Sunday, September 20, 2009

Goldstone's Report

The Goldstone report commissioned by the UN Human Rights body to look into charges of violations arising from Israel's latest 'panzerschlacht' in Gaza has finally been presented. 3 paratroop brigades and 5 armored brigades, the IAF and the Israeli Navy took part in a three week 'hoo-hah' in Gaza over the end of last year and first two weeks in January. 'Operation Cast Lead' was a 'reaction' to a newly re-started 'barrage' of homemade rockets flying out of Gaza. It was also, allegedly, intended to attack HAMAS and punish the Gazans for supporting them. The Israelis claim it was a spur-of-the-moment result of frustration and anger at Palestinian recalcitrance and ungratefulness. The Palestinian authority remained mute during the operation and kept a clamp on any West Bank protest. Attempted censorship and spin failed, largely due to an active internet presence by Gazans who got numerous reports with real-time video and photos out while the operation was underway. 'Cast Lead' came to an abrupt sort of end after an Israeli news program featured a Gazan doctor, who worked in an Israeli hospital, described on-air how a tank shell, bursting in his home, had just killed his two teen-aged daughters and a niece.

The Goldstone Report - 500+ plus pages reads like a litany of grievances that would warm the heart of any former Sonderkommando. If there is one thing the Israelis have learned besides 'never again', it's how to do things as well as other persecutors did. And the reaction in Jewish circles around the world bears witness that the 'big lie' - perfected by Goebbels ministry of propaganda - is not a strange thing to 'Israelis' living in less violent parts of the world.

The Israeli government has responded to the Human Rights body, from day one, with a barrage ranging from 'blatant anti-semitism' to 'we're investigating human rights abuses ourselves'. But no matter the variety of the message - the underlying one is 'we reject this report and we want everybody  else to reject it as well'. The US of course was first off the mark, with it's 'concerns' about 'fairness' in the report. No doubt the 'fair-minded' Canadians will maintain their 100 percent opposition to any HRC report involving Israel. The Israelis are careful not to address the salient points made by the report's defenders: the Chairman is an eminent jurist of the Jewish faith (whose wife claims the report was 'moderated' by his participation); the Israelis had an opportunity to partake in the formation of the investigation - they didn't. They were offered an opportunity to appear to present their side, they chose not to. The Israelis actively tried to interfere with the commissioners by barring access to and through Israeli controlled territory. It's easier, and certainly more self-serving ,   to just charge the world with anti-Jewish bias.

Some of the charges in the report are still fairly evident - the on-going blockade of Gaza by land and sea, for instance. Israeli jets bombed 'smuggling tunnels' again to-day and Israeli tank fire killed two 'terrorists' near the Gaza wall. This siege has been exacerbated by the destruction of food sources - flour mills and chicken farms were purposefully destroyed - a sewage lagoon was breached, it contaminated adjacent farmland. Water wells and purification plants were bombed and the only soft drink factory in Gaza was destroyed. To this day building materials, to repair or reconstruct hundreds of homes and public infrastructure allegedly deliberately destroyed by Israeli forces, are embargoed. Even if they weren't, the only two concrete/cement making plants in Gaza were also bombed to destruction.

A major part of the commission's work was aimed at investigating charges that the IDF had deliberately targeted civilians. The findings are that there appear to have been instances where charges under the Geneva conventions might be warranted. That in some situations it appears that IDF forces were instructed to 'be rough' with Gazan civilians and property and that some soldiers may have taken the roughness to extremes.

The commission also investigated Israeli use of new types of weapons (and some regulated types) particularly in settings where civilians were known to be. It found that IDF forces may have deployed some weapons such as white phosphorus, in contravention of the Geneva convention. In general the principal of 'proportionality' was examined, as it applied in Gaza earlier this year. Again the IDF, for all their protestations of innocence, were found wanting.

