Archive for the 'Afghanistan' Category

If this is the Tories’ idea of protecting children, I’d hate to see their idea of not protecting them

It’s funny how the Tories will talk the good talk of defending children when it suits their ideologically narrow world view only to turn around and actively exploit even more vulnerable children by having them guard our military assets and killing machines.  It’s of course, not ‘ha ha’ funny, but rather more on the sardonic side.  If this is what protecting children means to the Conservatives, I’d hate to see their definition of not protecting the children.

An excerpt from an article by Thomas Walkom in today’s Toronto Star:

“Back in 2002, Canada signed on to an international treaty aimed at rehabilitating child soldiers.

In fact, Canada was the first to ratify the so-called Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that requires signatories to give special consideration to captured enemy fighters under the age of 18.

The treaty says they are to be segregated from adult combatants. As well, those who capture children must make every effort to reintegrate them into society.


Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and Andy Knight, a University of Alberta political scientist, make the case that, in Afghanistan, Canada is running afoul of the very treaty it once championed.

I first heard the pair on CBC Radio’s The Current. Yesterday, I phoned them up. Attaran, who has been a vocal critic of Canada’s detention policy in Afghanistan, points out that government documents released in a court case last fall show that Canadian troops in Kandahar indeed capture child fighters, only to turn them over to Afghan security forces for what is usually a brutal interrogation.

That, he says, is a clear violation of Canada’s international obligations and – depending on how the children are treated by the Afghans – almost certainly a crime under Canadian law.

Citing press reports, Knight told me that there is also some suggestion of Afghan teenagers being used, with NATO co-operation, to guard military facilities.

A national defence spokesman told me yesterday that the Canadian Forces hand over suspected child insurgents to the Afghan authorities who incarcerate them in a juvenile wing at Kandahar’s main prison.

But the two human rights experts say this isn’t sufficient. They say that when Canadian troops capture children, they should hand them over to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. It operates a rehabilitation centre in the country for former child soldiers and so far has successfully demobilized 7,400.

Confidential documents released as part of a court case brought against the government by Amnesty International point out that Ottawa is well aware of the UNICEF project. Yet none of the minors captured (and thanks to the ongoing federal court case, we know there have been at least three) has ended up there.


“Canada was once at the top of the heap in this regard,” says Attaran. “Now we’re keeping company with those at the bottom.”

As a Marxist, I’m obviously not prone to quoting from the Bible, however one quote does spring to mind:  It’s the Biblical definition of the hypocrite outlined in Matthew 7:4:

“cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then
thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

A progressive counter-ribbon to “support our troops” [pics]

We’ve all seen the annoying “support our troops” ribbons like these ones below. Usually they can be found on the backs of cars of people who supposedly “support out troops” while the rest of us leftist heathens presumably have to be physically restrained from spitting and throwing stones at passing soldiers.

support-our-troops-yellow.PNG support-our-troops-legion.PNG

Or, conversely, there are also variants of these ribbons taken to their tacky and exploitative natural conclusion such as this wonderfully cheesy ribbon which, I kid you not, is actually a real product that some capitalist somewhere came up with:

Seriously, how many clichés can you fit into one image?

Scott Neigh had some interesting points talking about how we on the left can fight back against the right’s jingoistic, vacuous phrase “support our troops”.

While Scott Neigh’s points are definitely worth reading (as are all of his writings, for that matter), he concludes that there aren’t really any good, coherent counter-attacks against the “support our troops” trope. Specifically, Scott points out the problems with the current counter-attack “Support our troops: Bring them home”.

So, with that in mind, I took it upon myself to come up with a unique, concise and coherent counter-attack to the “support our troops” ribbon.

At first, I thought about simply translating the French anti-war ribbons like this one:


(translation: “No to war”)

But then I came up with this idea which is even simpler and hits even closer to the heart of what we on the left, I think, are actually wanting to say.

Most importantly, there’s no way that this ribbon could be more clear. It is, quite simply:



If you’re interested in posting the “stop killing people” ribbon on your blog or website, just copy the following html code and paste it wherever you’d like the image to appear (it won’t link back to this blog or this post).

