Monday, November 30, 2009

Reloaded: Climate Change, Shlimate Change!

Following up from this other post, here's some wonderful news for you folks (emphasis added):

What Happens When Your Country Drowns?
Meet the people of Tuvalu, the world's first climate refugees

It's a bright, balmy Sunday afternoon and I'm driving through the western outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand, the kind of place you never see on a postcard. No majestic mountains, no improbably green pastures—just a bland tangle of shopping malls and suburbia. I follow a dead-end street, past a rubber plant, a roofing company, a drainage service, and a plastics manufacturer, until I reach a white building behind a chain-link fence. Inside is a kernel of a nation within a nation—a sneak preview of what a climate change exodus looks like.

This is the Tuvalu Christian Church, the heart of a migrant community from what may be the first country to be rendered unlivable by global warming (...).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that low-lying island nations are particularly endang­ered by rising seas and will also be buffeted by more frequent and more violent storms. Already, warmer ocean temperatures are eating away at the coral reefs that form Tuvalu's archipelagic spine. Tuvaluans themselves point to more tangible indicators of trouble—the "king tides" that increasingly sluice their homes, the briny water oozing up into the "grow pits" where they used to cultivate taro and other vegetables. As Julia Whitty predicted in this magazine in 2003, the prognosis has become sufficiently dire that the residents of Tuvalu and other low-lying atoll islands "are beginning to envision the wholesale abandonment of their nations." Around one-fifth of the 12,000-some inhabitants have already left, most bound for New Zealand, where the Tuvaluan community has nearly tripled since 1996.

(...) Tuvalu and other low-lying island countries like Kiribati and the Maldives are, in one sense, the starkest example of how climate change will reshape the world. But Auckland's Tuvaluan community also represents a best-case scenario—so far their migration has been orderly, and their numbers are minuscule compared with the millions of impoverished people who live in global warming hot spots like Africa's Sahel, coastal Bangladesh, and Vietnam's deltas. Koko Warner, an expert on climate change and migration at the United Nations University in Bonn, says the displacement of those populations could be "a phenomenon of a scope not experienced in human history."

Yet little has been done to prepare. In fact, our understanding of exactly how global warming will affect people—how many lives will be threatened, and what we could do to avert a succession of humanitarian disasters—remains extremely rudimentary. As Bill Gates has caustically observed, "It is interesting how often the impact of climate change is illustrated by talking about the problems the polar bears will face rather than the much greater number of poor people who will die unless significant investments are made to help them."
As if this was never expected ...

Which brings me to reiterate:
Yes, the planet will do fine in the long run, regardless of what we do to its climate cycle. After all, Earth and life on it did so after an extinction-level event some 65 million years ago - although the dinosaurs didn't do so well.

Consequently, fighting Global Climate Change is not so much about saving the planet, but rather about saving ourselves and our future generations.

So, the final question is: fighting Global Warming - can Humanity afford not to?
The perfect storm indeed ...

Because Any Excuse Is A Good Excuse ...

... to torture, murder, kill or genocide other human human beings.

One more case in point.

We have a long way to go ...

So, Umm, Why Exactly Did Bin Laden Escaped From Tora Bora Back In 2001?

Because of utter incompetence, that's why (emphasis added):

Rumsfeld decision let Bin Laden escape: Senate report

Osama bin Laden was "within the grasp" of US forces in late 2001 but escaped because then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements, a hard-hitting US Senate report says.

The report, set for release Monday, is intended to help learn the lessons of the past as President Barack Obama prepares to announce a major escalation of the conflict, now in its ninth year, with up to 35,000 more US troops.

It points the finger directly at Rumsfeld for turning down requests for reinforcements as Bin Laden was trapped in December 2001 in caves and tunnels in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora.

"The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the marine corps and the army, was kept on the sidelines," the report says.

"Instead, the US command chose to rely on airstrikes and untrained Afghan militias to attack Bin Laden and on Pakistan's loosely organized Frontier Corps to seal his escape routes."

Entitled "Tora Bora revisited: how we failed to get Bin Laden and why it matters today," the report -- commissioned by Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- says Bin Laden expected to die and had even written a will.

"But the Al-Qaeda leader would live to fight another day. Fewer than 100 American commandos were on the scene with their Afghan allies and calls for reinforcements to launch an assault were rejected.

"Requests were also turned down for US troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan.

"The decision not to deploy American forces to go after Bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, General Tommy Franks," the report says.

"On or around December 16, two days after writing his will, Bin Laden and an entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area. Most analysts say he is still there today."

Rumsfeld's argument at the time, the report says, was that deploying too many American troops could jeopardize the mission by creating an anti-US backlash among the local populace.

The report dismisses arguments at the time from Franks, Vice President Dick Cheney and others defending the decision and arguing that the intelligence was inconclusive about Bin Laden's location.

"The review of existing literature, unclassified government records and interviews with central participants underlying this report removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora."
Gee ... really? Here's a little something from yours truly, back in October 2007 (emphasis added):
(...) We all know how this has been turning out so far:
(...) faced with the reality of this war and seeking to salvage the most out of it humanitarian-wise, the United Nations Security Council authorized an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan on 12/20/2001, which not only included N.A.T.O. forces but was also to be lead by N.A.T.O. itself. The ISAF's original peacekeeping mandate was for a duration of six months - however, partly because of the Taliban insurgency and partly because the U.S. has been "too busy" with its Iraq War since it began in 03/2003, the ISAF's mandate was thereafter extended in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and then extended anew until 03/2008 ... with talks already in the works for a further twelve month-extension beyond this date. In between, N.A.T.O. expanded its Afghanistan mission by increasing its forces in 2005 and in 2006 (including Canadian ones) - because its peacekeeping mission had transformed into a counter-insurgency one.


Although having been successfully pushed out of power, the Taliban insurgency rages on in spite of the wishful thinking that it is weakening.


Osama bin Laden got away and is still in hiding, along with most of the al-Qaeda leadership - even if he and his organization were the prime justification for going into Afghanistan in the first place.
In other words: due to the incompetence of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz et al. (especially by their demonstrated incapacity to keep focused on the Afghan mission at hand and complete it soundly before moving on), N.A.T.O. had to change its peacekeeping/reconstruction mandate to full combat operations - because the Taliban and al-Qaeda were back in force (after being essentially allowed to flee to Pakistan in order to regroup), and enough to enact a significant insurgence at that. So in effect, N.A.T.O. ends up trying to finish the job the Bush administration should have completed to begin with, but instead botched - i.e. N.A.T.O. is trying to make up for the ludicrous mistakes of the demonstrated incompetence of Bush and Co..

How so? The Powell Doctrine was already established and demonstrated after Desert Storm. But then the resident incompetents in the White House (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al.) tossed it aside when they went into Afghanistan - especially because, as it has been revealed, they already had their sights on Iraq. So, they went in Afghanistan without massive deployments, made those stupid deals with the Afghan Warlords and their militias, contented themselves with routing the Taliban and al-Qaeda away from Khabul (and for the life of me, I never understood why no one figured out that the remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban would run into Pakistan and, consequently, take strategic steps to block off the border in order to prevent this - then again, they never had enough boots on the grounds to enact such a basic strategy to begin with - but I digress), and then they asked for U.N./N.A.T.O. help because they had begun occupying themselves with Iraq.
To put it more succintly, as yours truly did back in April of last year (emphasis added):
Conclusion: the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been back in force after being essentially allowed to flee to Pakistan and regroup, thanks to the mind-boggling incompetence of the Bush administration.