The report leaves an opportunity for the Israelis to investigate and address these findings. But it concludes with the statement of the intention to proceed to charges before the International court if Israel does not clean its own house. The report is also supposed to be presented to the Security Council of the UN, a move the US and Israel are working hard to block. This could lead to more 'ineffective' sanctions on Israel. But even these sanctions are bit of a 'damoclean sword' for the fair fellows of the middle east. It's hard to point fingers at Iran, when one's own pot is perhaps even sootier. Besides, the Iranians tend to comply with the UN - at least sometimes, and if only indirectly. The middle eastern 'good guys' stopped complying shortly after they accepted the UN mandate for the State of Israel. Add to that the possibility of some Israeli commander on holiday getting charged and hauled into a Hague court.

So Goldstone's report becomes another part of the myth. It's a changed world from the days when little David was fighting off a Goliath of Arab states. Perhaps it's those beatings Goliath gets on a regular basis that has the world wondering why 'little Dave' has never been able to carry-through on peace with its neighbours when it's had so many chances, and so much strength, to do so. The recent problems with Hamas are re-casting David as the robust giant pestered by a galling little Goliath - and being every bit the bully the  original Philistine  'invader' was. If anybody is 'in danger' to-day it's Palestinians - Goldstone's report demonstrates this. It may be myth, but it's not the myth Israelis want to hear.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama's Good Ideas

Whatever else you can say about Americans, you have to say they don't give up what they think is a good idea. A couple of cases in point.

Oliver North - former Marine and central figure in the 'Contra Scandal' at the end of the Reagan administration, is still around. Not only is he still around, he has a following of sorts through Fox news in 'strategic' circles in the US. Eastern Europe - particularly Rumania - and Afghanistan hold some fascination for him. The first as what he thinks to be a 'bulwark of democracy' and the latter as an arena for fightin' for a noble cause. Last week he blathered on about the need for a personnel upgrade to defeat the treacherous Pathan.

After the standard red, white and blue weeper about the nobility of sacrifice to free little girls to get an education and allow Americans to really 'help', Ollie got to the part about the dangers of "leaving the battle space to those who hate America". What Afghanistan is really about, for Ollie, as it has been since the first J-dam slammed into an Afghan mountain, is about war. Afghanistan has been a 'battle space' from 2001 on, the difference to-day is that the 'warfighters' have parleyed the battlespace from a shrunken corner in the extreme southwest into, virtually, the whole country. The American notion of finding and killing the Taliban has led to the Taliban giving, not only the Americans but all of ISAF, an opportunity to find and kill them all over the country even in the 'safe' Northern Alliance parts. This opportunity usually comes couched in some acts of 'cowardice' that see a steady stream of young NATO soldiers going home in a different aspect than when they arrived. There's lots of 'battlespace', but precious little evidence that it's in any practical way under NATO/American control. ISAF is restricted to it's bases other than when there is a foray outside the wire. 'Taking and holding' anything is a euphemism for building a bunker in hope of exercising some local control. If all those fortifications were mutually observable it would still be a crapshoot about the locals - let alone those little girls, schools and clinics that Ollie would see built, if it was 'more secure'. So Ollie's calling for a few thousand boots more. And, after that, as many as it takes. He'll know victory when he sees it - just like he did when the USAF wiped out the security force from a NATO airbase so Ollie could get some Fox News video and started the latest 'save the (good) citizens' campaign.

The second gang are Bill Kristol and the Israel lobby. These are the 'neocons' who worked closely with Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld to make sure Iraq got its come-uppance. Of course they bailed from George Bush's floundering 'Ark o' War' when Iraq started looking like the quagmire it is. They managed to dodge the blame for a loss, as well as the 'bad intel' they had bruited aloud to get it started. They were able to stand back and tell Americans that they had been right and George had screwed it up. Now they're back. Iran's the target and because they control the central nervous systems of a whack of 'tea party' types they're advising Obama to 'get tough', or, preferably, explosive with the Medes. The Democrats seem to be having difficulty telling them to shut up and eff off. In fact the Dems seem to be listening to them. It must be the old thing about being the first president to 'lose' a war. Obama should consider that if the tail can wag the dog into a series of endless wars, it can wag its way to a victory that might otherwise be described as a defeat. Just like Nixon's 'win' in SE Asia.