How to appear tough on terrorism without doing anything

bin-laden.jpgIn a move to appear ‘tough on terrorism’, the Democrats in the U.S. Senate have successfully moved a bill to double the bounty on bin Laden’s head from $25 million to $50 million.

Sounds tough doesn’t it?

I mean, wow, $50 million!

The Democrats must be tough on terrorism since they proposed such a bold strategy to bring bin Laden to his knees.  The Republicans couldn’t even come up with the testicular fortitude to double his bounty.  Right?a-rod.png

Actually, if you put it into perspective, this move by the Democrats is more evidence that they are just as completely ignorant as Republicans and equally as unable to see past their pax americana ideology long enough to offer up any intelligent solutions.

So, to put this into perspective (and, incidentally, speaking of ‘testicular’ fortidue), the New York Yankees paid over $112 million dollars just to acquire Alex “A Rod” Rodriguez (pictured right) from George W. Bush’s own franchise, the Texas Rangers, in 2004.

Anybody with half a mind (which obviously exlcudes most liberals and conservatives alike) would realize that if capitalistic rewards sufficed, bin Laden would have been turned in to the U.S. years ago for a bounty of $87.98. 

(In fact, he was almost turned over to the U.S. government by the Taliban in 2001 but the U.S. refused to accept the offer.)

The fact of the matter is that both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. are so blinded by the ideology of their national mythologies as the “city on the hill” and beakon to the rest of the world that they are incapable of seeing what every socialist and every anarchist and every free-thinker sees as self-evident:  this will have no effect on either the capture of bin Laden or on Islamic terrorism.

To address global terrorism, the U.S. must first stop contributing in terrorist activities themselves and must renounce the title of the world’s leading terrorist supporting state.  Only once the brutal, anti-democratic conditions which create radicalism are removed, will the world have rest from this phenomenon.

$50 million won’t cut it.

Top 13 dumbest comments on the Iraq War ever… and other awards

As most of you will probably be aware, I made a post last week comparing the U.S. to Al Qaeda which generated nearly 450 comments and 14,000 hits.

However, the bulk of these comments were spread out over this blog, facebook, and  So, since I just finally got aroud to reading all of the comments now (my girlfriend and I have been apartment hunting together, so I haven’t had time to blog lately), I figured I’d have some fun and take all of the comments from all websites and come up with a series of awards for the comments generated by this post.

I’m calling it the Paulies and the categories are: Dumbest commentBest commentThe greatest one-post response to a previous comment and, lastly, the greatest overall exchange.

Much like the Oscars, yes, the Paulies are also political (and rigged so that Martin Scorsese can’t win).  And, also like he Oscars, the Academy for the Paulies (i.e., me) considers it an honour just to be nominated.

So, in the first category: greatest overall exchange, the nominees are:

#1)  The exchange between harlon57 and pointman on reddit.
#2)  The exchange between RPJ and Armando on
#3)  The exchange between Scheissen and hagbardceline on

And the winner is…..

The exchange between Scheissen and hagbardceline on! [music]

by Scheissen on 5/28/07 – 4 diggs
Bullshit. This is pure sensationalism propaganda from a socialist (he even has a link to about Marxism!). The United States didn’t and couldn’t cause 1.6 million deaths in seventeen years. And yet that person believes all killing is terrorism. I may have to bookmark this site just to laugh at it.
In recent news,
“U.S. frees 42 al Qaeda kidnap victims in Iraq”

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 + 3 diggs
Ok, so what number would be acceptable then?

by Scheissen on 5/28/07 – 3 diggs
How about not an imaginary inflated number? Let me guess, you’re the same person that believes the U.S. cause 600,000 deaths in the Iraqi war and not the 60,000 number.

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
Don’t take any guesses, you don’t know me.
Way to dodge the question though, sparky. You can try again now.

by Scheissen on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
Who the fuck even said there was an “acceptable number.” Thanks for assuming.

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 + 1 digg
Aww that’s cute. You’ve taken a position you can’t quantify. Adorable.

by Scheissen on 5/28/07  – 3 diggs
You fucking moron, you insult me because I was “guessing” you and you made an assumption question for me to answer when it wasn’t even outlined in my post.