Or, in other words: this has been a policy of retreat from bin Laden and Afghanistan.
Incompetence: always resulting into utter, neverending, FUBARs.

Q.E.D. - and que sera, sera.

(And see also MoS)

(Cross-posted at The Peace Tree)

Say - Anybody Remembers Haditha?

You know that little Iraqi town north-west of Baghdad where there was some noteworthy military battle, back in November 2005?

Anybody remembers how said battle constituted a paragon of military professionalism, how it was meticulous to a fault regarding the respect of Geneva Convention IV (Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War), how only bad guys were killed?

Anybody remembers what happened to those honest, stand-up American marines implicated in this exemplary military operation - were they rewarded, honored?

Anybody remembers Haditha?

Just wondering, is all ...

Public Inquiry Into Torturegate Canada: Sign The Online Petition

Via Thwap's place:
Pursuant to the goal of bringing accountability and the rule of law to Canada, and starting the process of getting the harpercons into the prison cells they're inevitably going to be thrown into, Alison at Creekside has a link to an online petition for a public inquiry into torture.

Please sign it and send it.
I did. How about the rest of you, fellow Canadians?

And to this effect: read this call for action from Thwap. You won't regret it.

Yes Indeed - Gimme More Of That "Old Time" Religion, Baby!

Words fail me (emphasis added):

Author: ‘The Family’ behind proposed Ugandan law that would execute HIV+ men

The African nation of Uganda is weighing a bill that would impose the death penalty on HIV positive men who have committed what it calls "aggravated homosexuality."

As if that were not shocking enough, a U.S. author is claiming that a secretive group of American politicians appear to be a driving force in seeing the proposal become law.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, heavily supported by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, was first read in October, triggering a wave of condemnation (...).

Sharlet's book "The Family" is an investigative look at a secretive group of fundamentalist Christian lawmakers in Washington, D.C. In a recent interview with NPR's Terry Gross, he broke the news that The Family's influence in Uganda is rife.

"[The] legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family," he said. "He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda."

And how did Sharlet discover the connection? "You follow [the] money," he said. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It's not so invisible anymore. So that's how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family's work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni's kind of right-hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family's National Prayer Breakfast. And here's a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda's executive office and has been very vocal about what he's doing, in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family."

Under current Ugandan law, homosexuality is a crime punishable by life in prison. The proposed law would not just condemn HIV positive gay men and "repeat offenders" to death, it would also jail for three years anyone who knows a gay man but refuses to report them to authorities. Further, anyone who defends in public the rights of gays and lesbians would be subjected to a seven year prison term.

Doing God's work indeed ...

Can I get an Amen, brothers and sisters?

Oh yes.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Late Friday Night Ode To ... Intellectual Dishonesty

... and intellectual sloth-driven ignorance. Ah, those primitive minds - these sure abound these days, eh? Sadly enough ...

Thus I give you good folks Cage The Elephant - No rest For The Wicked:

Still - keep on rockin'!

(And I'll see you folks again Monday)

(P.S. Tip of the hat to the ever excellently informative Impolitical for her musical choice last week, and a warm welcome back to 900ftJesus - she likewise put up great music offerings on her new blog tonight) ;-)

Reloaded: The Limits Of Ignorance

Intellectual sloth-driven ignorance, lack of understanding (if not refusal to understand) and rejection of facts are the primary characteristics of religious fundamentalists, creationists and IDists.

They will also typically move the goalposts when they are engaged by someone who knows about such things as science and/or evolution - you know, like a scientist - and will likewise think themselves clever by asking distracting questions which only further demonstrate their profound lack of knowledge and understanding.

Not counting their exposed deficiencies in cognitive faculties.

And when they are rightly called out for their ignorance, they always react the same way: they condemn those who seek to make them see the facts as "arrogant", as "not knowing what they are talking about", as "ego-bloated intellectuals/academics" - and from there it all degenerate in further childish insults against those who called out their utter ignorance and refusal to acknowledge established facts in the first place.

Including deleting comments in order to misrepresent deleted comments so as to cast say, a scientist having made said comments, in a detrimental light (just one example of such tactic being exposed here, among so many out there).

They do these things because they can't win an argument based on facts - if only because they pretend that facts of the matter discussed just don't exist or that facts are "a matter of opinion".

Deficiencies in cognitive faculties indeed.

From there, they just can't let go. Their intellectual and emotional meltdown go to such extent that they do not even try to pretend anymore that they are reasonable thinking human beings "only trying to see the two sides of the equation" - as per the role they typically seek to cast themselves into.

Now, one might think that such folks are to be found exclusively on the right/far-right end of the political spectrum (again - just one example among many being exposed here).

Well ... looks like this is not the case, I'm afraid.

It began with this feuille de chou from a "prog blogger" - which essentially reiterated all of the typical ignorance-based talking points of creationists and IDists. After being called on it by yours truly in the comments section, the expected meltdown ensued in said comments section of the post, including deletion of comments (of which I managed to save most in a doc file, thus allowing for a more complete picture of the discussion - contact me if you wish to view it). The quite pathetic meltdown further continued in the comments over there.

All the typical "arguing" tactics of rightwingnuttery were fully used by this "prog blogger" - including outright dismissal of anyone who is a scientist, a professor and/or intellectual - because of course, those who know the facts are always trying to "impose their opinions" whenever they endeavor to affirm/establish/remind/indicate/point out said facts (anti-intellectualism, anyone?).

Being only human, I acknowledge that at one point I sort of took the figurative gloves off - but kept it rather contained to a comments section of my blog - as opposed to making an all out attack through a blogpost of my own.

Then came this follow-up piece of pure drivel. And now this other one, where the "prog blogger" in question rants about the "fanaticism" of "evolutionists" - all the while attempting to take side-swipes at yours truly ... only to yet further expose his/her own cognitive challenges.

I previously wrote an essay titled The Limits of Ignorance. What has been happening with this "prog blogger", including his ignorance-based (non)arguments, creationist/IDist non-factual talking points and overall behavior, are described almost to a T in this older post of mine - all you folks need to do is replace the name of known creationist David Warren in this essay with the name of said "prog blogger". Heck, even the same dismissive ignorance-based (non)arguments were actually used by our aforementioned "prog blogger" in his posts and elsewhere (see above) - the pretentious snide remark about "mice in the lab" being one obvious example.

Thus allowing me to state: Q.E.D.

And from there on, I refuse to further waste any time and/or blogging space with this intellectual sloth-driven, science-illiterate, pretentious ignoramus - after all, would you even bother to make this infamous, typical, pretentious ignoramus actually see reason?

However, I will express my puzzlement herein to the effect that each anti-evolution piece of drivel from this "prog blogger" actually managed to make the front page (through voting) of Progressive Bloggers.

Which in turn supports my contention that creationists/IDists are not exclusively a problem originating from the right/far-right end of the political spectrum - unfortunately, and sadly, enough.

Looks like our "reality-based" community has intellectual sloth-driven holes of ignorance in it ...

Addendum: although I doubt very much that this will turn out to be a "teaching moment" for our said "prog blogger", I nevertheless provide the following for free:

Addendum II: proving the point indeed ... complete with typical, expected misrepresentations:
This mentalmegalomaniac (It is not my style to give publicity to kooks like him, but after all his hard work at buffoonery he deserves some) keeps saying he will not waste his time anymore on someone who dares to say anything blasphemous(in his mind) about evolution; yet he is consumed by it. He keeps writing comments to himself here vilifying me and seeking the help of Jesus or Jesus 900ft. My, an evolutionist seeking help from Jesus. Now he has written a whole post on this here. I wonder who is having a meltdown. I got more laughs out of this guy and his fanaticism than any comedy show I have seen in recent days – if that is melting down then be it.