To make up for his resistance to change in the shooting wars, President Obama seems hell bent on destroying other 'good ideas'. The 'missile defence' of America in Europe seems to be a dead duck. He's trying to stop the F22 - America's 'back-up' 31st century air superiority program - he seems to think the F35 program should be sufficient. And now he's making deals with the Russians to cut back on the number of 'revitalized nukes' Bushco ordered. If the howls the 'socialist' healthcare reform engendered are any indication, stripping America's defense will be cause a flood of shaving lather in the teacups of the nation.

It took some massive sacrifices to put America light years ahead of any conventional forces that could attack it. Seeing those light years diminishing into realistic realms of 'defence' can only aggravate those who made their living off the expense. And that's never a good idea.

Oops! They've Done it Again

Canada's boyz 'n girlz in red have been earning campaign medals - just like the real sojers - for service in Afghanistan. This continues a fine tradition that saw 'volunteer' detachments of Mounties posted to South Africa to police the Boers and, for a while, posted as an independent unit in Canada's WW1 expeditionary force in Siberia and a separate unit of the Provost Corps - no doubt to 'police' the troops. In Afghanistan the Mounties are supposed to be fulfilling the vital function of turning the Afghans into a bunch of latter-day Dudley Doowrights - sans horses, and striped trous, lacking tasers and mace as well, no doubt.

'Supposed' might be the operant word here, for the Afghans probably have a firmly set idea of policing that stands little comparison to working traffic at Lester B, a booze run in Winnipeg or even Saturday night patrol among the Gleichans. So that leaves the 'postees' with, what, at least 6 months to hang around base thinking up some 'diversions' before they can complete the indent for the gong.

And hence the post. To-day's Star ran another little 'black eye' for Canada's valiant effort in south Asia - the tale of the lesser mortals. It seems our multicultural police force in Afghanistan divided itself into two homogeneous groups - the 'real' Mounties - scions of Wee Georgie French and his pale boys from Belfast - and the 'darkies' - those latter-day Mounties hired as a sop to Canada's multi-ethnic make-up. So in with the Pakis and the Sikhs, the Jamaicans and the Chinese went the original Canadians who might in no way be described as pale in the face, or apparently 'military enough'.

"Afghan Tour Race - based"

A native-born officer complained to his superior about the Team 'A', Team 'B' set-up and some of the high jinx 'A' was playing on 'B' - he was told 'Don't go there.' when he mentioned the race word. I wonder if there were Team 'A' subdivisions for 'dogans' and the loyal believers? What about the 'ladies' assuming female RCMP types get posted into war zones. Two senior officers are suing the force.

I would imagine that having Afghans trained by people who resemble them might be a benefit of some kind in the current situation. I'm pretty sure that the white 'Sahibs' are better viewed though a set of gunsights in the minds of most Afghans, police included. So Canada has a wonderful opportunity to impress upon the Afghans the importance of even-handed policing for which we are renowned and instead the best we can muster is a double ration of mental midgets who might otherwise be engaged in tasering travelers or putting the fear of the lord into another generation of reservation youngsters. This story would have us believe that they've taking their barrack-room bullying overseas.

But what if it's only a 'horsefly in a nosebag'? After all it's an in-house matter, something with which the command echelon can deal. It's notable that the Mounties have been in country going on 6 years now and this is the first it's been noised around. Stuff like this doesn't usually stay unnoticed so long. It might be nothing, but it may indicate something happening with indiscipline, or indifference, over there.

