Saturday, October 11, 2014

Canada's Iraq Mission

Jean Chrétien was the Prime Minister of Canada in March 2003 who refused to take Canada into the Iraq war, a war initiated by the United States based on false claims.  Chrétien cited the lack of UN backing as the reason, though he would later say that he never believed in the existence of a WMD threat (in other words, he believed those claims were untrue).  In early 2003, there were very few world leaders who had the stones to take that position.  And Canada doesn't regret its choice.

There was no proof of WMD in the hands of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and, despite American suspicions, there was no proof, either, of Iraqi collusion with al-Qaeda.  Nevertheless, by the middle of 2002, it was clear that Bush intended war on Iraq, and it was at this time that Chrétien met Bush in Detroit.  Public reports of the meeting were accurate enough – that Bush had urged his case against Iraq, and that Chrétien had reiterated his known position that Iraq must pose a clear and present danger to the world before armed action was necessary.  In private, Chrétien told Bush that Canada's support for a war in Iraq would be greatly enhanced if the United States could secure the support of the United Nations.

UN support was not forthcoming, and neither was Chrétien's,  The official American case for war – that Iraq had WMDs and was ready to use them – was weak, and widely doubted in the intelligence communities of the Western world.  Diplomacy at the UN hadn't helped the American case; the American determination not to wait for the final reports of UN weapons inspectors counted heavily against the United States.

A Liberal party convention was called for Toronto in November 2003.  Martin was the inevitable winner, but Chrétien in his farewell address was the star of the show.  In conclusion, he said, "it was because of our deep belief as Canadians in the value of multilateralism and the United Nations that we did not go to war in Iraq."  The convention rose and cheered the old leader to the echo. Paul Martin (his successor), many believed, would have done things differently in foreign policy, including Iraq; Chrétien's speech was a warning not to try.
– Robert Bothwell, The Penguin History of Canada, 2006

When he stepped down as Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien reminded his Party that they did the right thing when they refused to take Canada into the Iraq war, a war initiated by the United States based on false claims.  And they did it for the right reasons; the most Canadian of reasons.  And he was applauded for that.  Canadians do not regret that decision.  And those I've talked to hold Jean Chrétien in very high regard. 

"If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate."

– Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in the Canadian House of Commons
    Monday, March 18, 2003
Canada's current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, as the leader of Canada's Official Opposition in 2003, publicly apologized to the Americans at the time, saying, "For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood by its key British and American allies in their time of need."  In other words, "it is Canada's place to be the puppet of the United States." Way to go, Stephen Harper, tell the Canadian people that their national sovereignty takes 2nd place to the demands of the US and the UK. Since when is it Canada's obligation to put reason and morality aside and support its allies when they act wrongly, unwisely, immorally?

It's ironic that, especially after the decision to stay out of Iraq was proven to be the right one, Canada elected a conservative government that would most definitely have sent troops into Iraq in 2003.

Stephen Harper's government is sending Canadian Forces into Iraq now.  Few believe that is a wise move.  When former commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, General Rick Hillier (who resigned in July 2008) was asked why Canada sent troops to Afghanistan, he replied, "As a way to relieve the pressure of saying 'no' to the Americans on Iraq." In other words, the Afghanistan deployment was a political decision and an attempt to rebuild Canada's credibility with the Bush Administration. The government felt a strong need to do something significant for the US. And soldiers died, yet again, for politics.

I shouldn't have to point this out, but political expediency is no reason to send young soldiers into war. And countries like Canada need to look back at times they've followed the lead of the United States for political reasons – and ask, "How did that work out?"

Yeh ... how did Afghanistan work out for ya, Canada?

Inline image 1
Jean Chrétrien

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The caliphate of the Islamic State existed for centuries

Just for what it's worth, the "caliphate" (or Muslim religious state) that ISIS or the Islam State would like to establish in Iraq and The Levant (Syria) is not something new, and it has been something the people of the region have desired since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

The Ottoman Dynasty, which ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1299 until 1922 (source) was a Muslim Caliphate for most of its existence.  After World War I, the Arab lands that were part of the Ottoman Empire were divided into spheres of influence by the French and the British and that land (the Levant and Mesopotamia) became the artificial countries we know today as Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon (see the map below).  The modern Levant is confined to the state of Syria.

