to shine light into dark corners, and to assist the process of holding governments accountable."

Shortly after making the speech and handing out awards, Harper was whisked through the black curtains behind the stage without taking media questions.
Flashback.

New governments tend to exercise tight control over their message, at least initially. In that respect Harper's no different.

But veteran Hill reporter Hugh Winsor says something is different under Harper.

"Other Prime Ministers have always accepted the press, but Harper's essentially said, 'Fuck you'," he explains.

Tom Flanagan, Harper's 2004 campaign manager and 2006 campaign editor general, says that Harper's fine without the Gallery.

"The Press Gallery is a bunch of self-important, preening prima donnas who think they're crucial because they're stationed in Ottawa and they've watched All the President's Men too many times."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quote du Jour: Man Without a Conscience


Hillier minimizes detainee abuse:

Mr. Hillier derisively compared the political uproar that surrounded Mr. Colvin's parliamentary testimony to people “howling at the moon” and said nobody ever raised torture concerns with him during the 2006-2007 period in question.

“I don't remember reading a single one of those cables [from Mr. Colvin] ... He doesn't stick out in my mind,” Mr. Hillier said of the diplomat's warnings and criticism.

“He appears to have covered an incredibly broad spectrum, much of which I'm not sure he's qualified to talk about.”

The former soldier rejected suggestions Canada was “complicit in any war crimes” – saying Ottawa had a responsible system in place. He also played down the fact Afghan prisoners got hurt in jails.

“Even in our own prisons [in Canada] somebody can get beaten up. We know that.”

- The Globe and Mail
At least he didn't call it "fraternity hazing".

But let's get real: the man is lying to cover his ass:

Retired general Rick Hillier, who led Canada's 2006 military foray into southern Afghanistan, joined the Conservatives in dismissing Mr. Colvin's story. He told a Toronto audience Thursday night that he can't recall ever coming across reports from the diplomat, who was a senior Foreign Affairs staffer in Afghanistan for 17 months.
From the Globe and Mail, April 2007:

The Harper government knew from its own officials that prisoners held by Afghan security forces faced the possibility of torture, abuse and extrajudicial killing, The Globe and Mail has learned.

But the government has eradicated every single reference to torture and abuse in prison from a heavily blacked-out version of a report prepared by Canadian diplomats in Kabul and released under an access to information request.

Initially, the government denied the existence of the report, responding in writing that "no such report on human-rights performance in other countries exists." After complaints to the Access to Information Commissioner, it released a heavily edited version this week.

Among the sentences blacked out by the Foreign Affairs Department in the report's summary is "Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common," according to full passages of the report obtained independently by The Globe.

The Foreign Affairs report, titled Afghanistan-2006; Good Governance, Democratic Development and Human Rights, was marked "CEO" for Canadian Eyes Only. It seems to remove any last vestige of doubt that the senior officials and ministers knew that torture and abuse were rife in Afghan jails.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peter MacKay is Lying About Detainee Abuse


Via the CBC:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay defended his government Thursday in the face of claims that detainees in Afghanistan were routinely abused by Afghan authorities after being handed over by Canadian soldiers.

"There has not been a single, solitary proven allegation of abuse involving a transferred Taliban prisoner by Canadian forces," MacKay said Thursday in the House of Commons.

His comments came a day after Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat with Canada's Afghanistan mission, dropped a political bombshell on Parliament, alleging that suspects handed over by Canada to Afghan authorities were tortured, and that the government was at best indifferent and at worst tried to cover it up.
Flashback to May, 2007:

Federal opposition parties continued to hammer the Harper government yesterday over the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan after revelations that the Afghan police beat up a detainee given to them by the Canadian Forces.

Colonel Steven Noonan, a former task-force commander in Afghanistan, disclosed the incident in a Federal Court affidavit that forms part of the government's response to a legal challenge by Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association to stop all further detainee transfers.

Col. Noonan's sworn evidence was cited by the opposition in Question Period to demonstrate that the Conservative government was far from telling the truth when its members repeatedly denied that they had no specific examples that any detainee transferred by Canadian troops to Afghan authorities was later subject to abuse or torture.
The Canadian military responded by accusing Noonan of lying under oath and then they shut down the story based on "national security" concerns.

And if the Conservatives had any credibility whatsoever, they'd relish the chance to have a public inquiry considering that detainee abuse was also alleged to have occured under the previous Liberal government as well.

This, from the Globe and Mail in 2007:

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Afghans detained by Canadian soldiers and sent to Kandahar's notorious jails say they were beaten, whipped, starved, frozen, choked and subjected to electric shocks during interrogation.

In 30 face-to-face interviews with men recently captured in Kandahar province, a Globe and Mail investigation has uncovered a litany of gruesome stories and a clear pattern of abuse by the Afghan authorities who work closely with Canadian troops, despite Canada's assurances that the rights of detainees are protected.