Neither one should be happening here, let alone in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Courage of One's Convictions

'Tis the season when the good works of security services in Canada and Great Britain come to fruition in the conviction of Muslim plotters who would, had they not been stopped, have unleashed Jihad on the littoral of Lake Ontario and in the skies over the Atlantic. It's a good thing that we have laws which can punish plotters to almost as great an extent (in some cases more so) as they would an actual perpetrator. But then, the new 'security' laws don't have to meet the judicial standards of proof that, for instance, saw Sikh plotters walk away from an actual aircraft bombing, or a Libyan accused get an early release from prison. Having some 'nacht und nebel' legislation allows security forces to get 'er done without too much judicial interference - the gestapo proved that. But now that police hackles are going up (He's calling us Nazis!) let's just say that rigorous standards for investigation can be replaced with a certain amount of 'intuition' and 'erring on the side of the angels'.

Let's take a look at the case of the Brit bombers. Right off the get go, to-day's news of the conviction is tempered with stories about how close the investigation came to be being derailed by a take-down in Pakistan. How security forces had to 'rush' the arrests before all the "iron-clad proof" had been gathered. Maybe that's why it took two trials to get a conviction.

There are a whole bunch of 'truisms' laid end to end that are purported to indicated an intent (leave out the ability) to cause some mayhem. Some plotters visited Pakistan, some communicated with a suspected terrorist in Pakistan, some plotters may have been disenchanted with the West, some plotters checked air schedules, some bought luggage, some bought products that by a stretch could be used for bomb-making - if not for a hundred other non-explosive activities. One made 'martyrdom' recordings on his computer. Some sent 'cryptic' emails to each other. Some seem to have emptied drink bottles without opening them. But there is no indication they ever actually tested a bomb, or even booked seats on airlines (one ticket was found, destination unreported). There is a disturbing lack of money involved, and an inferred propensity for 'home-cooking' that imperiled the lives of others in their family homes and neighbourhoods. It took a couple of tries to get the 'evidence' organized so that even a sympathetic court could 'see' what security could 'see'. It had to be more than we're 'seeing' in the media.

Crucial to the whole matter, I think, is how does one go about building a peroxide 'bomb' and doing it in such a way as to bring down and airliner? Such bombs can be built, but they're not something that can be made at home, or even in a home lab. They have been made and exploded by police labs. Nobody has yet demonstrated a way to make one from materials taken on board an aircraft, for a prepared device is too volatile to be transported any great distance or subjected to any abuse. If those security labs could have taken the materials into an airliner's head and 15 or 20 minutes later blown the loo to bits, I might have given the reality of the plot some credence. However, such an 'experiment' was too dangerous for security personnel (not to mention a virtual impossibility in an airliner's toilet). I guess we're supposed to believe that, if you're suicidal, it's not. But then what about the time involved and the martyr's ability to actually do it? That hasn't been demonstrated and it's what crucial - for most scientists think it can't be done.

If someone's plotting to do something they couldn't do, then we're into punishing thought. That could be a dangerous precedent for all of us.

Unclear in both the British and Canadian operations is how, and why, these particular individuals came to the attention of 'security'. We're told in the British case that it was investigation into a purported 'terrorist banker' (who wasn't charged in the conspiracy) that brought the plotters into focus. The police also describe their investigations as a "covert" operation. That could refer to the ignorance of the subjects, but it could also refer to the operation of a police 'plant'. That is the the case in the Toronto model.

In the Canadian reprise of Jihadist terror. The subjects allegedly came to light as the result of a gun smuggling investigation. This led back to a gunshop in Georgia owned by an individual who was, so were told, tracked to a meeting of Jihadists in Toronto - he 'confessed' to being part of the plot in Toronto before he was jailed in the States. A police informant, associated with a Toronto Mosque, was involved and after a two year 'investigation' 16 plotters were arrested (in a massive police operation) with 20 bags of crap labelled by police 'ammonium nitrate' and, no doubt a couple of gas can full of diesel, in a garage they'd rented for the purpose of assembling a bomb to target an office building containing RCMP and CSIS Toronto HQs. Of the sixteen, only two have been convicted - after they 'confessed'. One is currently free, the other will be serving a reduced sentence. Some were freed early on and 4 remain to be tried. The police agent received 3/4 of a million dollars and a little mosque on the prairies somewhere.

