Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Opposition parties abet cover up of Canada’s Afghan war crimes

May 22, 2010

By Keith Jones,, May 21, 2010

Late last week Canada’s three parliamentary opposition parties and the minority Conservative government reached an “agreement in principle” to give a tiny number of specially vetted MPs uncensored access to all documents pertaining to the fate of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Afghan detainees.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper—whose government has repeatedly run roughshod over basic democratic rights and norms, including twice making use of the arbitrary powers of the unelected Governor-General to temporarily shut down parliament—joined the opposition in hailing the agreement as good for democracy.

Continues >>

Torture: The Transfers of Afghan Prisoners

December 24, 2009
Letter to Canada’s House of Commons

by Lawyers Against the War, Monday, December 21, 2009

Open letter to the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan

Dear Committee Members:

Chair: Rick Casson, Vice-chair: Bryon Wilfert, Members: Jim Abbott, Ujjal Dosanjh, Francine Lalonde, Claude Bachand, Laurie Hawn, Dave MacKenzie, Paul Dewar, Greg Kerr, Deepak Obhrai:

Lawyers against the War (LAW) urges the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan to recommend:

The immediate cessation of transfers of people taken prisoner in Afghanistan (prisoners) by Canada, to third countries, including Afghanistan; and,

That Canada immediately undertake effective protective and remedial measures with respect to all prisoners already transferred by Canada to third countries; and,

The creation of a judicial inquiry mandated to inquire into allegations that the transfers violate Canadian and international law and to recommend the civil and criminal remedies required by law.

Continues >>

George Galloway tours U.S. for Palestine

April 30, 2009

By Aaron Moore and Jacqueline Moore | Socialist Worker, April 28, 2009

GARDEN GROVE, Calif.–“With controversy comes interest, and with interest comes more support.” These are words that British MP George Galloway must be intimately familiar with. His support of the Palestinian cause is not the only brush with controversy that Galloway was referring to at an Al Awda event drawing some 1,000 people on April 7.

Galloway is well-known as an unflinching supporter of social justice causes that are often considered to be politically unpalatable to his colleagues. He has also challenged the government’s policies on Iraq, arguing that “Iraq is not separate from the question of Palestine,” and has written a biographical portrait of Fidel Castro.

What you can do

For more information on Viva Palestina and to read about the tour, visit their Web site.

Banned from scheduled speaking events in Canada due to “national security concerns,” this was Galloway’s last speaking appearance on his latest tour of North America. After an introduction by Al Awda co-founder Zahi Damuni, Galloway started his lecture with a description of how he became active in the Palestinian cause in the 1970s, and the events that took place along the route of his Viva Palestina project.

The Viva Palestina project succeeded in bringing over £1 million in aid to Gaza in February, after making stops throughout Europe and Africa. One theme of his talk was that common citizens are generally in support of the Palestinian cause once they hear the truth about the illegal Israeli occupation. He explained how he became involved in the issue after listening to a Palestinian activist.

Galloway noted the turning tide of public opinion toward a desire to end the occupation and reach peace. “There’s a new atmosphere in the U.S. over Palestine,” he said. “The phenomenal response to this tour demonstrates that.”

He argued that activists shouldn’t settle for a two-state peace solution, but should instead demand a one-state solution where people of all ethnicities and religions can dwell together in peace with equal rights for all.

He argued that Israel has “spent its entire bank of public support” during its recent 22-day assault and ongoing siege on Gaza. Galloway condemned Israel for “[taking] the precautions of locking all the doors,” giving the population of Gaza nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the violence of the assault.

Galloway emphasized the gravity of the current situation in Gaza under the siege, and condemned the lack of media attention it has been getting: “At least when they were being bombed, they were in the news. Now they suffer in silence.” He also condemned the lack of support from surrounding Arab nations, specifically Egypt, stating, “This is an Arab siege, unless Egypt is no longer a country.”