A caliphate is not something new that is being offered to the people of the region; it's something that is being returned to them, after having been taken away.  As the US-imposed dictatorships are being deposed; this is what fills the power void left behind.

What do the Sunni Arabs who live there desire?  Who cares, right?  It is being decided for them.

The United States spent a quarter century bombing, invading and occupying Iraq to rid itself of Saddam Hussein, and now can only dream of having such a strong secular leader in that broken region (no longer one nation), a leader who ruthlessly opposed the sort of religious extremism that has replaced his rule
(and who was, by the way, a bitter enemy of al-Qaeda, which supports no secular Muslim rulers).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

10 years ago today: Bush & Cheney admit there were no WMD

REMINDER:  It was ten years ago, on October 7, 2004, in responding to the recently released report by the CIA's top weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, that George Bush and Dick Cheney admitted for the first time that Iraq never had a stockpile of WMD.  The Duelfer Report was released on October 6 and concluded that Iraq's illicit weapons capability had been destroyed during the 1991 Gulf War and, for the most part, Saddam Hussein had never attempted to rebuild it and was, therefore, not in any violation of prohibitions on such weapons.

Bush, Cheney admit Iraq had no WMD, take new tack
They cite oil-for-food scam as justification for invasion

ASSOCIATED PRESS; Thursday, October 8, 2004

WASHINGTON – President Bush and his vice president conceded yesterday in the clearest terms yet that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, trying to shift the Iraq war debate to a new issue – whether the invasion was justified because Hussein was abusing a U.N. oil-for-food program.

Bush's response was his first reaction to a report released Wednesday by Charles Duelfer, the CIA's top weapons inspector, that contradicted the White House's main argument for invading Iraq.

While admitting the US-led attack was launched on false pretenses, both Bush and Cheney tried to shift public attention away from WMD as the reason Iraq was attacked, saying that they really invaded the country because Saddam Hussein was violating the terms of the UN Oil-for-Food Program. (how lame was that?) 

When attacked, Iraq was defenseless to resist that attack.  It was an act of unmitigated cowardice.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Trust your gut ... and I mean *always*

Since I first opposed, publicly, the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, based on what turned out to be completely false claims, I have been told many times that, "Well, you turned out to be right about that, Charles, ... but, at the time, no one knew how things would turn out.  Those WMDs could have been there.  At the time, you didn't know you were right – you couldn't have known."

Yes, and that is exactly why I think it was important to base my personal choices, not on what the White House was selling or what the media outlets were screaming, but on what my own gut told me, and even more important, on my personally held principles. Logically, I knew that the immediacy of the invasion was only justified by the fact that the case for the war was coming unraveled, and quickly.  But more than that; I felt that it was a violation of my principles – long-standing American principles – for the United States to attack another country, any other country, but especially a tiny, defenseless country, that had done nothing to justify that attack.  It was wrong.  And I didn't have to possess indisputable evidence of anything at all to know that.

It was dismaying to watch so many others totally abandon their own principles, out of fear ... easily; without the slightest reluctance or doubt.

Friends, when your "deeply held principles" can be easily manipulated by propagandists; and are subject to situational interpretation, then they aren't principles at all, are they?

So, in the absence of sound knowledge on which to base our decisions; should we trust the US government and the US media to tell us what to do?  I think we've learned how unwise that was 12 years ago. And how unwise it would be to let them do it again now.

Trust the agents of authority ... or trust our own gut instincts and fall back on our own personally held principles?

ll argue for the latter – it has always worked for me.

Trust your gut.  Always.  No act, based on principle, regardless of the outcome, is meaningless. 