Now he is reprimanding Progressive Bloggers about why they include my posts and those who vote for my posts. Maybe I should inform Jon Stewart about this guy and he may have field day with it, but then Jon Stewart goes after significant people generally, not kooks.
Q.E.D. yet again.

And so it goes (from Progressive Bloggers affiliates page 1, around 8:00 PM EST):
There was an evolution and here is the proof.Click hereEnjoy. Sorry this video is not available for embedding. It is evolving. We will get there.
(but the title/post was deleted and changed thereafter - heh)

Please - do go on, LeDaro. Do go on ...

Because We Canadians Need To Be More Americanized ...

... according to our Prime Poseur and consequently he is seeking to loosen the foreign ownership telecom rules (emphasis added):
Asked this week about the current state of media foreign ownership policy, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement that appears to signal the time for a comprehensive shake-up of media regulation may be approaching. "The federal government is reviewing the recommendations of the Competition Policy Review Panel and continues to consider its options. We recognize the importance of strong competition, and its wider impact on investment and economic growth," it said.

Government insiders suggest this is a significant development that reflects recent turmoil in the media and telecom marketplaces.

Mr. Harper's thinking on the issue may have been coloured by a meeting last March in New York with News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch.

The lunch meeting between the Prime Minister and the media magnate was ostensibly to discuss G20 issues, but it is understood that Canada's media ownership regulations came up in conversation, with Mr. Murdoch complaining Canada is the only country in the Anglosphere where News Corp. doesn't operate, simply because it is not allowed to. The meeting is said to have persuaded Mr. Harper that the government should revisit the Wilson report.

In 2003, Mr. Murdoch was keen to expand his Fox News channel into Canada but a joint venture with Global TV was turned down by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. It was only after the plan to set up a separate Fox News Canada was ditched that the CRTC approved an application allowing Fox to distribute its signal in Canada.

It is unclear whether the News Corp. chairman is now taking a closer look at Canada -- inquiries to the company were met with a curt "no comment" -- but in a conference call this month, he said "when things come up, we kick the tires." There are currently no shortage of tire-kicking opportunities in the Canadian media.

Foreign ownership rules limit the holding of voting shares by non-Canadians to 20% at the operating company level and 33.3% at the holding company level. There are also stipulations about the number of non-Canadian board members and a requirement that the CRTC ensure foreigners cannot control the business "in fact."
And on a related note (emphasis added):
Palin tells Marg Delahunty Canada should 'dismantle' public health-care system

After being kicked out of the book-signing, Walsh and her crew then waited outside at a loading dock close to where Palin's bus was parked. When Palin emerged from the Borders bookstore, Walsh said, Delahunty - dressed in a more toned-down version of her trademark warrior princess costume - called out to her.

"Hey, remember us, we're the Canadians! We came all the way here from Canada!" Delahunty yelled. "When we asked you that question, we didn't hear your answer."

Palin strolled over, looking down on Walsh and her crew to tell them that "Canada needs to dismantle its public health-care system and allow private enterprise to get involved and turn a profit."

"Basically, she said government should stop doing the work that private enterprise should do," Walsh said.
Yessiree indeed - God Bless Canada America!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dissent Is What Will Save Us


However, it would require first that we reacquaint ourselves with our responsibilities as citizens of democracies:
Living in a democracy is a right and a responsibility. And yes, this responsibility requires effort. But which is better: having your back bent by the effort required to keep on living in a democratic society, or letting leave for complacency and find yourself one day with a back bent under a totalitarian regime (however benevolent it may be)?
'Nuff said ...

Iraq: The Proof Is In The Pudding - Or So They Say

As Britain's inquiry into the origins of the 2003 Iraq War goes ahead full steam, "shocking" revelations already abound.

I use the word shocking in quotes because, to be humbly honest, these revelations so far merely confirm what has been known for years: that the Bush administration had no valid reason to go to war with Iraq other than securing oil resources, and that the Blair government simply went along for the ride to get its fair share of said resources.

And everything else claimed by both governments as justifications for the Iraq war constituted nothing more than baseless sloganeering, propaganda, disinformation and lies.

Here's two such recent revelations that have come out of the Brisitsh inquiry. First, this (emphasis added):
Regime change 'may have been planned at ranch'

Tony Blair and George Bush may have agreed the need for regime change in Iraq in private discussions at the US president's ranch, the Iraq Inquiry heard today.

Sir Christopher Meyer, who was Britain's ambassador to the US between 1997 and 2003, said the April 2002 meeting in Crawford, Texas, appeared to be a major turning point.

He said in evidence: "I took no part in any of the discussions and there was a large chunk of that time when no adviser was there.

"I know what the Cabinet Office says were the results of the meeting but to this day I am not entirely clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at the Crawford ranch."

He said the change in stance was evidenced in a speech given by the Prime Minister the following day.

"To the best of my knowledge, I might be wrong, this was the first time that Tony Blair had said in public 'regime change'," Sir Christopher said.

"What he was trying to do was to draw the lessons of 9/11 and apply them to the situation in Iraq. which led - I think not inadvertently but deliberately - to a conflation of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

"When I heard that speech, I thought that this represents a tightening of the UK/US alliance and a degree of convergence on the danger Saddam Hussein presented."

Sir Christopher said that although "regime change" had been formal US policy since the Iraq Liberation Act passed by the Clinton administration in 1998, that had been of little interest to the Bush administration before 9/11.

(...) "By the time the president and the Prime Minister met at Crawford, they weren't there to talk about containment or sharpening sanctions.

"There had been a sea change in US administration to which the British Government, from October onwards, had to adapt to and make up its mind where it stood on these various issues.

"It was a complete waste of time in these circumstances, if we were to be able to work with the Americans, to go to them and bang on about regime change and say we can't support it."

Sir Christopher said Mr Blair had always been convinced of the need to deal with Saddam's weapons of mass destruction - giving a speech on the issue as early as 1998 - but prior to Crawford he had been largely quiet on the issue.

"Tony Blair was a true believer about the wickedness of Saddam Hussein," he said.

He said that after Crawford the priority for Britain was to go down the "UN route" and secure international backing in the Security Council for the return of weapons inspectors.

He said he had to stress to the US administration that it was in their own interests to do so - particularly the hawkish deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who was "viscerally" opposed to the UN.

"I had to put in those cynical terms to persuade him that this was not a limp-wristed, pitiful, European lack of will, pathetic type thing of which Europeans are frequently accused by the Americans," he said.

Although they succeeded in getting a resolution in the UN Security Council, the "real problem" was that the US military timetable for an invasion in March 2003 had been set before Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors returned to Iraq.

"It was impossible to see how Blix could bring the inspection process to a conclusion, for better or worse, by March.

"Because you cannot synchronise the programmes, you had to short-circuit the process by finding the notorious 'smoking gun'.

"We have got to try to prove that he (Saddam) is guilty and we - the British and Americans - have never recovered from that because, of course, there was no smoking gun."

Sir Christopher suggested if the military planning had been done on a longer timetable, it was possible that war could have been avoided.

"If we had planned for military action in the cool autumnal season of 2003 rather than the cool spring season of 2003, a lot of things might have been able to have been unwound," he said.

"The key problem was to let the military strategy wag the political and diplomatic strategy. It should have been the other way round."