He went on to announce plans to launch Viva Palestina USA, a convoy modeled after Europe’s to cross the Egyptian border into Gaza with aid from Americans. He said it would be co-led by Vietnam veteran and long-time peace activist Ron Kovic, who was also present at the event. The convoy would leave on July 4, as a symbolic gesture to acknowledge that Gaza’s right to self-determination is as significant as America’s

Kenney can’t censor this interview: George Galloway speaks

March 31, 2009
One way or another, George Galloway will be heard in Canada — he is scheduled to speak in Toronto on Monday, Mar. 30 — despite the ban on him entering the country. On Sunday, a diverse range of groups supporting free speech will challenge his ban in a court hearing.

Even if this fails, Galloway’s speech will be broadcast live to audiences across the country; by his own estimation, the British Member of Parliament will be heard by “audiences probably a hundred times greater” than if Minister Jason Kenney had not upheld the decision to keep him out of Canada on “security grounds.” Am Johal caught up with Galloway, who is currently on a speaking tour in the United States.

Am Johal: The Harper government in Canada seems to have politicized the bureaucracy in making this highly irrational decision to ban you from Canada. It’s an unprecedented attack on free speech in Canada given you are an elected MP from Britain. What do you make of the Harper government’s motivation for doing this?

George Galloway: You know you can be more Catholic than the Pope, more discredited than George Bush but you can’t be more anti-terrorist than the U.S.A. Yet the Canadian government has managed it. I’m allowed into the United States to move freely and talk to massive audiences — swelled I’m sure by the Canadian ban — but I can’t get into your country. At least that’s the state of play now. Our court case challenging this ban is due to be heard on Sunday.

I’m a Scotsman and Canada and my country have such historical links that it’s a bit like being turned away from your own home. This is obviously a political move by an ultra-right wing government at the fag end of its term and I can only think that this is some attempt by Jason Kenney to stake out the far-right territory — so far-right they’re just a tiny angry blip in the distance for himself. What he has done is to boost the audiences for my speeches and I will be heard, either in person or by interactive video link. At the last count 20 cities wanted the feed.

The irony in this whole affair is that I have never been a supporter of Hamas. But they are the elected government of Palestine and no country can attempt to impose the kind of government they favour on another people in the way that my country, yours and the United States want to.

AJ: It is strange that you are allowed in to the U.S., but not in to Canada. This really undermines Canada’s reputation in the world as an enlightened nation. The Conservatives have proven that they are troglodytes. What message would you like to send to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney?

GG: There’s nothing I could say to either of them that wouldn’t be coruscating and deeply insulting. But I’d only do that face-to-face, so that must remain private. I rather suspect, though, that when I do meet up with them they will be much diminished politicians — is that possible? — and in opposition.

AJ: You have remarked in your recent speeches about the right-wing turn in Israeli politics, particularly the rise of Avigdor Lieberman who openly supports the ethnic transfer of Israel’s Palestinian citizens. What are the implications of this in the region and what role can the EU play in brokering a peace process, if any?

GG: I think that if Barack Obama cannot broker a deal between Palestine and Israel there’s no point in closing Guantanamo. Indeed he’ll have to open a hundred Guantanamos because the region will erupt.

The previous Israeli government launched the 22-day offensive on Gaza to win the election and still the Israeli people reject them for others who want even bloodier torment visited on the people. I’m deeply pessimistic. Only Obama can reign-in these blood-crazed politicians. The EU has not and never will have influence. America keeps Israel afloat financially and militarily. Winning the war for the mind of Obama is the principal task.

AJ: What do you make of Tony Blair in his role as a Mideast envoy for the Quartet?

GG: Not since Caligula made his horse pro-consul of Rome has there been such a ridiculous choice as Tony Blair, the war criminal, as Quartet envoy.

AJ: There are legal challenges moving forward and numerous campaigns to support your upcoming visit to Canada. If you are not allowed in, how do you intend to keep fighting the Harper government?

GG: I will be allowed in. If not now in the near future because I’ve visited Canada many times and I have faith in the eminent good sense of Canadian citizens. If not this time then I will broadcast by satellite link to audiences probably a hundred times greater than I would have down there. So I suppose I should be grateful to Kenney.