Canadian forces regularly hold detainees for a few days of questioning at Kandahar Air Field, then give them to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's feared intelligence police. Over and over, detainees described how Canadians tied their hands with plastic straps, marking the start of nightmarish journeys through shadowy jails and blood-spattered interrogation rooms.
And it's no wonder that Hillier is denying allegations now being made by Colvin since Hillier and former Defence minister Gordon O'Connor allegedly committed war crimes.

This government cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Neither can the military.

It's long past the time for an independent public inquiry.

Related:

Wiki's Canadian Afghan detainee abuse scandal timeline.
 

Karzai's Second Chance

Via The Independent:

Karzai set to sacrifice lambs, not wolves

Afghanistan's beleaguered President Hamid Karzai makes his inauguration speech tomorrow [Thursday], acutely aware that his disgruntled international backers will be poring over it for signs that he intends to mend his ways. But while he may carry out a cull of ministers, diplomats are expecting them to be minor sacrificial lambs rather than the worst offenders.

Mr Karzai's two running mates are expected to be confirmed as his vice-presidents: Muhammed Qasim Fahim, accused of drug trafficking, and Abdul Karim Khalili, charged in a human rights report with alleged war crimes.

...

Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, who US President Barack Obama has declared should be investigated over the killings of thousands of Taliban prisoners, is unlikely to face any charges as he delivered a large portion of the Uzbek vote to Mr Karzai. Indeed, the former Northern Alliance commander, who once reportedly killed opponents by crushing them with his tanks, felt confident enough about his position to return from semi-exile in Turkey to congratulate the Afghan president on his victory.

Critics point out that Mr Karzai will be annointed president in the same week that a new report showed Afghanistan slipping down the corruption ranks to second from bottom.
Back in January, just days after Obama's inauguration, The Independent reported that Obama was ready to "cut Karzai adrift". That's obviously not going to happen any time soon. Obama decided to send 17,000 troops to Afghanistan last February "to help stabilize the situation there in preparation for new elections" - elections so fixed that Karzai's main challenger Abdullah Abdullah refused to eventually participate in the runoff.

Hillary Clinton, in Kabul for Karzai's inauguration, said that she's pleased with his promises:

"I was very pleased to hear today when President Karzai said that he hopes that within three years, the Afghan security forces will have the lead in important areas and within five years [the length of his second term] -- which is an ambitious goal, but he stated it -- the Afghan security forces would have the lead throughout the country."
Quite the pipe dream.

Meanwhile, according to a new Oxfam report:

Seventy per cent of Afghans surveyed see poverty and unemployment as the major cause of the conflict in their country, according to new research by international aid agency Oxfam and a group of Afghan organisations. Ordinary Afghans blame government weakness and corruption as the second most important factor behind the fighting, with the Taliban coming third, followed by interference by neighboring countries.

The survey of 704 Afghans from across the country reveals:

* one in six Afghans are currently considering leaving Afghanistan;
* one in five Afghans have been tortured since the wars began in 1979;
* three quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes since then.
While Obama takes his time to decide what to do about the war, American weariness grows - in the polls and within the military:

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — President Barack Obama drew repeated cheers and applause during a speech to U.S. troops here Thursday — except when he mentioned that some may deploy once again to a war zone.

Wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie, Obama spoke of service in Iraq and Afghanistan to about 1,500 servicemembers who stood 25-deep in a high-ceilinged warehouse draped with camouflage netting.

“You volunteered in a time of war, knowing that you could be sent into harm’s way,” the president said. “Many of you served in Iraq.”

The comment brought applause and affirmative shouts of “Hoo-ah!”

“Others among you served in Afghanistan.”

More applause and hoo-ahs.

“… Others among you will deploy yet again,” he said.

This time, barely three or four people in the crowd made sounds of approval, then quickly fell silent.
NATO has reportedly decided to delay talks about Afghanistan until Obama's plans are revealed.

'Liberation was just a big lie'
Outspoken Afghan MP says Canadian mission is a big waste of time


Karzai has vowed to launch anti-corruption investigations under pressure from Washington. But, Joya insists, Canada is wasting blood and treasure on keeping his government in power.

"Canada should pull its troops out now," she said in Toronto on Wednesday, where she was promoting her book A Woman Among Warlords, co-written with Canadian peace activist Derrick O'Keefe.

And, she says, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is considering a surge in troop levels to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban, should think again.

"The United States should go, too. As long as foreign troops are in the country we will be fighting two enemies instead of one."

Yes, she says, there is a risk of civil war, as happened when the Soviet Union gave up the fight against U.S.-backed Afghan Islamists 20 years ago. But it would still be better than "night raids, torture and aerial bombardment" that killed hundreds of Afghan civilians while the Taliban made steady gains.

"Liberation was just a big lie." Joya believes Afghans are now better prepared to battle the Taliban alone – if the warlords are disarmed, and the international community helps build a society that can push back against extremism.

It is a tall order, she admits. But "resistance has increased, and people are becoming more aware of democracy and human rights. They need humanitarian and educational support."

But not, she adds, at the point of a gun.
Related:

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Human Rights Watch: US: Reform Afghanistan Detention Policy