He said in Washington, he found that British support for the war was quickly being "taken for granted" and he had trouble in persuading the Americans of the need for a Security Council resolution.

"The way I put it was if we didn't make a serious effort to go down the UN route, the first instance of regime change will take place in London," he said.

He expressed irritation that Britain was unable to gain much diplomatic leverage from its position as the US's chief ally in terms of issues such as the liberalisation of transatlantic airline service, or the need for post-war planning in Iraq.
If the Ambasador would have taken into account that the Bush administration was dead-set to go to war in Iraq regardless, then all of it makes compete sense - doesn't it? Except, of course, for all the civilian and military deaths which resulted from this gratuitous war of choice - now this will never make sense. Hence why it is important to fully expose the mendacity behind the origins of the war in Iraq: because in the end, it amounts to nothing less than criminal warmongering.

And then, there is this (emphasis added):
Blair knew Iraq had no WMD before war, inquiry hears
UK considered Iran, Libya, North Korea bigger threats than Iraq

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was told ten days before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs likely remained "dismantled," but the prime minister continued to insist that Iraq was producing chemical and biological weapons, a British inquiry heard Wednesday.

"With British and US troops massed on the border, the new intelligence was dismissed," reports the Times of London.

Sir William Ehrman, the director of international security at the UK's Foreign Office from 2000 to 2002, told the British government's inquiry into the Iraq invasion that "on March 10 we got a report saying that the chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and that Saddam hadn’t yet ordered their re-assembly and he might lack warheads capable of effective dispersal of agents."

The US and Britain led the Iraq invasion on March 20, 2003, ten days after that report. As the Guardian notes, "in the government's dossier on Iraqi weapons, published that month, Blair wrote that he believed intelligence assessments had established "beyond doubt" that Saddam was continuing to produce chemical and biological weapons – an assertion repeated up to the invasion."

(...) Among the things the Chilcot Inquiry, as it is known, is to determine is whether Blair misled the British public in the run-up to the war. Yesterday's testimony from Sir William increases the chances that the answer to that question will be yes.

The inquiry was also told that the UK's Foreign Office didn't consider Saddam Hussein's Iraq to be the biggest threat to global security.

"The inquiry was told that Iraq was ranked by the Foreign Office as only the fourth most dangerous of rogue states trying to develop weapons of mass destruction in 2001," reports the UK's Daily Telegraph. "Iran, North Korea and Libya were of greater concern to officials, who were confident that weapons inspections during the 1990s had dismantled Iraq’s nuclear capability."

According to the Times, the inquiry also heard that UN weapons inspector Hans Blix told the British government in February, 2003, that "Saddam might not have weapons of mass destruction. Mr Blair continued to say there was a risk to national security from WMD without mentioning the new intelligence."

Bush's poodle indeed ...

I can only imagine what else we would learn of the duplicity of the Bush administration should the Americans actually have the cojones to mount up a similar inquiry ...

But who am I kidding? They won't even investigate the Bush administration for authorizing torture.

Unfortunately, and sadly, enough.

The Afghanistan "War Speech" President Obama Should Give

President Barack Obama is set to give a presidential address next week on the matter of the war in Afghanistan. There are talks that President Obama will be at last outlining an exit strategy from Afghanistan in this so-called "war speech", perhaps including negociations with the Taliban. Then again, he is also reported to be mulling over sending some 34000 additional troops there, as a means to "surge" - as was done in Iraq in 2007.

Come what may, I stumbled upon the following little gem, care of Tom Engelhardt:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

A New Way Forward:

The President's Address to the American People on Afghan Strategy

Oval Office

For Immediate Release

December 2nd

My fellow Americans,

On March 28th, I outlined what I called a "comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan." It was ambitious. It was also an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise that was heartfelt. I believed -- and still believe -- that, in invading Iraq, a war this administration is now ending, we took our eye off Afghanistan. Our well-being and safety, as well as that of the Afghan people, suffered for it.

I suggested then that the situation in Afghanistan was already "perilous." I announced that we would be sending 17,000 more American soldiers into that war zone, as well as 4,000 trainers and advisors whose job would be to increase the size of the Afghan security forces so that they could someday take the lead in securing their own country. There could be no more serious decision for an American president.

Eight months have passed since that day. This evening, after a comprehensive policy review of our options in that region that has involved commanders in the field, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor James Jones, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, top intelligence and State Department officials and key ambassadors, special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, and experts from inside and outside this administration, I have a very different kind of announcement to make.

I plan to speak to you tonight with the frankness Americans deserve from their president. I've recently noted a number of pundits who suggest that my task here should be to reassure you about Afghanistan. I don't agree. What you need is the unvarnished truth just as it's been given to me. We all need to face a tough situation, as Americans have done so many times in the past, with our eyes wide open. It doesn't pay for a president or a people to fake it or, for that matter, to kick the can of a difficult decision down the road, especially when the lives of American troops are at stake.

During the presidential campaign I called Afghanistan "the right war." Let me say this: with the full information resources of the American presidency at my fingertips, I no longer believe that to be the case. I know a president isn't supposed to say such things, but he, too, should have the flexibility to change his mind. In fact, more than most people, it's important that he do so based on the best information available. No false pride or political calculation should keep him from that.

And the best information available to me on the situation in Afghanistan is sobering. It doesn't matter whether you are listening to our war commander, General Stanley McChrystal, who, as press reports have indicated, believes that with approximately 80,000 more troops -- which we essentially don't have available -- there would be a reasonable chance of conducting a successful counterinsurgency war against the Taliban, or our ambassador to that country, Karl Eikenberry, a former general with significant experience there, who believes we shouldn't send another soldier at present. All agree on the following seven points:

1. We have no partner in Afghanistan. The control of the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai hardly extends beyond the embattled capital of Kabul. He himself has just been returned to office in a presidential election in which voting fraud on an almost unimaginably large scale was the order of the day. His administration is believed to have lost all credibility with the Afghan people.

2. Afghanistan floats in a culture of corruption. This includes President Karzai's administration up to its highest levels and also the warlords who control various areas and, like the Taliban insurgency, are to some degree dependent for their financing on opium, which the country produces in staggering quantities. Afghanistan, in fact, is not only a narco-state, but the leading narco-state on the planet.

3. Despite billions of dollars of American money poured into training the Afghan security forces, the army is notoriously understrength and largely ineffective; the police forces are riddled with corruption and held in contempt by most of the populace.

4. The Taliban insurgency is spreading and gaining support largely because the Karzai regime has been so thoroughly discredited, the Afghan police and courts are so ineffective and corrupt, and reconstruction funds so badly misspent. Under these circumstances, American and NATO forces increasingly look like an army of occupation, and more of them are only likely to solidify this impression.

5. Al-Qaeda is no longer a significant factor in Afghanistan. The best intelligence available to me indicates -- and again, whatever their disagreements, all my advisors agree on this -- that there may be perhaps 100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and another 300 in neighboring Pakistan. As I said in March, our goal has been to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and on this we have, especially recently, been successful. Osama bin Laden, of course, remains at large, and his terrorist organization is still a danger to us, but not a $100 billion-plus danger.

6. Our war in Afghanistan has become the military equivalent of a massive bail-out of a firm determined to fail. Simply to send another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan would, my advisors estimate, cost $40-$54 billion extra dollars; eighty thousand troops, more than $80 billion. Sending more trainers and advisors in an effort to double the size of the Afghan security forces, as many have suggested, would cost another estimated $10 billion a year. These figures are over and above the present projected annual costs of the war -- $65 billion -- and would ensure that the American people will be spending $100 billion a year or more on this war, probably for years to come. Simply put, this is not money we can afford to squander on a failing war thousands of miles from home.