AJ: What do you think of Canada’s role in Afghanistan?

GG: The Canadian people with their magnificent shows of strength prevented Canada becoming embroiled in the Iraq catastrophe. I’m afraid that there is no winning in Afghanistan, not militarily certainly, many have tried and none succeeded. I’m afraid many wives, mothers and children will be grieving in the months to come. We have no right intervening in another country’s affairs and that will be my message in my speeches.

Am Johal is a Vancouver-based independent writer.

Canada’s hypocrisy: George W. Bush permitted, George Galloway banned

March 22, 2009

by Lech Biegalski |

Global Research, March 21, 2009

March to War

Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything

On March 17, 2009, George W. Bush was allowed to enter Canada and give a speech to the business community in Calgary. His arrival was accepted by the Canadian government which completely ignored the
Letter to the RCMP issued by the Lawyers Against the War organization.

On March 21, 2009, the BBC reported, “George Galloway, a British member of Parliament, has been banned from Canada on security grounds. /…/ British media reported the decision was due to his views on Afghanistan and the presence of Canadian troops there.”

Shortly after George Galloway was denied entry to Canada to speak at an anti-war event in Toronto, The Canadian Press reported that several organizations expressed their appreciation of the government’s decision:

“The Canadian Jewish Congress quickly issued a statement commending the government for its decision.

“We applaud the Canadian government for keeping George Galloway, a man who thrives on his support of terrorists, out of Canada,” said CJC Co-President Sylvain Abitbol.

“George Galloway publicly brags about his moral and, in some cases financial, support for internationally recognized terrorist organizations including Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban. He proudly flaunts his own nation’s laws and dares Western states to prosecute him for his support of terrorists. He is clearly a risk to Canadians,” he added.

“B’nai Brith Canada also endorsed the government’s action.”

Bernie Farber, the CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, was available for an interview on the Sympatico MSN Network. Farber described Galloway as a supporter of “terrorism.” By quoting Galloway’s statements out of political context and by presenting Hamas and Hezbollah as “terrorist organizations” out of historical context, Farber has shown a very limited ability to indoctrinate his audience. Using President Obama’s words, “The only place that might work is at Hollywood.”

According to The Canadian Press, the organizers of the event expressed an opposite opinion:

“This is a full frontal attack on free speech in Canada, and one that all supporters of civil liberties must challenge,” said James Clark from the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War.

“Kenney’s ban is an unprecedented move to censor someone whose views are critical of our own government’s foreign policy. We will not accept this ban, and we plan on challenging it.”

The political reaction was divided:

In Winnipeg, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he didn’t agree with Galloway’s views.

“We let into Canada all kinds of people who say ridiculous and absurd things and Galloway has said his share of ridiculous and absurd things. The issue … is whether the security services know something about George Galloway that I don’t,” he said.

“The minister of immigration is becoming the minister of censorship,” NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow said. “We don’t have to agree with everything Mr. Galloway talks about.

“But, at bare minimum, they should be allowed to express their points of view so Canadians can make decisions themselves. This is pure censorship and it’s wrong.”

George Galloway has been an outspoken peace activist, an opponent of the war in Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan, the occupation of Palestine, and the Israeli massacres in Lebanon and Gaza.

For the record, here is what George Galloway really stands for:

Continued >>

Canada should bar or prosecute Bush: lawyer

March 13, 2009
Foreign Affairs stays silent on upcoming Calgary visit

As George W. Bush’s St. Patrick’s Day visit to Calgary draws near, the federal government is facing pressure from activists and human rights lawyers to bar the former U.S. president from the country or prosecute him for war crimes and crimes against humanity once he steps on Canadian soil.

Bush is scheduled to speak at the Telus Convention Centre March 17, but Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson says that because Bush has been “credibly accused” of supporting torture in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Canada has a legal obligation to deny him entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The law says foreign nationals who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, including torture, are “inadmissible” to Canada.

