Media Shouldn't Protect Power from Embarrassment: Why WikiLeaks Had to Release the US Embassy Cables
• Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has "frequently" urged the US to launch an attack against Iran in order to scupper Tehran's nuclear ambition.
• The US has relentlessly pressured other countries, including close allies such as Italy and France, to distance themselves from Iran and assist American efforts to isolate Tehran
• There's plenty more to come, including "claims of inappropriate behaviour" by a British royal and allegations of links between Russia's government and organised crime.
OTTAWA— The Canadian PressThe U.S. government has notified Ottawa that the WikiLeaks website is preparing to release sensitive U.S. diplomatic files that could damage American relations with allies around the world.
U.S. officials say the documents may contain accounts of compromising conversations with political dissidents and friendly politicians as well as activities that could result in the expulsion of U.S. diplomats from foreign postings.
U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson phoned Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon to inform him of the matter, a foreign affairs spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Melissa Lantsman said the Canadian embassy in Washington is “currently engaging” with the U.S. State Department on this matter.
US Intelligence Thwarted Attack on Iran
What the heck, this is starting to turn into another Hundred Years' War. The Afghan War going beyond 2015? Why, of course it will! How about another 40 years? No problem!
You have to admire the candid honesty of the UK's General Sir David Richards.
But Punditman has heard all this before: politicians and generals going on about how you can't defeat an idea militarily, that you also need to "nation-build." Even Stevie Harper intuited such brilliance awhile back.
But punditman detects a vast disconnect between word and action amongst those who on the one hand recognize the futility of an occupying force trying to achieve military victory against an insurgency but nevertheless keep trying to do just that. Or something like it. It's the old winning people's hearts and minds argument while you cut off their limbs.
We keep hearing how we are just about to "turn the corner," maybe this year, or next year, or 2014. But these clowns need to stop channeling the ghost of LBJ because there really is no light at the end of this tunnel any more than there was in the Mekong Delta, circa 1968. At least not as long as long as they keep creating new enemies with each air strike, while simultaneously mumbling about including moderate Taliban and Pashtuns in some sort of Afghan power sharing arrangement. Imagine how perplexing this must seem to many an Afghan villager:
"Yeah, these NATO guys are smart. They blew away those drug lords and bandits who kept harrasing my niece and stealing from my uncle's orchard. But then their air strike killed my entire clan including my wife! Fuck 'em, I am starting my own militia. Local Taliban said they'd train me up and promised me a new wife too."Not to sound glib, but this can't be far from the reality. Ninety percent of the people NATO is fighting are part of a tribal, localized insurgency. Only 10% are hardcore fundamentalist jihadis who profess loyalty to the Taliban. In fact those Taliban who harboured al Qaeda before 9-11 are involved in a very small share of attacks against Western forces, mostly in southern Afghanistan.
The point is that the only hope for a lessening of violence amongst the many social and tribal groupings that comprise the Afghan enigma is through negotiation, integration and accomodation. Obama and NATO have clearly chosen a military "surge" instead. And now Western forces are planning on sticking around indefinitely in a "non-combat" role to train people how to use guns in a country that has been awash in guns for generations. Brilliant.
Punditman says the only way out of this morass for the West is troop withdrawal. And the only way out of it for Afghanis is through negotiation because the only people that can solve Afghanistan are Afghanis. We may not like what they come up with. But we don't have much choice and the truth is, many realists inside government agree; they readily admit there is no exit strategy in place and probably no plausible one that can be invented.
Punditman is suspicious of even the realists in government. The fact is, a permanent "low-level conflict" fought with modern technology fits in nicely with a permanent war economy which benefits the high tech defense sector. It is very profitable to fight jihadism with drones and highly equipped, occupying armies. And as long as the West retains volunteer armies and Western casualties don't get too out of hand, elites have much to gain. Of course it is not so low level for those on the receiving end of the bombs and bullets—but that never stopped them.
Do the idealists and ideologues who continue to prosecute this depressing war understand Afghan history? Or history in general? It is naive to think they do not. Maybe that is precisely the point. Punditman says that is a scary thought.
Peacenik emailed Ignatieff and asked him to not support the extension of Canada's role in Afghanistan. Ignatieff didn't respond. Peacenik has voted for the Liberals strategically in the past. Peacenik will not be voting for the Liberals ever again. The Globe's view is that "leaving Afghanistan entirely after years of brave service would be foolish." Peacenik's view is that staying in Afghanistan is insane. But Harper, Ignatieff, Nato, and the U.S. cannot admit a mistake. Has Canada beat the USSR's record for occupying Afghanistan yet? A record of futility and stupidity. Bring the troops home now.
1. Divide and conquer. Without the Conservatives to attack, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals are gunning for Jack Layton and the NDP, accusing them of adopting a position on Afghanistan that is “simply not credible.”
The Liberals support the Harper government’s decision to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan after the scheduled July pull-out; the New Democrats do not – playing right into the Tory strategy of splitting the opposition.
