Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Paging Ezra Levant...

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech is under attack again. This time its not just questioning by a Human Rights Commission investigator:

"Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, 23, was sentenced to death Tuesday by a three-judge panel in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for distributing a report he printed off the Internet to fellow journalism students at Balkh University.

The judges said the article humiliated Islam, and members of a clerics council had pushed for Mr. Kaambakhsh to be punished."

Kaambakhsh was sentenced to death for something his brother wrote - "[Kaambakhsh] is actually being punished for reporting by his brother about abuses by northern warlords".

So can we expect a scathing indictment of the Karzai government and the Afghan judicial system over this? This is, after all, an actual example of a star chamber or kangaroo court, and one that we as Canadians are supporting, as our soldiers fight and die to protect this corrupt, fundamentalist Islamic government and state.

Do you think John Manley thought of whether we should be supporting a government and state that does this, or sentences people to death for converting the Christianity? I doubt it - it seems that he was too busy cutting and pasting.

Here is another example of actual brutal suppression of freedom by our so-called allies in the Afghan government, beyond their use of torture, which is far more serious than anything a stupid human right commission is even capable of doing. Where is the BT outrage over this?

Given all that, what possible moral reason do we have for keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan to die for dictatorship and fundamentalist Islam? Why are we even still there, let alone considering staying for 3 more years.

Don't extend them until 2011, don't wait until 2009. Bring the troops home NOW and stop supporting a government of Islamic extremists and warlords who are doing exactly what the Taliban did. We are not fighting for freedom if we support these thugs.

Bring them home now.

So, can we expect a column and some video on this, Ezra?

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At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By staying do we not have more ability to press for change?

If NATO was out of Afghanistan, would we have heard about this issue at all?

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Mike said...


We have been there for almost 5 years and this is still happening. We are not pressing for change, we are actually supporting the thugs in the government doing this stuff.

And if we were not there, these things might still be happening, but not with our direct military support and tacit acceptance.

If we weren't there, we could decide to support groups other than the government. Right now we have no choice. We are enabling them to do this.

If you want to get out of a hole, stop digging, right?

We are there to help, even if we support thugs was the reasoning behind supporting dictators all over the world during the cold war - they weren't commies and we could soften them. Well it didn't work and indeed may be one of the factors feeding the backlash against the West we see around the world now.

Rule number 1: Don't support dictators, authoritarians or religious fundamentalists.

We are supporting all three.

Besides, we are far more likely to change Afghanistan via trade than via sending in the army to support the latest brutal cabal of warlords.

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

far more likely to change Afghanistan via trade

Eh. I'd lay a bet on that, but neither of us will live long enough to collect.

I think I'm coming to the realization/conclusion/depressing reality? that there is no such thing as successful foreign intervention. I already believe post WW2 interventionism by foreign states is at the root of many problems today. I had hoped we had learned something, and were able to apply a lighter touch.

The alternative is to leave each state alone, allow it to develop its society on its own.

For many people that means turning a blind eye to atrocities in those states. Those that cannot turn a blind eyed, would argue for even more isolation. For example no more trade with China as we are propping up a totalitarian government.

That goes back to the question, does trade and economic prosperity engender the freedoms we desire in our trade partners? Again, that has yet to be proven. But it might be the only realistic alternative.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Well, I still hold out that trade and voluntary association is a far better way to do things. Its not about using trade as a club, but rather a carrot. For instance, instead of a blockade of Cuba, if the US had merely traded, allowed Cuban goods in to the US, getting US goods into Cuba, allowed tourists in, Cubans themselves, rather than their government, would have gotten a taste for those things and those aspects of our culture we enjoy - not just material goods, but freedom. Castro would have been gone long ago.

And despite the nastiness that is China, it is far better today than 30 years ago because of the appeal and power of trade on the individual Chinese, rather than the government. There is a long way to go, but it is moving, slowly in the right direction. It was far more productive than guns and bombs.

And I would challenge that we can help in those places with atrocities being committed without military interventions by supporting groups like Amnesty International or Medecin San Frontier - both of which have helped people in these situations without boycotts or armies.

"But it might be the only realistic alternative."

Absolutely. While trade and voluntary change may take time, the downstream consequences are usually beneficial. Invasion, military intervention and adventurism (empire by any other word) usually sow the seeds of later problems, as we are now experiencing.

Think of change as a bottom up process, involving individuals and voluntary groups rather than top down, involving states and governments forcing their will where they are not wanted.

Federic Bastiat famously said "If trade does not cross borders, armies will". I think the corollary is also true - it should be trade rather than armies.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was it wrong then for the US to invade Afghanistan in retaliation to 9/11? Call me a hawk, but opening up trade negotiations would not be a valid answer. I think the US was justified to retaliate, with force. Non-response would have encouraged further attacks of the same. At a basic level the "my stick is bigger than your stick, and I'm not afraid to use it" logic still resonates with people, and its a clear message easily understood.

But the "what next? question" still lingers.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"Was it wrong then for the US to invade Afghanistan in retaliation to 9/11?"

No. they should have gone in, captured OBL, and possibly Mullah Omar and tried them for their complicity in 9-11. They should have then gotten out and started trading with the people at the local level, rather than the national level.

Quick and precise, proportional to the attack suffered.

Yes, we'll what next indeed. How many next-generation Islamists and terrorists are stewing in their anger and hatred in Iraq right now? Egypt? Afghanistan? Pakistan?

I'm afraid the cycle continues and unless we do something different, we can expect more of the same.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger rabbit said...

If NATO forces pulled out of Afghanistan right now, the trade relations we would set up would likely be with the Taliban.