One of the other sad truisms is the massive fear these operations engender. Air travel will never be the same again - but then air travel has been evolving for decades, and not for the better in many regards. Fear, in the minds of some, is a good thing. It makes us more conscious of personal safety and helps us accept the need for greater expenditure, and less freedom, to keep us 'safe'. The same expenditure and 'safety' entrenches the power of the state to protect 'interests' at the expense of the individual. Fear has become an objective, a manufactured reality, in to-day's world, and we're far away from the Rooseveltian perspective on it.

The hype and hoopla - an 'icing' of a story (in this case a non-story) finally being told - accompanying the conviction of 'terrorists' is designed to make us more vigilant of our security to-day than we were yesterday. Why? So that we'll feel better when security nets the next bunch - and we're told, they're on the way!

A brave show, bravely done!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

One Other Little Thing

The members of NATO , Canada included, find themselves involved in a 'mission civilitrice' instigated by the last US administration as part of what it claimed was a response to 'world-wide terror'. Canada, along with the US and a couple of other NATO members finds itself involved in the bang-bang end of the mission, the part that entails 'defeating' a Taliban insurgency spurred on by Al Qaeda.

To what end? Well first of all there's a democracy to build, and a democratic government to support. Then there are a people(s) to lift out of ignorance and degradation into a modern world-economy. There are little girls to be educated, clinics and schools to build, cell phones and consumerism and entertainment industries to be developed. There's a pipeline planned to supply the fuel needs of India and Pakistan we're told, but built by the US oil industry. That's a tall (if not totally impossible) order given that the Afghans don't seem to want any of it.

Along with all the civilization there are a couple of problems that are sneaking up.

There's the drug problem for one thing. Not the growing and export of opium and heroin, but the growing number of Afghan addicts. For a country so steeped in the culture of the opium poppy, either one would have thought that the subjugation of a bunch of addicts would have been a walk-over for the forces of cleanliness and decency, or perhaps, like other places, where such 'diversions' are part of the natural landscape, drugs are a part of life and not an escape mechanism. From what we've known drugs were not a big problem in Afghanistan before, but they certainly are now. Our media is replete with regular tales of degradation due to drug use in the Afghan cities. US-style addiction ie 'the street person effect' - idleness, poverty and social dependence are on the up-swing.

Also on the up-swing is the American predilection for 'poontang and dick'. Prostitution and 'slavery' are becoming more prevalent as parts of the 'market' available to those in need of money. As usual, US (to a lesser extent other NATO) service personnel with money and time on their hands are a driving force. Two women were shot last year by the Taliban in Khandahar allegedly for working as prostitutes on the NATO base there.

There is a disturbing story creeping out of Kabul lately about the 'adventures' of US embassy security personnel - for the most part civilian employees of the Armor Group Security firm.

Added to this were other recent reports that these contractor were developing and executing their own 'missions' in the Kabul area - usually involving nighttime forays among uninhabited buildings. You can bet your bippy that, given their 'alternative' discipline and a propensity for high school sophomorics, this gang couldn't be doing much good for Afghans. Add the fact they're armed to the teeth that's probably a gross understatement. What they are, however, in mufti or otherwise, are a gang of six-foot walking targets. One day they'll get it and 'Taliban Massacre' will be all over the papers.

I'd love to know just how many 'cowboys' it takes to get the rest of the herd thinking Brokeback Mountain escapades ain't really bad after all? One? More than one? "Hey I got a idea. Let's drink vodka straight outta the crack in Joe's ass! Joe drop trou! Me first, I like mine salty with a backkick o' doo doo - cause I'm macho man! If the wife or kids at home see it, it all the PTSD's fault."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Do I Smell Election Fever?