”The test isn’t whether the person’s been convicted, but whether there’s reasonable grounds to think that they have been involved,” says Davidson, who’s with Lawyers Against the War (LAW). “…It’s now a matter of public record that Bush was in charge of setting up a regime of torture that spanned several parts of the globe and resulted in horrendous injuries and even death. Canada has a duty.”

In February, Davidson sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other cabinet ministers asking the Canadian government to either bar Bush from Canada, prosecute him once he arrives, or have the federal attorney general consent to a private prosecution by LAW against the Texan. She hasn’t received a response, and concedes she’s fighting “an uphill battle” with “terrific challenges.” Davidson laid torture charges against Bush during his visit to Vancouver in 2004, but a judge quashed them within days.

The federal government is keeping silent on the upcoming visit. “We have no comments to offer on the visit of Mr. George W. Bush to Calgary,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alain Cacchione in an e-mail to Fast Forward. When told about Davidson’s letter, a spokesperson with the Canadian Border Services Agency said “we wouldn’t comment on something like that.”

Davidson is one of many voices around the world calling for Bush’s prosecution. Earlier this year, Manfred Nowak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, said the U.S. has a “clear obligation” to prosecute Bush and former secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld for authorizing torture — a violation of the UN Convention on Torture. “Obviously the highest authorities in the United States were aware of this,” Nowak told a German TV station in January.

Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director for Human Rights Watch, says that while there’s legally “all the reason in the world” to prosecute decision-makers in the Bush administration, “it’s a different story” politically. “The Obama administration certainly has not given much in the way of encouraging signals for such a prosecution,” says Mariner, who’s based in New York. “Obama has consistently said that he wants to look forward.” Mariner says that while a U.S. justice department investigation is unlikely, a congressional investigation is more probable — and “that could lead to recommendations for prosecution.”

Mariner’s not expecting a Canadian prosecution against Bush. “Obviously the Canadian government would have to be in favour of it, and that seems rather unlikely,” she says.

Calgary activists, meanwhile, are organizing a number of events for the week of Bush’s visit, culminating in a noontime rally outside the Telus Convention Centre during Bush’s speech. “We want to give him the welcome that he deserves — which is we want him to go back to the States, or we want him arrested,” says organizer Collette Lemieux. Activist Julie Hrdlicka, who visited Iraq twice during the American occupation, agrees. “We need to send a clear message to him that he’s not welcome,” she says.

Lemieux is hopeful that Bush will eventually be prosecuted. “Do I think that it’s going to happen very soon? No,” she says. “But I think that it’s very important that we keep the pressure up…. We have to make it clear that there’s accountability.”

The Plaza Theatre, meanwhile, is screening three Bush-themed documentaries for a “Bush Bash Film Fest” the night of the visit. Half the box office proceeds will go to the United Way.

Obama’s Coalition of the Unwilling

March 5, 2009

by Amy Goodman |, March 3, 2009

President Barack Obama met recently with the prime ministers of Canada and Britain. This week’s meeting with Britain’s Gordon Brown, who was pitching a “global New Deal,” created a minor flap when the White House downsized a full news conference to an Oval Office question-and-answer session, viewed by some in Britain as a snub. The change was attributed to the weather, with the Rose Garden covered with snow.It might have actually related not to snow cover, but to a snow job, covering up the growing divide between Afghanistan policies.

U.S. policy in Afghanistan includes a troop surge, already under way, and continued bombing in Pakistan using unmanned drones. Escalating civilian deaths are a certainty. The United Nations estimates that more than 2,100 civilians died in 2008, a 40 percent jump over 2007.

The occupation of Afghanistan is in its eighth year, and public support in many NATO countries is eroding. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, told me: “The move into Afghanistan is going to be very expensive. … Our European NATO partners are getting disillusioned with the war. I talked to a lot of the people in Europe, and they really feel this is a quagmire.”