Turn off that television and start clearing away the cobwebs of deception.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

One lucky break (in a dozen years of floundering)

Until June of this year, none of America's para-militarized, high-tech and super-secret spy agencies had a clue as to how many militants there were in the group called ISIL or ISIS or, now, the Islamic State (IS).  They couldn't even offer a ballpark figure.  Why?  Because the group doesn't use cell phones, email, chat rooms, Twitter or Facebook.   IS uses only human couriers for its messaging, instead, and it was only the lucky capture of a key militant in June that provided any information at all on the group's size, reach or capability.

Abu Hajar was arrested with 160 USB memory sticks in his possession, just two days before the fall of the city of Mosul. It was by pure chance that the US Intelligence Agencies learned anything of ISIS's strength and that they had the ability and the goal of taking most of Sunni Iraq.  Abu Hajar cracked after two weeks of "interrogation", by which I'm certain is meant "intense torture" and gave up the head of ISIS's military council.  Somehow, the CIA managed to get decryption keys to those memory sticks, and I doubt the courier had those keys in his possession.

Hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and 17 US intelligence agencies had almost no knowledge of this organization until 4 months ago, even though it sprang up in territory the US has occupied for eight years ... there had been no estimates or predictions of the group's rapid growth and its spread through throughout the region.  The US had no idea that IS would completely overwhelm the Iraqi Army it had trained and supported ... easily.  The US stumbled onto the knowledge; they were absolutely clueless.

Knowing how incompetent the "intelligence agencies" are, there is absolutely no reason that any reasonable person, with a modicum of courage, should lend an ounce of credence to their shrill fear-drenched cries of alarm about the (probably fictional) terror group they call "Khorasan."

Don't buy it.  It's imaginary; it's propaganda.  It's a huge lie.  Like the nonexistent stockpiles of chemical, neurological, and radiological weapons of mass destruction 12 years ago ... it's warmongering of the very worst kind, and I, for one, am not buying it.  Not from these fools.

Put them all to the sword ...

Arnaud Amalric was an abbot or monk who is most remembered for the advise he gave to a soldier in one of the Christian Crusades, who expressed concerns that he'd killed orthodox Catholics along with the 20,000 or so Cathars he helped massacre in the French town of Béziers in the year 1209.  These Cathars, incidentally, were Christians who rejected the authority of the Pope and were, therefore, declared heretics by Catholic Church.  When the Crusaders slaughtered them, they did so under the direction of an official representative of the Pope ... that was Arnaud Amalric.
Amalric told the soldier:  Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. ("Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own.")

And that is the origin of the modern phrase, "Kill them all and let God sort out the corpses."

Arnaud Amalric died in the year 1225.  If there is a heaven; he knows nothing of it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

50 years ago on this day: Jack Weinberg made his stand for free speech

The Berkeley Free Speech Movement was inspired by the struggle for civil rights and later by opposition to the Vietnam War. The students at the University of California at Berkeley sent a steady stream of "freedom riders" to the Deep South, and they recruited them from information tables set up on the UCB campus, at Bancroft and Telegraph Avenue.

UCB Campus authorities tried to shut them down. The president of the university banned all political organizing on campus, but the students refused to give up their rights to free speech and assembly.  On October 1, 1964, a 24-year-old former graduate student named Jack Weinberg was sitting at the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) table distributing literature.  Peacefully.  He refused to show his identification to the campus police when they demanded it, and he was arrested.  They dragged him to a police car, but 3,000 students surrounded the police car and refused to let it move. They refused to let the police take Weinberg to jail. They stood on top of the police car and gave speeches about the First Amendment and Free Speech.  The car did not move for a day and a half, 32 hours.  The car did not move, and the students did not abandon it, until the charges against Weinberg were dropped.

That event galvanized the Free Speech Movement.  It marked the first major salvo in the war launched by the Free Speech Movement. 

Without resistance from the public, the government, doing the will of its corporate masters, will take and take and take, until the people have nothing left to give away.

Jack Weinberg is 74 years old now.  I wonder what he thinks about today's US government's attempts to curtail free speech and to violently suppress peaceful protests.
Jack Weinberg in police car, Oct. 1, 1964