The 'pundits' are saying that Canadian Prime Minister Little Stevie Harper's day's are numbered. Wolfie the Magnificent, Gershwin or whatever the leader of the Liberals calls himself, has bestirred himself from summer dreaming, girded his 'lion' (that's what they're calling him) and declared that "Mene! Mene! Tikal" has shown up on Stevie's patio door.

Apparently we've entered the electioneering mode. But we have yet to see those 'focus' ads pouring out of the PMO and whatever government agency is springing for the expose on Liberal pandering. What with everybody being at the lake, there haven't been many gaffes this summer. Other than Goody Doofus doing things to himself (or letting the 'little men' do him for himself).

There's the on-going shortage of medical isotopes - a situation with which he boxed Liberal ears with a year back and then parleyed into a testicular event when his chosen men obviously weren't up for the occasion and FUBARed the program.

Then there was his eminence's recent round of appointments to the Senate. This round on 'bonhommie' reminds us all of what Stevie was saying was wrong with the Senate when we elected him. Too bad his minimal majority stopped him from passing electoral requirements for the Upper House, like he swore he would do. Heck, if ya can't beat em, what the hey, appoint away and be darned!

Then there's the economy. Stevie's got us 'on line' for 12 trillion semolians to bail out the economy. But other than manufacturing, which he has no intention to 'help', and infrastructure renewal, which he's in the process of announcing, Stevie's gang of thieves hasn't spent much at all. A few million to help the Swedes finance buying Nortel and a few billion to the struggling automakers, some piddly amounts into junking clunkers and a home renovation program that won't do much for any but the well-heeled, his malignancy, FiMin Flaherty, should be in for a good year and a better one next, if he can line the premiers up for some mutual swilling and tax harmony.

All those promises of money and nary a dollar actually spent. A car salesman's dream - Mike Harris will be dribbling in his trous over that one. Makes one look positively fiscally responsible. Remember the deficit Flaherty told everybody Ontario DIDN'T have before he lost his job at the provincial bourse? He's one guy who could eff-up a tax windfall.

And finally there's the thing about 'real Canadians' like the little white gal sprung from Mexican tyranny, and the 'darkies' who keep on visiting countries where they don't appreciate a good bottle of Crown Royal. Or if they do appreciate it, the gang at the embassy will be buggered if they're going to get it. Or at least the 'darkies' in question and assistance - as opposed to a mediocre rye. 'Harpie' had two of them 'twisting in the wind' - one for the better part of a year at the embassy in Khartoum and the other in a Kenyan slammer for three months. Gosh darn it, we really should 'do somethin' about Canadian passports.

But why the electo-babble. Why it must have had summat to do with the recent hi-jinks in Afghanistan. That little UN exercise 'only' cost 20 million to run. One might muse that, if the spending was 'up there with what Canada spends replacing it's muffins, or even, lawdy forbid, anything even coming close to 10 percent of what America calls 'paying for democracy', then a different outcome might have been expected in Afghanistan. But that lesson is long lost on North Americans. If even a tenth of what we've spent on bang-bang had been spent on redevelopment another outcome might have been expected. But there are signs of hope all over the place.

The UN chief electoral officer, a nice Canadian boy, wasn't long in declaring the Afghan travesty an 'honest and effective' election. No mention that, although President Karzai is now president-elect with a massive 45.7 percent of the votes cast, only 20 percent of Afghans actually were able (willing?) to cast a vote. This down from a massive 90 percent turn-out back in the days when victory was in the air. The opposition started crying 'stuffed ballots' and other irregularities which are considered S.O.P. in the land that time forgot. Karzai's majority* is reported to be slipping as tabulations continue and the US ambassador, who cut his teeth dealing with rabid Ulstermen, was reported to have had an intense conversation with Karzai.

* The final count seems to be more or less done. With up to 1/3 of Karzai's ballots being tossed as fraudulent, he managed to squeak across the magical 52 percent or whatever number stops the fiasco from having a rerun. They obviously a) found a lot more Karzai ballots or b) dumped as many of the opposition's.