7. Our all-volunteer military has for years now shouldered the burden of our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if we were capable of sending 40,000-80,000 more troops to Afghanistan, they would without question be servicepeople on their second, third, fourth, or even fifth tours of duty. A military, even the best in the world, wears down under this sort of stress and pressure.

These seven points have been weighing on my mind over the last weeks as we've deliberated on the right course to take. Tonight, in response to the realities of Afghanistan as I've just described them to you, I've put aside all the subjects that ordinarily obsess Washington, especially whether an American president can reverse the direction of a war and still have an electoral future. That's for the American people, and them alone, to decide.

Given that, let me say as bluntly as I can that I have decided to send no more troops to Afghanistan. Beyond that, I believe it is in the national interest of the American people that this war, like the Iraq War, be drawn down. Over time, our troops and resources will be brought home in an orderly fashion, while we ensure that we provide adequate security for the men and women of our Armed Forces. Ours will be an administration that will stand or fall, as of today, on this essential position: that we ended, rather than extended, two wars.

This will, of course, take time. But I have already instructed Ambassador Eikenberry and Special Representative Holbrooke to begin discussions, however indirectly, with the Taliban insurgents for a truce in place. Before year's end, I plan to call an international conference of interested countries, including key regional partners, to help work out a way to settle this conflict. I will, in addition, soon announce a schedule for the withdrawal of the first American troops from Afghanistan.

For the counterinsurgency war that we now will not fight, there is already a path laid out. We walked down that well-mined path once in recent American memory and we know where it leads. For ending the war in another way, there is no precedent in our recent history and so no path -- only the unknown. But there is hope. Let me try to explain.

Recently, comparisons between the Vietnam War and our current conflict in Afghanistan have been legion. Let me, however, suggest a major difference between the two. When Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson faced their crises involving sending more troops into Vietnam, they and their advisors had little to rely on in the American record. They, in a sense, faced the darkness of the unknown as they made their choices. The same is not true of us.

In the White House, for instance, a number of us have been reading a book on how the U.S. got itself ever more disastrously involved in the Vietnam War. We have history to guide us here. We know what happens in counterinsurgency campaigns. We have the experience of Vietnam as a landmark on the trail behind us. And if that weren't enough, of course, we have the path to defeat already well cleared by the Russians in their Afghan fiasco of the 1980s, when they had just as many troops in the field as we would have if I had chosen to send those extra 40,000 Americans. That is the known.

On the other hand, peering down the path of de-escalation, all we can see is darkness. Nothing like this has been tried before in Washington. But I firmly believe that this, too, is deeply in the American grain. American immigrants, as well as slaves, traveled to this country as if into the darkness of the unknown. Americans have long braved the unknown in all sorts of ways.

To present this more formulaically, if we sent the troops and trainers to Afghanistan, if we increased air strikes and tried to strengthen the Afghan Army, we basically know how things are likely to work out: not well. The war is likely to spread. The insurgents, despite many losses, are likely to grow in strength. Hatred of Americans is likely to increase. Pakistan is likely to become more destabilized.

If, however, we don't take such steps and proceed down that other path, we do not know how things will work out in Afghanistan, or how well.

We do not know how things will work out in Pakistan, or how well.

That is hardly surprising, since we do not know what it means to end such a war now.

But we must not be scared. America will not -- of this, as your president, I am convinced -- be a safer nation if it spends many hundreds of billions of dollars over many years, essentially bankrupting itself and exhausting its military on what looks increasingly like an unwinnable war. This is not the way to safety, but to national penury -- and I am unwilling to preside over an America heading in that direction.

Let me say again that the unknown path, the path into the wilderness, couldn't be more American. We have always been willing to strike out for ourselves where others would not go. That, too, is in the best American tradition.

It is, of course, a perilous thing to predict the future, but in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, war has visibly only spread war. The beginning of a negotiated peace may have a similarly powerful effect, but in the opposite direction. It may actually take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents on both sides of the Afghan/Pakistan border. It may actually encourage forces in both countries with which we might be more comfortable to step to the fore.

Certainly, we will do our best to lead the way with any aid or advice we can offer toward a future peaceful Afghanistan and a future peaceful Pakistan. In the meantime, I plan to ask Congress to take some of the savings from our two wars winding down and put them into a genuine jobs program for the American people.

The way to safety in our world is, I believe, to secure our borders against those who would harm us, and to put Americans back to work. With this in mind, next month I've called for a White House Jobs Summit, which I plan to chair. And there I will suggest that, as a start, and only as a start, we look at two programs that were not only popular across the political spectrum in the desperate years of the Great Depression, but were remembered fondly long after by those who took part in them -- the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. These basic programs put millions of Americans back to work on public projects that mattered to this nation and saved families, lives, and souls.

We cannot afford a failing war in Afghanistan and a 10.2% official unemployment rate at home. We cannot live with two Americas, one for Wall Street and one for everyone else. This is not the path to American safety.

As president, I retain the right to strike at al-Qaeda or other terrorists who mean us imminent harm, no matter where they may be, including Afghanistan. I would never deny that there are dangers in the approach I suggest today, but when have Americans ever been averse to danger, or to a challenge either? I cannot believe we will be now.

It's time for change. I know that not all Americans will agree with me and that some will be upset by the approach I am now determined to follow. I expect anger and debate. I take full responsibility for whatever may result from this policy departure. Believe me, the buck stops here, but I am convinced that this is the way forward for our country in war and peace, at home and abroad.

I thank you for your time and attention. Goodnight and God bless America.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Torturegate Canada: Anatomy Of Incompetence In Action - Part II

In Part I of this three-part in depth analysis, the series of events which lead to the December 2005 bilateral Canada-Afghanistan detainee transfer agreement were outlined, as well why and how this agreement was fundamentally flawed - thanks to an initial incompetent exercise on the part of the LPC Martin minority government. However, from early 2006, the CPC Harper minority government came to power - but rather than accepting the agreement's flaws that were being pointed out throughout the year in order to remedy said flaws, this government instead acted incompetently in turn by simply posturing in defense of the agreement and politically attacking its critics, all the while relying on their utter ignorance (or lack of understanding) of the actual contents of the agreement, of what the ICRC can and can't do, and of Article 12 of Geneva III.

As previously stated: the table was fully set for our country to receive the first confirmed news of Afghan detainee abuses following their transfer to the Afghan government.

While the detainee transfer agreement was being rightfully and correctly criticized by opposition MPs, a then-newly arrived senior Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan, one Richard Colvin, began in May 2006 to send a series of urgent warnings about the treatment of transferred detainees at the hands of Afghan authorities (namely the NSD). Additionally, at the end of 2006, the Canadian Afghanistan diplomatic team's annual human rights report further informed the Harper government about systemic problems of torture in Afghan jails.

In between, in March 2006, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour reported on the NSD thusly (emphasis added):
The NSD, responsible for both civil and military intelligence, operates in relative secrecy without adequate judicial oversight and there have been reports of prolonged detention without trial, extortion, torture, and systematic due process violations. Multiple security institutions managed by the NSD, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense, function in an uncoordinated manner, and lack central control. Complaints of serious human rights violations committed by representatives of these institutions, including arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture, are common.
Then in June 2006, it was reported that the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) had estimated that about one in three prisoners handed over by Canadians soldiers were beaten or tortured.