The criticism of the NDP is contained in a series of talking points issued by the Grits to their supporters Tuesday.
“Jack Layton has called for a ‘massive civilian deployment’ to provide stability in Afghanistan, but you can’t achieve this in the midst of conflict without providing Afghans with the tools to protect their security and their democracy,” the memo says. “Liberals firmly support ending the combat mission in Afghanistan as scheduled in July 2011 and we support the new post-combat training presence as outlined by the government today.”
Peacenik tends to avoid gory horror films but Peacenik is surprised that Peacenik has only seen Night of the Living Dead in this list. What have you seen?
Social commentary shows up in the unlikeliest places. Here, our list for the most awesome films that double as political allegory.
November 12, 2010
In a new book about John Carpenter's Orwellian masterpiece, They Live, author Jonathan Lethem does some well-deserved justice to the film -- if it’s not the best-ever social commentary out there, it’s at least one of the most fun to watch. But They Live is far from the only movie to shed light on society’s woes. Directors have a long tradition of using horror as an allegory for what we most fear. Here are 10 awesome films that analogize, encapsulate -- and, in some instances, predicted -- true-life political nightmares.1. Night of the Living Dead (1968). A classic among classics, George Romero’s debut feature not only influenced every quality cult/B-movie to come, he developed a template for political commentary in horror films that both he and his disciples follow to this day. Released in 1968, its slow pacing set the tone for the paranoia that gripped the nation the following year and never left, and the utter humanness of the voracious zombies was a reminder of humankind’s capacity for horrific acts.
punditman says...Some good news. Burmese pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 15 years out of the past two decades under house arrest as a political prisoner. In the face of brutal injustice, she has maintained hope and has come to symbolise the struggle of Burma’s people against dictatorship. She was released from her current third period of detention on Saturday. The military junta in Burma still holds 2,200 political prisoners.
So now we have Bush confessing to a war crime. Of course he doesn't believe it is a war crime because the lawyer told him so. Bush doesn't think he did anything "wrong" in his 8 years of incompetent rule. Just a few honest mistakes.
After a three-year investigation, President Barack Obama’s mantra – "look forward and not backwards" – appears to have trumped the rule of law as a special prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges against the Central Intelligence Agency operatives involved in the destruction of video recordings of interrogations of "war on terror" suspects.
The human rights community and many legal scholars from both ends of the political spectrum are up in arms about the decision. And they were further angered by the remarks made by former president George W. Bush during recent television and radio interviews promoting his new memoir, Decision Points.
For example, Bush admitted to Matt Lauer of NBC’s "Today" program that he authorized the use of waterboarding on two CIA prisoners. He said further that the technique was legal and that he would make the same decision again.
Lauer then asked him, "Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?>
Bush responded: "Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of the people around you, and I do."
Its bad enough that Obama has sided with Wall Street against mainstreet. He's backed down on almost every policy initiative that got him elected. Now he is twisting the arm of a very pliable Stevie Harper to continue Canada's combat role in Afghanistan. Obama is a George Bush acolyte. He is a warmongerer. As is Harper. Peacenik wants to puke. Bring the troops home now.
The United States is asking Canada to take on a more robust – and risky – role after the planned 2011 pullout of combat troops from Afghanistan, including risking enemy fire outside of bases to mentor Afghan security forces in the field.
The push comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce next week the government's new plan for Afghanistan – a plan that will likely keep Canada “inside the wire.”
But the United States wants more. The Americans are seeking greater Canadian participation – a role “outside the wire” – and are hoping for such an announcement before next week's NATO summit in Lisbon.
Punditman is hesitant to even write this, knowing the strong emotions that surround Remembrance Day. In fact, if the symbol of the poppy had arisen out of the horrors of World War Two and the fight against fascism, punditman would not have written this piece. But the poppy's legacy surfaced out of the horrors of World War One (which punditman will return to shortly). It has been used henceforth in remembrance throughout the Western world.
So I write this with all due respect to those who may take offence; however, there is a certain irrationality in the air that should be addressed.
Punditman feels that since Canada became involved in Afghanistan, poppy wearing begins earlier and is more widespread than in past eras. No surprise there, punditman supposes; these days, war is never far from people's minds. Does punditman detect a subtle but increased social pressure to wear a poppy? Perhaps. Are the two issues connected? Does wearing a poppy presuppose support for the Afghan mission? Punditman thinks he is not alone with such questions. But wearing a poppy should be a personal and reflective act, not an ideological reflex that feels socially enforced.
The poppy owes its heritage to Guelph's John McCrae, a Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel, who wrote the poem "In Flander's Fields" on May 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer the previous day. It was published on December 8, 1915 by Punch magazine in Britain:
In Flanders fields the poppies blowThe poem, which we all learned as school children, has not escaped critique. Wikipedia cites Paul Fussell, cultural and literary historian, and professor emeritus of English literature at the University of Pennsylvania:
Between the crosses, row on row,That mark our place; and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,Loved, and were loved, and now we lieIn Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields.