Talk about your religious fundamentalists!

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Mike said...


Not necessarily. I would recommend trading with individuals not governments. But whomever it would be with that we chose (to trade with (or not), no Canadian soldiers would be fighting and dying to uphold values and systems that are opposed to freedom and democracy.

Unless you want to give me the old "sunk cost" fallacy.

Sorry but supporting a government and a society like that is not worth the life of a single Canadian soldier, no matter how many have died before.

At 7:09 PM, Blogger KevinG said...

Mike, seriously WTF. This should be beneath you.

At 8:13 PM, Blogger Mike said...

How so Kevin?

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Raphael Alexander said...

Mike, there are a few issues here worth mentioning. First of all, it's mostly a corruption issue either based on tribal allegiances or some backwater easily bribed court from the warlords. I mean, three judges could have meant a few tribal elders in a country like Afghanistan.

Second, Mazar-i-Sharif is a large city, but it's still remote and more in control of the Northern Alliance than it is the Karzai government. I don't see how this single incident reflects badly on NATO, although certainly Karzai should do something about it.

Rabbit, if NATO pulled from Afghanistan, the Taliban would most likely not set up in Mazar-i-Sharif. They were easily slaughtered after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in November of 2001, and were routed from that region.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Mike said...


The Northern Alliance is the Karzai government.

If is not a single incident - I mentioned the Sharia incident about Abdul Rhaman being sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. I'm not fan of any religion, but I am even less of a fan of killing people for their beliefs, even beliefs I personally think are ridiculous.

As you say, it appears most of the country is still run by tribal warlords, a corrupt central government run on the basis of religious fundamentalist laws. I thought that was one of the reasons the Taliban was bad.

How is the current government that different than the Taliban when things like this happen.

I keep hearing how we are there for "the women of Afghanistan" or for freedom and democracy, but I don't see it. I see soldiers dying in a quagmire, supporting a questionable regime of former warlords enforcing the same basic laws as the thugs they deposed.

I don;t see the value in that at all.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Catelli wrote:

I think I'm coming to the realization/conclusion/depressing reality? that there is no such thing as successful foreign intervention.

You're pretty much right on that, friend. But it doesn't depress me. In fact, I'd be thrilled if folks understood and accepted it.

Mike's posts above clearly illustrate how freedom doesn't need to impose itself on other countries. Other countries, sooner or later, always seem to work towards it once they understand and see the results if they are left alone to come to the realizations themselves. Mike's "Cuba" point is one I entirely agree with.

The middle east, too, was slowly but inexorably becoming more secular, and more "westernized" (to use a term I don't love. Would "classically liberal" be better?) right up until the WWI, WWII and Cold War powers intensely and continuously interfered while jockeying for oil and strategic advantages.

I think Mike's pretty much got it right. Trade when you can (and be sensibly benevolent when doing so), otherwise "contain" if you must as a general principle (as we did with Soviet expansionism for the most part), and retaliate with force only when absolutely necessary and always only surgically.

The rest of the time, the best way to promote freedom is simply by being free yourself.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Raphael Alexander said...

I'm not saying you don't have a point there...

At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always supported the Afghanistan mission on the concept of building the foundations for a liberal democracy, hell even a liberal theocracy (I know, contradiction). I never gave any credence to the grandiose notions that we were there for "the women of Afghanistan" or for freedom and democracy. Not in any immediate sense. You have to lay the foundation before you build the house. Many expected us to build a complete "home" by now. That is an unrealistic viewpoint for me.

I was hoping (and still hope for) the establishment of a stable society. One that we could trade with and recognize on an international level. Then through trade and diplomatic ties we could nudge them towards our concepts of fariness and decency for all.

Part of the problem of establishing trade with Afghanistan is they have nothing we want, other than heroin. So I saw the establishment of a stable country a first objective for creating any additional social institutions and industries.

If we leave, we leave Afghanistan in such a poor state that it will never grow into any semblance of a modern society. It will wallow in a primitive form for centuries.

I don't know anymore. Its hard to have any hope or optimism for this mission. All we accomplished was beating up the Taliban and removing them as a threat to the West for the short term. The lives and money wasted. Its a depressing thought.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Ron said...

If we leave, we leave Afghanistan in such a poor state that it will never grow into any semblance of a modern society. It will wallow in a primitive form for centuries.

That might be the case, but I doubt it; heck, the Soviet Union only lasted 70 years and they were good/sophisticated at being oppressive. I think the point is that an internal drive for freedom (even if it comes slowly) is a much better and more certain way of establishing a good foundation for a liberal "democracy" than attempting to impose it prematurely from the outside.

In the meantime, take in every legitimate refugee that manages to escape and, like I said, just insist on being free where you are, which is *here*.

At 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your point is that a Canadian citizen should focus on freedom of speech restrictions in Afghanistan instead of Canada?

My opinion is that freedom of speech can never be established in Afghanistan if it’s eroded in Canada. (But I’m an idiot and an American citizen.)

I do know how to read despite being an idiot and an American citizen, and I read Islamic texts.

My question to you is why is freedom of speech in “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” being chilled with a charge against the brother who “humiliated Islam” instead of a charge against the brother who published against the warlords?

You haven’t responded yet to anything I’ve posted, even to tell me I’m full of it. Your kids might someday regret your intellectual laziness.

At 9:13 PM, Blogger Mike said...

My kids will thank me when bigoted pigs like you are gone. Now fuck off, you are not welcome here.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Mike said...

What part of "you're not welcome here" or "fuck off" are you having difficulty understading, real-stupid-racist?


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