All these warnings were ignored by senior Canadian Forces and government officials - even though reports were widely circulated in the Foreign Affairs and Defense departments. Incidentally, the Canadian Forces erected a wall of secrecy around the practice of handing over detainees that was out of sync with Canada's NATO partners, refusing to share with both the Canadian public as well as NATO itself how many detainees the military had captured and transferred. Furthermore, there was also a wide-ranging deference to then-Chief of Defense Gen. Rick Hillier, who brushed off detainee torture allegations. The Red Cross was even compelled, despite their long-standing practice, to warn the Canadian army in Kandahar about what was happening to prisoners, doing so over three months in 2006 - but no one would even take their phone calls.

Thus Canada already there and then found itself in direct contravention to its legally-binding obligations under Article 12 of Geneva III (emphasis added):
Art 12. Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them. Irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them.

Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention. When prisoners of war are transferred under such circumstances, responsibility for the application of the Convention rests on the Power accepting them while they are in its custody.

Nevertheless, if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.
Indeed, by ignoring all those warnings of detainee abuses, and consequently failing to investigate immediately any and all allegations to this effect, Canada, as the primary detaining power of Afghan prisoners, found itself in gross, negligent dereliction of its legal responsibilities over the transferred detainees.

Furthermore, Canada likewise found itself in direct contravention of Article 21 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (emphasis added):
  1. A State Party to this Convention may at any time declare under this article 3 that it recognizes the competence of the Committee (Against Torture) to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State Party claims that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under this Convention. Such communications may be received and considered according to the procedures laid down in this article only if submitted by a State Party which has made a declaration recognizing in regard to itself the competence of the Committee. No communication shall be dealt with by the Committee under this article if it concerns a State Party which has not made such a declaration. Communications received under this article shall be dealt with in accordance with the following procedure:
    1. If a State Party considers that another State Party is not giving effect to the provisions of this Convention, it may, by written communication, bring the matter to the attention of that State Party. Within three months after the receipt of the communication the receiving State shall afford the State which sent the communication an explanation or any other statement in writing clarifying the matter which should include, to the extent possible and pertinent, references to domestic procedures and remedies taken, pending, or available in the matter.
    2. If the matter is not adjusted to the satisfaction of both States Parties concerned within six months after the receipt by the receiving State of the initial communication, either State shall have the right to refer the matter to the Committee by notice given to the Committee and to the other State.
    3. The Committee shall deal with a matter referred to it under this article only after it has ascertained that all domestic remedies have been invoked and exhausted in the matter, in conformity with the generally recognized principles of international law. This shall not be the rule where the application of the remedies is unreasonably prolonged or is unlikely to bring effective relief to the person who is the victim of the violation of this Convention.
    4. The Committee shall hold closed meetings when examining communications under this article.
    5. Subject to the provisions of subparagraph (c), the Committee shall make available its good offices to the States Parties concerned with a view to a friendly solution of the matter on the basis of respect for the obligations provided for in the present Convention. For this purpose, the Committee may, when appropriate, set up an ad hoc conciliation commission.
    6. In any matter referred to it under this article, the Committee may call upon the States Parties concerned, referred to in subparagraph (b), to supply any relevant information.
    7. The States Parties concerned, referred to in subparagraph (b), shall have the right to be represented when the matter is being considered by the Committee and to make submissions orally and/or in writing.
    8. The Committee shall, within 12 months after the date of receipt of notice under subparagraph (b), submit a report.
      1. If a solution within the terms of subparagraph (e) is reached, the Committee shall confine its report to a brief statement of the facts and of the solution reached.
      2. If a solution within the terms of subparagraph (e) is not reached, the Committee shall confine its report to a brief statement of the facts; the written submissions and record of the oral submissions made by the States Parties concerned shall be attached to the report.
    In every matter, the report shall be communicated to the States Parties concerned.

  2. The provisions of this article shall come into force when five States Parties to this Convention have made declarations under paragraph 1 of this article. Such declarations shall be deposited by the States Parties with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall transmit copies thereof to the other States Parties. A declaration may be withdrawn at any time by notification to the Secretary-General. Such a withdrawal shall not prejudice the consideration of any matter which is the subject of a communication already transmitted under this article; no further communication by any State Party shall be received under this article after the notification of withdrawal of the declaration has been received by the Secretary-General, unless the State Party concerned has made a new declaration.
Both Canada and Afghanistan are not only "State Parties" of this convention, but furthermore ratified it. Hence, by failing to take seriously the abuse of detainees and, consequently, by likewise failing to communicate with the Karzai government to this effect, Canada found itself negligent of its legally-binding obligations regarding this convention as well.

After all, ignorance of the law does is no defense for breaking the law. And both Geneva III and the Convention Against Torture constitute the laws of our land.

Which brings us forward to February 2007, essentially a year after the Harper minority government came to power. Our country was then shocked when University of Ottawa Law Professor Amir Attaran produced documents (that he obtained under the Access to Information Act) which revealed that three Afghan prisoners in the custody of Canadian military police were brought in by their Afghan interrogator for treatment of similar injuries to the head and upper body, all on the same day.

Thus allegations of torture of transferred detainees came out publicly for the first time.

To the credit of then-Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor, his immediate (competent) response was to promise investigations (from the National Investigation Service and the Canadian Military Board of Inquiry) into these allegations. About the same time, Gen. Rick Hillier proclaimed his confidence that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were behaving appropriately and professionally, in addition to providing assurances that all prisoners were handled in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Not long after, the Military Police Complaints Commission launched its own investigation of the handling of Afghan detainees by the Canadian military - however, the three aforementioned abused detainees (along with a fourth one) would disappear ... while in custody of the Afghan National Army (ANA).

To make matters worse, it was reported that when the Harper government was asked to account for the location and condition of 40 detainees captured prior to April 2006 and several dozen taken since then, it refused to disclose what happened to them or even if it knew whether any had been tried, charged, or released, or how they were treated.

In any event, the episode of competence on the part of O'Connor was quite short-lived as he reverted to his default incompetence mode. To whit, the following February 13 and 21 (2007) exchanges in the House of Commons (emphasis added):
LPC MP Denis Coderre: "On the issue of the abuse that some Afghan detainees have suffered, the behaviour of the Minister of National Defense is cause for concern. He is in the know, he has received documents. There is proof that he receives reports every time detainees are transferred. Now, he is refusing to answer, because he is hiding behind the investigations. Given that he knows more than he is letting on, how will he respond to these investigations? Is he willing to testify? Is he willing to release the documents? Is he willing to tell us what he knows, or will he stick his head in the sand as usual?"

CPC Defense Minister Gordon O’Connor: "I can assure this House that at no time was I aware of any abuse of prisoners, period (...)"

BQ MP Caroline St-Hilaire: "The federal government committed to ensuring that Afghan prisoners would not be tortured and that they would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention until their transfer to Afghan authorities. Amnesty International deplores the lack of compliance with that convention. Can the Minister of National Defense tell us why Canada refuses to follow the example of the Netherlands, which obtained the right to follow up on prisoners transferred to Afghan authorities, in order to ensure that they are treated humanely, that they are not tortured and that their rights are respected?"

Gordon O’Connor: "The current arrangement for detainees was made by the previous government. In that agreement, the International Committee of the Red Cross is mandated to visit and monitor detainees to ensure that they are treated in accordance with the standards of the Geneva Convention. The arrangement also recognizes the role of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission with respect to human rights and detainees. Last fall the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said that Canada was scrupulous in notifying the Red Cross when it took prisoners and handed them over. We are satisfied with the current arrangements."