Forty-one nations contribute to NATO’s 56,000-troop presence in Afghanistan. More than half of the troops are from the U.S. The United Kingdom has 8,300 troops, Canada just under 3,000. Maintaining troops is costly, but the human toll is greater. Canada, with 108 deaths, has suffered the highest per capita death rate for foreign armies in Afghanistan, since its forces are based in the south around Kandahar, where the Taliban is strong.

Last Sunday on CNN, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “We’re not going to win this war just by staying … we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine: “The United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory.” Yet it’s Canada that has set a deadline for troop withdrawal at the end of 2011. The U.S. is talking escalation.

Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, described the situation on the ground: “A lot of Afghans that I speak to in these southern areas where the fighting has been happening say that to bring more troops, that’s going to mean more civilian casualties. It’ll mean more of these night raids, which have been deeply unpopular amongst Afghans. … Whenever American soldiers go into a village and then leave, the Taliban comes and attacks the village.” Afghan Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai, a woman, told Gopal: “Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don’t send more troops-it will just bring more violence.”

Women in Afghanistan play a key role in winning the peace. A photographer wrote me: “There will be various celebrations across Afghanistan to honor International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8. In Kandahar there will be an event with hundreds of women gathering to pray for peace, which is especially poignant in a part of Afghanistan that is so volatile.” After returning from an international women’s gathering in Moscow, feminist writer Gloria Steinem noted that the discussion centered around getting the media to hire peace correspondents to balance the war correspondents. Voices of civil society would be amplified, giving emphasis to those who wage peace. In the U.S. media, there is an equating of fighting the war with fighting terrorism. Yet on the ground, civilian casualties lead to tremendous hostility. Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, recently told me: “I’ve been saddened and shocked by virulent anti-American responses to those wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan]. They’re seen as occupations. … I think it’s very important we learn from mistakes of sounding war drums.” She added, “There’s such a connection from the Middle East to Afghanistan to Pakistan which builds on strengths of working with neighbors.”

Barack Obama was swept through the primaries and into the presidency on the basis of his anti-war message. Prime ministers like Brown and Harper are bending to growing public demand for an end to war. Yet in the U.S., there is scant debate about sending more troops to Afghanistan, and about the spillover of the war into Pakistan.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Canadian General Defends Afghanistan Night Raids

December 26, 2008

Incursions necessary in battle against Taliban, general says in response to scathing rights report

by Steve Rennie |

KANDAHAR – Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan confirmed his forces raid the homes of suspected Taliban militants after nightfall, a controversial practice that some say stokes anger and resentment among ordinary Afghans against foreign troops.

[In this handout picture from the U.S. Navy, a U.S. Marine prepares to conduct a raid at a suspected al-Qaeda group hideout in Afghanistan on Jan. 1, 2002. (AP Photo)]In this handout picture from the U.S. Navy, a U.S. Marine prepares to conduct a raid at a suspected al-Qaeda group hideout in Afghanistan on Jan. 1, 2002. (AP Photo)

Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of Task Force Kandahar, said yesterday that while he is “philosophically against such raids,” the nighttime incursions are necessary in the coalition’s battle against a persistent insurgency.”There’s nothing worse than busting into somebody’s house in the middle of the night,” he said.

“However, in the cases where we actually go into a compound, it’s either in self-defence or it’s as a result of a long string of intelligence gathering that has led us to a certain compound.

“And invariably when it comes time to execute the raid, there are no innocent civilians there – there are just bad guys.”

Thompson made the remarks in response to a scathing report released yesterday by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which said lethal air strikes and “abusive” overnight raids by coalition forces threaten to turn Afghans against foreign military forces.

The 55-page report warns that bombings by U.S. and NATO aircraft, along with incursions into civilian houses after dark, could undermine seven years of trying to win over the Afghan people.

“Afghan families experienced their family members killed or injured, their houses or other property destroyed, or homes invaded at night without any perceived justification or legal authorization,” the report says.

“They often did not know who perpetrated the acts against the family or why. To their knowledge and perception, those who perpetrated the acts were never punished nor prevented from repeating them,” the report says.