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 + 1 digg
It’s an easy question man, since we are in a thread that addresses it, I thought it might be relevant.
“You fucking moron, you insult me because I was “guessing” you and you made an assumption question for me to answer when it wasn’t even outlined in my post.”
Since that is your submission for a credible thought, no less distinct english, I’ll go ahead and treat your further posts as if it were from a monkey with language.

In the second category: The greatest one-post response to a previous comment, the nominees are:

#1)  EntropyMan on

by wintermd on 5/27/07 – 7 diggs
Dems have a plan for Iraq yet?. They have been in power for how long? No plan yet?

by EntropyMan on 5/28/07 + 4 diggs
There’s wintermd, on queue, with the only words he knows how to say. Is it a keyboard macro at this point? F6 = spout bullshit?

#2)  xTRUMANx on

by wildone on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
Our boys and girls are over there fighting a war with the SOB’S who took 2 air planes and crashed them into the world trade center. Before we got there the women of the country had no rights to anything education, voting, and any other right we Americana’s take for granted everyday. We are not terrorist we are the defenders of freedom. If you cant tell the deference them move your but over there and live in the middle east and see how great the locals are!

by xTRUMANx on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
Actually, I’ve lived in the mid-east for 17 years. And I don’t stay in the U.S. so your argument of, “If you cant tell the deference them move your but over there and live in the middle east and see how great the locals are!” makes you look stupid, which makes your country look stupid (no offense americans, but that guy is making you look dumb). My family and I have enjoyed our stay in the mid east and we have never complained about women’s rights, not that we’re afraid, but we’ve accepted it. I know it may look like people have no rights (to you), nor am I saying there aren’t people in the mid east who want a more western like life, but most of us there enjoy life there and don’t appreciate foreign nations trying to stuff their values down our throats.
As for your boys and girls, whom you say are, “over there fighting a war with the SOB’S who took 2 air planes and crashed them into the world trade center” aren’t doing that in fact. America didn’t go to Iraq over Al-Qaeda and it’s obvious that you have been fed bullshit as to why your “boy and girls” are over there.

#3)  Schwallex from

Jewjr -2 points 6 days ago
The guys mixing apples and oranges comparing terrorism to America. Actions that a government makes are far different then those of a terrorist. The main difference is a government should and can be held accountable for its actions.

Schwallex 11 points 6 days ago
Wait a minute. So, if Osama bin Laden and his followers founded a state of their own, if would be perfectly okay for them to come over and kill 655,000 Americans? You know, they could pretend to bring democracy to your country. And to get rid of your WMD, which you actually have.
“Actions that a government makes are far different then those of a terrorist.”
Well, that’s the entire point. Actions that the current U.S. government makes are not “far different then those of a terrorist”. You haven’t been following the news in the recent years, have you?

#4)  conundri from

(responding to multiple comments that I was deliberatly misconstruing the term ‘terrorism’ to further my ideological/rhetorical/communist goals.)

conundri 3 points 6 days ago
Let me take you back in time, to when the word Terrorism was first coined… It began as government intimidation during the Reign of Terror in France (1793-1794), from the French word terrorisme.
“If the basis of a popular government in peacetime is virtue, its basis in a time of revolution is virtue and terror — virtue, without which terror would be barbaric; and terror, without which virtue would be impotent.” [Robespierre, speech in Fr. National Convention, 1794]
At the time, the French government was routinely using public executions with the guillotine against almost random citizens to perpetuate the state of fear that had brought the new government into power…
Simply redefining a word to not include yourself, or your own group’s actions does not change reality. A government can be terrorist in nature. Some examples might include Tiananmen Square, or even our own Kent State massacre, and I would argue that it is not even necessary for people to be killed in a terrorist act. Mass arrests for political purposes / imprisoning dissidents, or the taking of hostages would be examples of terrorist actions on either side of the line of government that don’t necessarily involve death.
Hope this sheds some light on the discussion from another vantage point…

And the winner is…..

#1)  EntropyMan! [music]

Continue reading ‘Top 13 dumbest comments on the Iraq War ever… and other awards’

Who’s afraid of human rights? Conservatives apparently

amnesty-international.pngI recently came across Sam Carson’s fantastic posts (available here) on the 2007 Amnesty International Report (available here).  If you haven’t taken a look, it’s well worth the read.

