Monday, March 24, 2008

Cooling it. Elsewhere

Canadians are about the same as anybody else, except perhaps Russian 'gypsies', at falling afoul of the law in other parts of the world. There are, at this moment, probably a good few Canadians - more than 1700 last count, cooling their heels in foreign slammers.

A few of note: Khadr, Mohamed Kohail, Brenda Martin and Paul Neil.

Khadr, whom I've remarked on a few times, remains in Guantanamo with a tribunal pending.

Mohamed Kahil is the latest to get into trouble in the Arab world. Kahil, and his brother are Saudis educated in Canada, who returned home. At a party last summer the two were involved in a fight in which one party-goer wound-up dead. The two Canadians are among a group charged. The older brother Mohamed was convicted and sentenced to death. The Canadian government claims it can't interfere, but Saudi law being what it is, it seems a 'virt. cert.' that a 'deal' will be made and reparation paid to the dead man's family in return for a royal pardon.

Paul Neil is a former schoolteacher of English in Thailand who is currently on trial on child pornography charges. This after German police used software to un-photoshop some pictures of Neil in the throes of passion with some very minors. This looks like a 'slam dunk' as Neil posted quite a few of his conquests on pedophilic sites for a number of years, after carefully and elecronically, 'swirling' his face. No doubt the Canadian government will be bringing his sorry ass back to a warm cozy in Canada when he's convicted.

Brenda Martin in much in the news of late. She's been jailed in Guadalajara Mexico for going on three years relating to some fast-buck scheme floated by an American, who's himself doing time, at the moment, in a US penitentiary for a different scam. The story is that Brenda took a job as 'Daddy Warbucks' cook and housekeeper. He fled Mexico and forgot to take her along, so she got to hold on to  'la bolsa' while he went on the lam. The Mexicans probably have the notion that, if they hang onto somebody, they might get some of the money back. Warbucks has bravely come forward with an exculpatory statement, but, unfortunately, hasn't a clue what happened to all the pesos he swindled. Karen just about can't take it (the Mexican prison) any more, although she does manage to get a decent supply of anti-depressants. There is a rising swell of public opinion, and in public servants, that something should be done.

A recent development is a number of visits Karen has received from visiting Canadian politicos. In particular a visit she didn't receive from the Canadian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who was busy at a party for Canadian ex-pats in Guadalajara, but didn't have any time to go see the woman. I'd love to know how ex-pat Canadians get to know an MP is coming let alone get to go to a party in her honour. Must be a consulate in G'jara, I guess.

Anyway the MP, Helena Guergis, said something truly profound about 'visiting one, and having to visit them all' before she jetted back to a snow-covered Canada to continue to "work hard" on the case. The Mexicans have put a $500 000 price tag on Martin's freedom. Considering he stole the money in the first place, maybe her American padrone will kick in part of it. Advice to Canadians: be careful in Mexico and don't do stupid. Or go to work for los gringos ricos o locos.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Four More Years

You have to pity poor politicians. You vote on something one day, and the next day you find out it's really something else. But being as since you 'put yourself on the line' you don't want to appear stupid by calling for a reconsideration. So you just 'suck it up, put on a brave face, and these days, soldier on.' And that's just what happened in Ottawa last week.

Canada's House of Commons passed legislation extending Canada's role in Afghanistan for another three years. The bill was based on Mr. Manley's report on the Afghan situation which, though hopeful indicated some areas that needed to be addressed before Canada recommitted itself. Three salient points were to be considered.

The first was a requirement for more NATO involvement. The US has deployed a battle group of Marines to assist the Canadians in Khandahar and Helmand provinces. Whether this will satisfy the requirement remains to be seen. The Foreign Minister claimed to have been promised NATO troops. France has indicated an interest and last week Albania signaled an interest.

The second point was in regard to air resources. Helicopters are in great demand and Canada had hoped to jump the queue in getting a few more Chinooks. To date the best America can do is to provide a number of refurbished Blackhawks. It seems the new helicopters might be available to help remove Canadian military equipment if its withdrawn in 2011. Everybody's screaming for them in Afghanistan. The other item was drones - they're not available either.

The third requirement was a 'switch' in roles, over the period, to concentrate on training the Afghan police and army to take over the combat role. However that would be precluded by the necessity of security, without which training would be difficult. They have Mounties training the police - what does that tell us?

The first glimmer that anything was amiss happened the day before the vote when it was announced that military expenditure had gone a billion dollars over budget. The military budget was significantly increased, but not enough obviously to pay for keeping 5 000 pairs of Canadian boots in Afghanistan over a year. Nobody was prepared to ask about this so it was ignored and the vote went on.

The second glimmer of something amiss came two days after the vote, when it was bruited in the news that the Army was toying with the notion of extending the 6 month deployment period. Nobody had thought to bring this up during debate. One would have thought the Army's ability to sustain the mission would have been up there with the need for drone aircraft. It apparently wasn't.

But all is not gloomy, not by a darn darn sight. To-day, to celebrate with the troops, the foreign minister, the C-in-C, and a bunch of superannuated hockey stars, flew in with the Stanley Cup for a pick-up game of floor hockey. The hockey stars won, but it wasn't lost on anybody, that the Afghan mission is as much a sure thing as the Toronto Maple Leafs getting into next year's slot on the trophy. It would take a miracle - and so will Afghanistan - given the Marines, no helicopters, no drones and Taliban who haven't yet realized that Canadians are only there to help.

Sometimes, in politics, you just have to keep on keeping on, making the best of a bad situation. Good thing there aren't 'Talies' in the Press Gallery.

Update: The Poles have come up with a flight of Mil Helicopters to assist the Canucks. The Albanian and French commitments didn't materialize - at least in Khandahar. And the security situation has certainly not improved, with the Taliban summer offensive being a lot more robust than last summer's version.