The night raids frequently involve “abusive behaviour and violent breaking and entry,” which the report says stokes almost as much anger toward coalition forces as the air strikes.

“Afghans in these regions generally know stories of friends or family members who have been awakened in the middle of the night to be tied up, and often abused by a group of armed men,” it says. “Whether individual stories are true or are hearsay is difficult to verify. Nonetheless the prevalence of the stories … suggest these night raids do occur and with some regularity.”

The commission released the report in Kabul, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai was attending a memorial ceremony across town for three Afghans killed in an overnight raid by U.S. forces.

The American military has said its forces killed three “known individuals with Al Qaeda links” during a Dec. 17 raid after the “insurgents” tried to fire on U.S. troops first.

But Afghan officials insist Amir Hassan, 40, his wife and their 14-year-old nephew were innocent civilians. Karzai has called on the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to investigate their deaths.

The commission’s report says night raids occur more frequently in Kandahar province, the Taliban hotbed where the bulk of Canada’s roughly 2,700 troops are stationed, than other areas of Afghanistan.

The report documents four night raids: two in Kandahar, and one each in the provinces of Kabul and Nangarhar.

A common pattern observed during the raids was for armed men to “separate the men from the women in the household, tie up the men, and often take one or more of the men with them when they left.”

The commission says there have been other incidents where the men were simply shot on sight.

“While night searches may in several cases provide significant military intelligence and/or result in the capture of legitimate targets, there are also several cases in which there is significant evidence suggesting that the targeted individuals were not in any way linked to insurgent activities,” the report says.

However, the report did not find evidence of “any systematic patterns of intimidation.”

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2008

Bush’s Willing Accomplice

November 19, 2008

by Linda McQuaig | The Toronto Star, Nov 18, 2008

Isolated, repudiated by his people and even shunned by his own party, George W. Bush – the lamest of lame ducks – still seems able to count on the support of at least one world leader: Stephen Harper.

And so it was on the weekend, as it has so often been in the past two years, that our prime minister provided rare support for Bush as the soon-to-be former president battled against a chorus of world leaders urgently calling for a set of badly needed reforms.

Just as Harper backed Bush’s effort to block global progress on climate change, this time he helped Bush stymie European-led efforts at the G20 summit in Washington to restore regulations to international financial markets.

It was the rollback of these regulations that allowed Wall Street to transform itself into a giant casino where tycoons made billions playing fast and loose with the life savings of ordinary citizens.

Harper’s resistance to European calls for tighter regulations is ironic, since he has the luxury of presiding over a country that’s been spared the worst of the financial meltdown, largely because of the Canadian tradition of tighter domestic financial regulations.

This has allowed Harper to ride out the current financial storm politically unscathed, even gaining re-election in the middle of it.

In fact, although Harper’s record on this has received little attention, his government had started to push Canada down the dangerous road toward looser financial regulation.

In its first budget in 2006, the Harper government changed the rules in ways that effectively opened up the Canadian mortgage market to U.S. insurers. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty noted that these “new players” would bring “greater choice and innovation” to the Canadian mortgage market. Unfortunately, they did just that. They introduced risky products – like mortgages amortized over 40 years with little or no down-payments.

The new mortgages quickly caught on. With their lower monthly payments, they made houses seem more affordable. In reality, however, they dramatically increased the cost of a home, roughly tripling it.

As the implosion of the U.S. housing market provided a vivid example of the pitfalls of looser mortgage regulations, Flaherty finally intervened last summer, tightening CMHC’s rules.

The Harper government has been even more aggressive pushing financial deregulation on developing countries.

Ellen Gould, a Vancouver-based trade consultant, notes that Ottawa has pressed developing nations to open their economies to the “supposedly superior services” offered by the financial institutions of the advanced world.

At the World Trade Organization negotiations in 2006, Canada played a leading role in pushing developing nations to accept rules that would allow their domestic banks and insurance companies to be taken over by foreign financial institutions – like the ones that have been collapsing on Wall Street recently.