In his post (actually it’s a series of posts) Sam draws attention to the sad criticism of Amnesty International by right-wing figures and organizations such as Alan Dershowitz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the U.S.-based Capital Research Center.

I’ve always found Dershowitz et al‘s claims that Amnesty International is biassed to be disingenuous at best and I think Sam’s done a great job bringing this issue to the fore.

Specifically, the intellectually dishonest position of Dershowitz et al needs to have a better airing amongst true progressives so that the absurdity of the right’s claims that Amnesty International is a “political organization” with a bone to pick against the US and is biassed against them by focussing on their human rights abuses — can be once and for all discredited.

This task of discrediting the right-wing’s claims that Amnesty International focusses unduly on the US should be fairly to demonstrate for anybody who has ever read AI’s reports for three reasons.

First, even if there was more material on human rights abuses in the US and the West, this does not negate the validity of actual findings of their reports.  I don’t think anybody (even Dershowitz) goes so far as to claim that AI just makes this stuff up.  So complaining that AI is a political tool with an axe to grind against the US is a little bit like a child who steals a chocolate bar from the corner store, gets caught and then complains that he got spanked when the boy down the street has done worse.  The fact that the boy down the street has done worse has no impact whatsoever on whether or not the first child deserved what he got.

Second, the way Amnesty International has ALWAYS structured their reports — and, come to think about it, the way virtually all NGO reports are structured — is to lead with and emphasize places with the newest and biggest developments in human rights abuses and then, understandably, merely update information on already well-documented, long-standing human rights abuses like those in China or Columbia for instance. 

So since the US is the one creating most of the new and interesting ways to infringe upon human rights since 2002, what the hell do they expect??

Lastly, as Noam Chomsky is fond of saying, ‘whenever you hear something said with great confidence, it’s always a good idea to check first and see whether it is true’.  So, to recap, the claim by the right is that there is undue focus on the United States by Amnesty International and that the US is used as a ‘political punching bag’ by what constitutes an ultimately partisan organization.

If we take a look at the main body of the report (the country by country report) we see the following breakdown in the pages devoted to some key countries.  Out of 242 total pages, Afghanistan takes up about 2 pages, Algeria approximately 3 pages, Bosnia and Herzegovina about 3 pages, China around 3 pages, and the United States — which supposedly has so much undue focus — is tied with Columbia in taking up approximately 4 pages each.

Wow, I guess Amnesty International must really have an axe to grind against the US, eh?

(Oh, and if you think that maybe America is focussed on unduly in other countries’ reports, you’re wrong again.  The word “US” is mentioned approx. 150 times in the 242 page report — excluding the section devoted to the United States — but the vast majority of these occurances are attributable to either the phrase “US-led invasion of Iraq” or to occurances of figures for currency [GDP, foreign aid etc.] which are always given in US dollars.)

So who’s afraid of human rights?  It appears the answer is the United States, Russia, China, the Congo and the Taliban and conservatives.

Well, I guess they keep good company.

The crime against humanity that is Afghanistan

I have a confession to make which may shock many of my readers and even some of my close personal friends.

Many people do things in the hastiness of youth which later goes on to serve as a deep embarrassment for them.

Some get tattoos.

Some experiment with drugs.

I once took out a membership in the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

But, allow me to explain.  I met two-time PC Party leadership Candidate David Orchard on a couple of occasions and even had lunch with him and his long-time friend and advisor Maraleena Repo a few years back during one of his Ottawa trips.

I joined the PC Party (the only party of which I have ever been a member) due in large part to the principled policy positions of Orchard on NAFTA, U.S. foreign policy, Canadian foreign policy and his impressive environmental credentials.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from David Orchard’s brother Grant which contained an Op/Ed piece that Orchard and Professor Michael Mandel have co-written and were disseminating as widely as possible.  As predictable, very few mainstream media are carrying the insightful and well-argued Op/Ed (so far as I can tell, only the Halifax Chronicle Journal carried it).  So, out of respect for the man who once impressed me so much that he got me to actually join the PC Party, I am posting his and Professor Mandel’s Op/Ed here for all to read.