Caroline St-Hilaire: "In addition to Amnesty International, Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that cases of extortion, torture, prolonged imprisonment without trial, and the systematic violation of the rule of law are frequent. The U.S. Department of State has reached the same conclusions. Given these worrisome findings, what is the Minister of National Defense waiting for to put an end to his wilful blindness and immediately emulate the approach taken by the Netherlands with respect to the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities?"

Gordon O’Connor: "We are in Afghanistan in support of the Afghan government. When lawbreakers come into our hands, we hand them over to the proper authorities. As I previously explained, they are handed over with all the protections of international laws on prisoners."
The only thing factual O'Connor said in these exchanges concerned the notification of any transfer of detainees to the ICRC. The rest was either pure ignorance-based incompetent balderdash and/or outright dissembling (see above and Part I) - especially regarding his statement that he never saw any reports on detainee abuses, even though the office of then-CPC Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay did in fact receive at least some of them. Of course, MacKay keeps denying it to this day - an obvious lie, considering that: A) detainee abuse reports were widely circulated in Foreign Affairs and Defense department (see above); and B) a December 2006 report from his department, written by the diplomatic corps in Afghanistan, actually asserted that extrajudicial executions, disappearance, torture and detention without trial were common occurrences in Afghan prisons (see again above).

Notice, however, the quiet establishment of a possible excuse: the agreement is a bad one because it was crafted by the previous LPC Martin government and the Harper government simply inherited it.

Typical incompetent reaction. And never mind that Harper and his government had a whole year already to remedy the problematic transfer agreement.

Feeling their feet to the growing fire, the Harper government then signed a deal with the AIHRC to monitor how detainees were treated and bring valid complaints to Canadian authorities - at last adding a layer of scrutiny to the transfer agreement. However, the efficacy of this new mechanism was immediately questioned, considering that: 1) the AIHRC acknowledged that it lacked the necessary staff to monitor all the transferred detainees; and 2) our country had not provided any funding to the AIHRC since 2002. And still, no changes were made to the flawed transfer agreement iteself - especially regarding the absence of Canadian oversight and following-up of transferred detainees.

One step further in time, in the month of March 2007. With the detainee abuse scandal still very much alive, O'Connor went to Kandahar to meet with the leadership of the AIHRC, to ensure that the organization was indeed capable of monitoring the treatment of Taliban detainees handed over by Canadian troops to the Afghan government. We would learn more than two years later that he furthermore visited the prison in Kandahar, all the while escorted by "military officers and by political people", and that he "didn’t see any evidence of torture".

As if a guided visit could somehow allow anyone to stumble upon a detainee actually being tortured. Case in point: for a while, investigators of the AIHRC were initially not allowed to meet with prisoners while they were in the custody of Afghan intelligence officers, although they could meet detainees after they were moved to the regular prison system. Investigators were also denied access to detainees held by the NDS. What was the problem? A communications breakdown. Right. Fortunately, the matter would be resolved (not until April 2007) and thereafter AIHRC investigators would have full, unrestricted access to detainees. Still, this illustrates well the good faith and honesty of the Afghan security forces in the matter of torture, no?

Well, at least they could be quite cavalier in dissembling about it (emphasis added):
Colonel Shir Ali Saddiqui, human-rights ombudsman for the Kandahar police department, told The Globe that he was only aware of two complaints of abuse within the past year of prisoners in police custody.

He said police are taking steps to prevent such actions. He did however say that his colleagues at the NDS sometimes needed to get rough with detainees.

"In these cases, these people need some torture, because without torture they will never say anything," said Saddiqui.

Sadullah Khan, Kandahar NDS chief, initially denied any allegations of torture but eventually acknowledged that minor mistakes have been made.

"We never beat people," he said. "Maybe small things happened, but now we're trying to leave those things behind."
It goes without further comment, wouldn't you agree? And still - no one was aware of detainee abuses in the Harper government, let alone in the Canadian Forces?

Guess again (emphasis added):
None of the captured Afghans -- including those who clearly align themselves with the Taliban -- claimed abuse at the hands of Canadians.

In fact, Canadian Forces were often praised for gentle handling of captives and humane detention facilities.

However, one impoverished farmer, Mahmad Gul, 33, told The Globe that he was interrogated and beaten for three days in May 2006 by the Afghan police -- within earshot of Canadian soldiers who visited him between attacks.

"The Canadians told me, 'Give them real information, or they will do more bad things to you,' " said Gul.

The most gruesome stories come from those held in the cramped basement cells below NDS headquarters in Kandahar.

Most of them reported that they were whipped with electrical cables, some to the point of unconsciousness.

Other said they were stripped and forced to stand outside through cold winter nights in Kandahar, when temperatures drop below freezing.
All that and more - not counting those reports/emails Colvin had been sending to Ottawa (since May 2006 at that - see above). In between, the ICRC finally set O'Connor straight on what it did and did not do - thus forcing him to apologize to the House of Commons for having misinformed the House to this effect. And to think that all he needed have done was a thorough background research, i.e. actually doing his homework as Defense Minister - but alas, that is not how incompetents do things.

For indeed, the hard lesson was not learned and therefore it was incompetence as usual for O'Connor as well as for MacKay (emphasis added):
LPC MP Sue Barnes: "Britain and The Netherlands have agreements in place that allow them to verify that transferred prisoners receive proper treatment, but Canada does not. When will the defense minister take steps to give Canada the same authority as Britain and The Netherlands?"

CPC Defense Minister Gordon O’Connor: "Great Britain and The Netherlands use the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to monitor the activities of detainees in the Afghan system and we will also."

Sue Barnes: "Four prisoners are missing and Canada has no guaranteed system in place to ensure that prisoners are receiving proper treatment. The government and the defense minister owe Canadians and the House of Commons an explanation about what steps the government has taken to ensure that prisoners are not being mistreated. More particularly, what is the government’s plan if there is evidence that prisoners are being tortured?"

Gordon O’Connor: "The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has assured us that it will report any abuse of prisoners. It is able to monitor all the prisoners. If it finds abuse, we have asked that it report that abuse to us and we will deal with the Afghan government."

LPC MP Dominic LeBlanc: "Now that the International Committee of the Red Cross has forced the Minister of National Defense to correct the record and confirm that it has no role in the monitoring of the Canada-Afghanistan detainee transfer agreement, can the minister tell Canadians what immediate steps he is taking to verify that detainees captured by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and transferred to Afghan authorities are being properly treated?"

Gordon O’Connor: "We have engaged the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. It will monitor detainees within the Afghan system and it will report to us any abuses."


BQ MP Francine Lalonde: "Because the agreement between Canada and Afghanistan is inadequate, the Canadians Forces have no idea how the individuals they have turned over to Afghan authorities so far have been treated. Instead of directing his efforts at trying to justify his lack of action, what is the Minister of Foreign Affairs waiting for to follow the lead of the Netherlands and enter into an agreement with Afghanistan, whereby the government would be kept abreast of how the individuals captured are being treated and could intervene in this regard? It is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to enter into such agreements. Let him take his responsibilities."

CPC Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay: "I believe that the Minister of National Defense has answered that question. The situation is clear. There is now more protection afforded to those in such situations in Afghanistan. I am convinced that the Minister of National Defense now has the control and information necessary to monitor the situation."