The Canadian push for “financial liberalization” predates Harper. It was keenly advocated by Liberal governments as well. But the Harper government has continued to push for this sort of deregulation long after it should have known better, as recently as the WTO ministerial in July 2008.

One can draw solace perhaps from the realization that Canada doesn’t shape the course of world events. Still, it’s disappointing to realize that we’re using what little influence we have at organizations like the G20 to help the exiting Bush administration do this last bit of disservice to the world.

Time to quit Afghanistan

October 7, 2008

Eric Margolis | Edmonton Sun, Oct 5, 2008

At last, a faint glimmer of light at the end of the Afghan tunnel.

Last week, the U.S.-installed Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, revealed he had asked Saudi Arabia to broker peace talks with the alliance of tribal and political groups resisting western occupation collectively known as the Taliban.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar quickly rejected Karzai’s offer and claimed the U.S. was headed toward the same kind of catastrophic defeat in Afghanistan that the Soviet Union met. The ongoing financial panic in North America lent a certain credence to his words.

Meanwhile, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, urgently called for at least 10,000 more troops but, significantly, also proposed political talks with the Taliban. U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan are increasingly on the defensive, hard pressed to defend vulnerable supply lines in spite of massive fire power and total control of the air.

I recently asked Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s former senior adviser, how this seemingly impossible war could be won. His eyes dancing with imperial hubris, Rove replied, “More Predators (missile armed drones) and helicopters!” Which reminded me of poet Hilaire Belloc’s wonderful line about British imperialism, “Whatever happens/we have got/the Maxim gun (machine gun)/and they have not.”

Though Karzai’s olive branch was rejected, the fact he made it public is very important. By doing so, he broke the simple-minded western taboo against negotiations with the Taliban and its allies.


The Taliban was founded as an Islamic religious movement dedicated to fighting communism and the drug trade. It received U.S. funding until May 2001. But western war propaganda has so demonized the Taliban that few politicians have the courage to propose the obvious and inevitable: A negotiated settlement to this pointless seven-year war. Even NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said the war could only be ended by negotiations, not military means.

The Taliban and its allies are mostly Pashtuns (or Pathans), who comprise half of Afghanistan’s population. They have been largely excluded from political power by the U.S.-backed Kabul regime, which relies on Tajik and Uzbek ethnic minorities, chiefs of the old Afghan Communist Party, and the nation’s leading drug lords.

Canada, which lacks funds for modern medical care, has spent a staggering $22 billion to support its little war against the Pashtun tribes. It’s a war which Canada’s defence minister actually claimed is necessary so that Canadian delegates would be “taken seriously” at international meetings. A better path to credibility might be to not plagiarize from other right wing leader’s speeches.

Ottawa and Washington should listen to Karzai who, despite being a U.S.-installed “asset,” is also a decent man who cares about his nation. In fact, Ottawa should remember Canada’s venerable position as an international peacemaker, a role that has made it one of the world’s most respected nations.

Mr. Harper’s role model, George W. Bush, is probably the most disliked man on earth and certainly America’s worst president in history, who has led his nation from disaster to calamity. Only 22% of Americans support Bush. Half of them believe Elvis is still alive.

The Taliban are not “terrorists.” The movement had nothing to do with 9/11 though it did shelter Osama bin Laden, a national hero of the war against the Soviets. Only a handful of al-Qaida are left in Afghanistan.

The current war is not really about al-Qaida and “terrorism,” but about opening a secure corridor through Pashtun tribal territory to export the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Basin to the West. Canada and the rest of NATO have no business being pipeline protection troops. Canada’s military intervention in Afghanistan has jeopardized its national security by putting it on the map as an anti-Muslim nation joined at the hip with Bush and his ruinous policies.

As the great Benjamin Franklin said, “there is no good war, and no bad peace.”

I hope Ottawa will have the courage to admit it was wrong about Afghanistan and bring its troops home — now.

%d bloggers like this: