Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Unanswered Questions

On the Afghanistan mission:

What are the goals and objectives of the mission and how do they meet our foreign-policy objectives?

What is the mandate, what is the defined concept of operations, what is the effective command and control structure, what are the rules of engagement?

These are the questions Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor asked Bill Graham last November at the first "take note" debate on the mission. They were unanswered.

These are the same questions Jack Layton asked of O'Connor last spring, again to go unanswered.

Since that time other questions have come to mind:

To what extend have we been able to meet our non-military, PRT objectives in the South?

Are we still fighting the 'Taliban' or have other groups - heroin traffickers, disaffected warlords, honestly disgruntled peasants - entered the fray, complicating this matter?

How succesful have we been in bringing the Afghan police and army up to speed to help with security?

How have the recent actions of Pakistan - either in 'makng peace' with its tribal regions or in actively supporting the Taliban - changed the scope and complexity of the mission? Under these new circumstances, does our current plan and tactics make sense?

What kinds of non-combat operations are we doing that indeed helps women protect their rights or helps farmers get off of growing poppies?

These are but a few of the questions that need answering and things that need to be made clear before the Canadian public can make informed decisions about the mission.

In doing this I am following the advice of Scott Taylor of Esprit de Corps magazine:

"As evidenced by the crowd of red shirts on Parliament Hill last Friday, Canadians do care about the welfare of our soldiers. That is exactly why we must continue to question the rationale behind our deployment and the tactics used to conduct these military operations. Asking our government to determine an exit strategy is not telling them to "cut and run."

Ultimately, it must be Hamid Karzai or his successor who solves the security situation in Afghanistan - not foreign forces.

Neither he nor Prime Minister Harper should misconstrue a patriotic display of red clothing as a blank cheque to run up a limitless casualty count in an unwinnable war "[emphasis mine].

I honeslty want answers to these questions. They are not forthcoming from our government and I have asked them over and over in various blog comments with no response either. Think of this as the place to set the record straight, or to refute the very premise, but lets get some answers and information out there.

Leave your answers in the comments, please.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hotstove Virgin No More

Thanks to Greg Staples, Jason Cherniak and James Bow for including me in this weeks Bloggers Hotstove.

So wander over and have a listen, it was a good discussion about last weeks events. Let me know what you think and feel free, over the course of this week, to let me know what you would like discussed next week.

And thanks to Idealist Pragmatist for recommending me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On Dawson College

We certainly all have heard about the shootings at Dawson College in Montreal by now. A lot of things can be said, especially sympathy for the young woman who was killed and her family, congratulations for the MUC for going in quickly (rather unlike Columbine) and ending it.

But now is the time for listening, not for talking.

We need to listen to the witnesses and survivors and hear their stories. We need to listen to the evidence - all the evidence - about this incident. Over the days and weeks to come, we need to listen to the background story of the shooter, no matter how unpleasant, ordinary or disgusting. We need to find out the facts surrounding this tragedy.

We do not need to knee-jerk react and take advantage of this incident to further our own partisan political agendas. Therefore you will not hear me argue that this shooting shows that the gun registry is either ineffective or needs to be tightened. You will not hear me call for more gun control or say that gun control doesn't work because of this. You will not hear me slam or defend the "Goth" lifestyle. You will not hear me advocate or decry more surveillance in our schools or on our streets.

You will hear none of that. When the facts have been established in the next few weeks is when we can start having these kinds of discussions. Right now we need to be patient and wait because having such discussions without facts is simply hollow argument that uses tragedy to further a pre-established political agenda, and that will neither serve to help the victims nor to make us safer in the long term.

We need to have those discussions, but they should be based on facts, not innuendo, rumour or prejudice, in order for us to learn from this, so to try to prevent it (or mitigate the effects) in the future. That means listening to the police, the coroner, the witnesses, the physical evidence and the words and story of the perpetrator.

So lets listen and comfort right now. We can argue later.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Anniversary of Lies

Today, September 12, 2006, is the 5th anniversary of one of the most horrendous crimes ever perpetrated in the United States of America. 5 years ago today, according to Richard Clarke's sworn testimony before the 9\11 Commission, that George Bush and his cabal - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and others - betrayed the memory and tragedy of the victims of the 9\11 attack and began the campaign of lies that lead to the War in Iraq. Anattack they had all wished for since long before 9\11, since the beginnings of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).

According to Clarke, it was on this day that he was approach by Donald Rumsfeld and told to look for reasons to attack Iraq over 9\11. Clarke states that at first he thought this was a joke, but soon realized that he was serious. In the ensuing weeks he was only able to convince the administration to an "Afghanistan first" policy - meaning, of course, that Iraq would quickly follow Afghanistan. And hence the reason the US was more than prepared to "cut and run" from Afghanistan - they never intended to stay - and why they had no plan for post-war Iraq - they never intended to leave.

So while we rightfully mourned the victims and heros of the largest criminal act in US history, the single largest incidence of mass murder, yesterday, today we need to mourn the death of truth, justice and liberty at the hands of those who exploited North America and the World's anger and fear for their own narrow, nationalistic, economic interests.