Afghanistan and Iraq: the same war
by David Orchard and Michael Mandel

Four years ago, the U.S. and Britain unleashed war on Iraq, a nearly defenceless Third World country barely half the size of Saskatchewan. For 12 years prior to the invasion and occupation, Iraq had endured almost weekly U.S. and British bombing raids and the toughest sanctions in history, the “primary victims” of which, according to the UN Secretary General, were “women and children, the poor and the infirm.” According to UNICEF, half a million children died from sanctions-related starvation and disease.

Then, in March 2003, the U.S. and Britain ­ possessors of more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world combined ­ attacked Iraq on a host of fraudulent pretexts, with cruise missiles, napalm, white phosphorous, cluster and bunker-buster bombs, and depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

The British medical journal The Lancet published a study last year estimating Iraqi war deaths since 2003 at 655,000, a mind-boggling figure dismissed all too readily by the British and American governments despite widespread scientific approval for its methodology (including the British government’s own chief scientific adviser).

On April 11, 2007, the Red Cross issued a report entitled “Civilians without Protection: the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq.” Citing “immense suffering,” it calls “urgently” for ” respect for international humanitarian law.” Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad, added, “What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq …” The UN estimates two million Iraqis have been “internally displaced;” another two million have fled ­ largely to Syria and Jordan, overwhelming local infrastructure.

An attack such as that on Iraq, neither in self-defence nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council, is, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal that condemned the Nazis, “the supreme international crime.” According to the Tribunal’s chief prosecutor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, such a war is simply mass murder.

Most Canadians are proud that Canada refused to invade Iraq. But when it comes to Afghanistan, we hear the same jingoistic bluster we heard about Iraq four years ago. As if Iraq and Afghanistan were two separate wars, and Afghanistan is the good war, the legal and just war. In reality, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same war.

That’s how the Bush administration has seen Afghanistan from the start; not as a defensive response to 9-11, but the opening for regime change in Iraq (as documented in Richard A. Clarke’s Against all Enemies). That’s why the Security Council resolutions of September 2001 never mention Afghanistan, much less authorize an attack on it. That’s why the attack on Afghanistan was also a supreme international crime, which killed at least 20,000 innocent civilians in its first six months. The Bush administration used 9-11 as a pretext to launch an open-ended so-called “war on terror” ­ in reality, a war of terror because it kills hundreds of times more civilians than the other terrorists do.

That the Karzai regime was subsequently set up under UN auspices doesn’t absolve the participants in America’s war, and that includes Canada. Nor should the fact that Canada now operates under the UN authorized International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mislead anyone. From the start, ISAF put itself at the service of the American operation, declaring “the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force” (UNSC Document S/2001/1217). When NATO took charge of ISAF, that didn’t change anything. NATO forces are always ultimately under U.S. command. The “Supreme Commander” is always an American general, who answers to the U.S. president.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan not only take orders from the Americans, they help free up more U.S. forces to continue their bloody occupation of Iraq.

When the U.S. devastated Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1961-1975), leaving behind six million dead or maimed, Canada refused to participate. But today Canada has become part of a U.S. war being waged not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in a network of disclosed and undisclosed centres of physical and mental torture, like Guantanamo Bay in illegally occupied Cuban territory. What we know about what the U.S. government calls terrorism is that it is largely a response to foreign occupation; and what we know about American occupation is that it is a way the rich world forces the rest to surrender their resources.

General Rick Hillier bragged that Canada was going to root out the “scumbags” in Afghanistan. He didn’t mention that the Soviets, using over 600,000 troops and billions in aid over 10 years, were unable to control Afghanistan. Britain, at the height of its imperial power, tried twice and failed. Now, Canada is helping another fading empire attempt to impose its will on Afghanistan.

Canadians have traditionally been able to hold their heads high when they travel the world. We did not achieve that reputation by waging war against the world’s poor; in large part, we achieved it by refusing to do so.

Canada must ­ immediately, and at the minimum ­ open its doors to Iraqis and Afghans attempting to flee the horror being inflicted on their homelands. We must stop pretending that we’re not implicated in their suffering under the bombs, death squads and torture. This means refusing to lend our name, our strength and the blood of our youth in this war without end against the Third World. THE END


DAVID ORCHARD is the author of The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and ran twice for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel 306-652-7095,,

MICHAEL MANDEL is Professor of International Law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and author of How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity. He can be reached at tel 416-736-5039,


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