Critic Paul Fussell, in The Great War and Modern Memory, pointed out the sharp distinctions between the pastoral, sacrificial tone of the poem's first nine lines and the "recruiting-poster rhetoric" of the poem's third stanza; Fussell said the poem, appearing in 1915, would serve to denigrate any negotiated peace which would end the war, and called these lines "a propaganda argument," saying "words like vicious and stupid would not seem to go too far."Those strong words come from a decorated American World War Two veteran; but who is better equipped to opine on the power of propaganda?
Irrationality comes into play when the poppy is used not simply to honour veterans and all of war's victims and to recognize their sacrifice and sufferings but to also attack the voices of dissent. Irrationality’s ignorant face is displayed in the attitudes of those who have been attacking writer Peter Smollett for writing a piece entitled, War resisters also deserve a memorial in yesterday’s Toronto Star. Some of the reactions to this well researched article are disturbing.
Remember, Smollet is talking about World War One only here, a conflict that began 96 years ago when Canadian forces were still under British command. But for the militarist faction of today's right wing, the political subtext of Remembrance Day is that all Canada's wars are by default noble endeavours that protect our freedom and security; and all soldiers from all wars are heroes, while all pacifists are cowards. They will hear nothing of dissent or from those who happen to believe that most wars are unnecessary and unjust.
In writing about World War One, Peter Smollet's great sin was to outline the generalized slaughter and senselessness of what was essentially a struggle between imperial powers divvying up the spoils of their colonies. He explains how they used the working classes as cannon fodder and how generals and politicians advanced their careers off the blood of the poor. How can anyone who knows their history seriously disagree with this assessment? Many veterans of that conflict arrived at the same conclusion.
The so-called "war to end all wars" was a major factor in the rise of Bolshevism and revolution in Russia; and the Armistice and Treaty of Versailles contributed to fascism taking root in Germany and the rise of Hitler. This was the lovely little war that the would be over by Christmas!
Resistance to the First World War's bloodbath was widespread throughout belligerent countries and Smollet does a good job outlining the various anti-war movements of the time, including Canadians who made great sacrifices, including losing their lives, in the name of peace. For his efforts, Smollet gets a ton of brickbats tossed at him from wingnut corner.
Punditman believes in remembering the war dead and all of war’s casualties—but on all sides, including all the civilians who have perished or have been maimed in war. It seems this is what the remembering part of Remembrance Day should be about.
There was a time not so long ago when the sentiment for peace was as strong as for war, when people were not afraid to speak up and when wearing a poppy could just as easily mean "never again" as "support out troops."
Honouring conscientious objectors and others who bravely stood in opposition to the slaughter of World War One is not about to happen any time soon. The current zeitgiest leaves no room for nuance, only group think. Important symbols are easily used to keep the herd in line. Those who lambast Smollet's opinion piece say it is a disgrace to publish it during Remembrance Week because they believe World War One was all about protecting our freedoms. But if they truly understood freedom, they should have no problem with the Star publishing a different viewpoint.
So wear a poppy if it feels right. But don't be afraid to say what you think—of any war.
Punditman is wearing a poppy.
Note in the margin:
The lines, "To you from failing hands we throw / The torch; be yours to hold it high" are also written on the wall of the Montreal Canadiens dressing room. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment ownership take note: stirring, inspiring words apparently help teams win Stanley Cups. Or at least make them playoff bound!
Why the Tories keep whipping up fear of terrorists, criminals and peaceful protestors.
Police apprehend G20 protestor Natalie Gray in Toronto. Photo: Natalie Gray.
For those considering issue triage -- picking five or six issues to focus on -- in the fight to rid the country of the current government, one area that is critical to the outcome is exposing the Harper government's construction of the national security state.
I am referring here to the commitment of the Harper government to implementing policies that increase the importance of a war-fighting military in Canadian society, its preoccupation with tough-on-crime legislation, its blank cheque to security operations like the one "protecting" the G20 summit, and its continued efforts to convince Canadians that they face the constant risk of terrorist attack.
The flip side of the coin: criminalizing dissent and trashing civil liberties so that opposition to this agenda can be kept to a minimum.Read on...
Bowing to intense pressure from the United States and other allies, the Harper government now acknowledges that hundreds of Canadian troops could remain in Afghanistan years after its long and bloody combat mission officially ends in 2011.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Ottawa is looking at the possibility of keeping a significant number of soldiers “behind the wire” in the war-torn country to help train the Afghan army and local police.
“Knowing that the mission in Afghanistan has work that is yet to be done, we are now considering this,” Mr. MacKay told reporters in Halifax Sunday at the conclusion of an international security conference.
“Training is an option and it’s something we’re very good at, quite frankly.”
King Arthur - "Well, on second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place."
The United States is a silly place.