If I would have told you on September 12, 2001 that within 5 years, the US would be the pariah of most of the world, that it would launch a pre-emptive, unjustified war based on lies against a country and a people that had nothing to do with 9\11, and that the real perpetrator of this heinous action would still be walking free, essentially unpursued and unmolested inside the territory of an "ally", you would have laughed in my face, called me crazy and made me a tinfoil hat. If I would have further told you that the US President would exempt himself from US law over 700 times, create a prison where people are held indefinitely without charge or trial, ignore the Geneva Convention, condone torture and run a secret network of Gulag-style international prisons where preceived enemies are "disappeared", you would have checked me into a psych ward. Yet here we are.

The real legacy of 9\11 should have been unparalleled international cooperationand unity - even Hezbollah and the Iranians were condemning the attacks on September 12, 2001. Instead, we have a once great USA slipping into 'facism with a friendly face', a group of men using lies and propaganda in order to rule above the law, for their own self interest (Haliburton, KBR, Bechtel...).

President Eisenhower's warning of the the 'military industrial complex' has certainly come true. And the memory of real heros is sullied and besmerched by these exploiting bastards.

But I am not a pessimist. I believe in karma. I know that in the years to come, I will mark another anniversay - the anniversary of the day these men were met with justice. I can hope that justice come via the ballot box, but it is just as likely it will be the ends that all fascists meet, one that usually involves partisans, rope and a bridge.

Either way their end will come, and not soon enough.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

NDP Pariah

Well it now appears that it is official party policy of the NDP that Canada withdrawl its troops from Afghanistan.

I cannot support this policy. As I have stated before, I think we have very good reasons for being a part of the Afghanistan mission. I also think that our current strategy for carrying out the mission is flawed and needs to change - a different approach, but remain with the mission. I actually agree with Gerard Kennedy's position, rather than that of my own party. I am in the minority 10% that favour the mission and did not (nor would not if I were at the Convention) vote for the resloution. At least I am in the company of Peter Stoffer, NDP MP for Sackville Nova Scotia, whom I respect immensely:

"It's up to Canadians to judge us, and they will have a time very soon at the next election to determine if we are right or wrong on these issues," Peter Stoffer, a NDP MP from Nova Scotia, told CBC News.

Stoffer was among those who voted against the resolution, but he said he respects the party's decision and will not quit over it."

I try very hard not to be a single issue person and I agree with the NDP on a great many things. Their position on the military from the 2004 campaign was a refreshing change that surprised even some of my Conservative friends at the Blogging Party of Canada debates we had on the issue. But lately I have been having a crisis of confidence. Having watched one of our brightest from the last election jump ship has shaken me as well.

I am seriously questioning whether I belong in the NDP. That being said, I sure as hell don't belong in the CPC and the Liberals, well, I still can't trust them and would have a hard time being an any party that thinks Jason Cherniak's latest hijinks are ok, or still allows guys like Dan McTeague to be members.

Perhaps the other pieces of party policy that come from the convention will allow me the opportunity to stay in the NDP. After all, who else will defend Canada's healthcare system? Who else will really stand up for individual rights and equality? The CPC sure won't and the Liberals simply haven't. As I said, I am not a one-issue person, so perhaps other polices will convince me to stay.

Or perhaps Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy and the left side of the Liberals will win the day. That might be very tempting.

Or perhaps, and more likely as of right now, I will join my friends James Bow, Declan Dunne, KevinG and others in being non-partisan, non-party affiliated. I will still be an unabashed lefty of course, but I will be more comfortable in the company I keep.

For now, I will stay with the NDP a bit longer and see if I can find a reason to stay. But time is running out.

Friday, September 01, 2006

And I'm back...for now

Clearly I don't have a great handle on the "Live" part of "Live Blogging". Ah well, such is life, eh?

I got back late last night, after spending 6 hours trapped at O'Hare. I took a chance and arrived early to see if I gould get a 13:30 flight home instead of my sheduled 18:30 flight.

No luck.

At the very last minute, the entire 13:30 flight was cancelled. That meant everyone, standby and regular fares alike, had to be placed on other flights. Luckily I was still booked on the 18:30. Unluckily the wifi was dead yesterday so for 6 hours I had nothing to do but stare, sleep on the floor and listen to CNN broadcast from some unseen TV in the waiting area.

After finally arriving back in Ottawa, I discovered that my checked luggage had decided it like O'Hare and would nto be joining me for the cab ride home. Air Canada informed me today that they have found my bag, drunk at a bar with some of the other missing bags (about 1/2 my flight lost their bags) and will be sending back to Ottawa and to my home today. Good thing, because I will need a few days for laundry and then its back to the airport for another 3 days in Chicago next week.

Thank goodness Chicago is a nice city with nice people and my hotel is great, otherwise this travel stuff would truly suck.

Now my only fear is that my toddling 8-month-old will decide sometime next week to make me into a Harry Chapin lyric.

I'll try to get to some political stuff later if I can find the time. So what's been happening since I've been gone?