Francine Lalonde: "I know that the Minister of Foreign Affairs does not want to get involved and would rather let his colleague, the Minister of National Defense, deal with the problem but, logically, the Minister of Foreign Affairs should be the one signing agreements with foreign countries. In fact, in the United States, Condoleeza Rice, whom the minister is rather fond of, is the one who signs those kinds of agreements. What is the minister waiting for to sign a comprehensive agreement with the Afghan authorities to meet our international obligations?"

Peter MacKay: "It was actually the Chief of the Defense Staff who signed the original agreement. Since that time, we know the Minister of National Defense has travelled to Afghanistan and met with the necessary officials from the human rights commission there. The Minister of National Defense has this clearly in hand. He knows now what the situation was that had to be addressed. He has taken action on that. The government stands four-square behind its Minister of National Defense who is doing a great job on behalf of Canadians."
And never mind that Canada continued to be derelict in its legally-binding obligations under Article 12 of Geneva III. Furthermore, it came out to light that since the February 2007 deal with the AIHRC, Canadian Forces simply didn't pass along to them any of the names of transferred detainees. Although the Canadian military convolutedly passed said names to the ICRC, let us not forget its long-standing procedure of not reporting back to a foreign power (i.e. Canada, here) on the fate of transferred detainees in custody of a detaining nation (i.e. Afghanistan here - see above and Part I). Furthermore, it appears that soldiers were not clear on what to do if they witnessed abuse or heard complaints of abuse, resorting to verbally advising Afghan interrogators (such as those of the NDS) not to mistreat anyone and explain about human rights and how to treat prisoners.

Consequently, the two layers of protection to transferred detainees, as repeatedly cited by O'Connor over essentially the whole of the past year (and supported by MacKay and the rest of the Harper government), were both flawed.

As the original transfer agreement itself.

Well, that is when Prime Minister Harper finally decided to intervene forcefully in this worsening debacle ... by behaving incompetently (emphasis added):
"I can understand the passion that the leader of the Opposition and members of his party feel for the Taliban prisoners," Harper said. "I just wish occasionally they would show the same passion for Canadian soldiers."

(...) "I would like to see more support in the House of Commons from all sides for Canadian men and women in uniform," he said. "I think Canadians expect that from parliamentarians in every party. They have not been getting it, and they deserve it."
Indeed - rather than genuine leadership, than decisive direction in a proper course of action, the country instead got yet again typical Bushie-like talking points and cheap political attacks.

Thus back we returned to the House of Commons, with essentially the same talking points and blatant ignorance-based incompetence on the part of Harper's government:
LPC MP Denis Coderre: "With his disgraceful reaction to the issue of Taliban prisoners of war yesterday in the House, the Prime Minister once again tarnished Canada’s reputation on the world stage (...) Does the Prime Minister not realize that his disgraceful conduct yesterday sends the wrong signal to the international community that Canada does not respect the Geneva Convention? Does he not know that taking this position could put the lives of our soldiers in great danger by inflaming our enemies and turning the Afghan people against us?"

CPC Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Peter Van Loan: "We would send the wrong signal if we said, like the Liberal Party, that we do not stand behind our troops. We will stand behind our troops. We will ensure that they have in place what they need to protect themselves and ensure that they are protecting Afghan detainees under the Geneva Convention. That is why we are pleased that under this government an agreement was negotiated with the Afghan independent human rights commissioner in order to allow access to detainees and to report back on that to the Canadian government if there is any evidence of any mistreatment."

Denis Coderre: "Not only do we have an irresponsible Prime Minister, but we also have an incompetent, negligent Minister of National Defense who is incapable of handling matters transparently, who is incapable of fulfilling his duties, and who has deceived the people. I have here the Canadian Forces’ code of honour, which talks about duty, loyalty, integrity and courage, and, most importantly, about honour and duty with honour. This is the military ethic, the warrior’s honour. Will the Minister of National Defense practice what he preaches, act according to his military ethic, and prove that he still has a sense of honour by resigning?"

CPC Minister of Defense Gordon O’Connor: "I think I do follow that code and that is why I take responsibility. However, let me remind the member that we will protect detainees within the Afghan prison system. We have recently made an arrangement with the Afghan Human Rights Commission. It has undertaken to supervise the treatment of detainees and that will give us some degree of comfort."


LPC MP Marlene Jennings: "The minister’s incompetence is astounding. Yesterday, he affirmed that Canadian troops and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission were going to supervise detainees in prisons. Yet, the United Nations Secretary-General said, and I quote: Access remains a problem for the commission. The minister still does not know all the facts and continues to speak nonsense. When will he resign?"

Peter Van Loan: "The government is very proud of the excellent work of our Minister of National Defense and I think most Canadians are very proud as well. We have entered into an agreement that ensures that the independent human rights commission has the opportunity to investigate and report back to us on any reports or any questions on the treatment of detainees. Of course, the original agreement with the Afghan government ensured that the International Committee of the Red Cross also had the same type of access. As a result, we are satisfied that the protection of detainees is ensured under the Geneva Convention."
Incredible, isn't it - and yet quite predictable and expected when one takes into account the Eight Principles of Incompetence.

Be that as it may, as Harper and his cabinet kept being called out for such utter incompetence, the figurative bomb dropped on the collective heads of his government in the following month of April, 2007:

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported (...) that Afghans handed over to local authorities after being interrogated by Canadian soldiers say they have been beaten, whipped, starved, frozen, choked and interrogated by electric shock in Kandahar jails.

Including more than 30 face-to-face interviews with men recently captured in Kandahar province, the newspaper report chronicles claims of abuse by Afghan authorities.

In fact, said interviews uncovered a litany of gruesome stories and a clear pattern of abuse by the Afghan authorities who worked closely with Canadian troops, despite the previous assurances of Harper's government that the rights of detainees were protected.

The reaction of Harper's government to this bombshell? Incompetently predictable.

First were the denials and (of course) cheap counter-accusations - for example (emphasis added):
Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the published reports as "baseless allegations."

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day accused the opposition parties (...) of repeating "false allegations" of torture made by "suspected terrorists" who are turned over to Afghan officials by Canadian troops.

Mr. Day said yesterday that Canada corrections officials had not seen any evidence of torture. "Something the opposition should be aware of is that the Taliban has been told, trained and instructed to lie if asked about being tortured. As a matter of fact, Taliban are told directly to say they were tortured even if they were not. That makes it difficult," he said.

Both O'Connor and Harper rejected suggestions that the government intentionally buried the fact it was aware of allegations that prisoners were being abused in the hands of Afghan authorities.

Harper insisted his government received no specific reports on possible abuse of captured Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Harper also went on to suggest that the opposition was taking a direct shot at Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan. "The real problem is the willingness of the leader of the Liberal party and his colleagues to believe to repeat and to exaggerate any charge against the Canadian military as they fight these fanatics and killers that are called the Taliban."

Harper surprised everyone by saying there were no problems in the first place. "We have consulted with the government of Afghanistan over the last several days," Harper said. "We have found no evidence that access is blocked to the prisons. In fact, not only are Afghan authorities agreeing to access to the prisons, they actually agree they will formalize (another) agreement so there is no potential misunderstanding."

The Prime Minister went on the offensive, demanding an apology from the Liberals for what he called "baseless allegations" that Canadians could not get access to prisons in Afghanistan. He then hinted at legal action if any member of the Liberal Party alleged he or any of his ministers had ordered bureaucrats to black out a number of paragraphs that alleged torture and extra-judicial executions of prisoners in a report released to media by the Department of Foreign Affairs under the Access to Information Act.
These were then followed/intertwined by pronouncements and lies that were not only contradictory with previous denials and even between themselves, but some actually further incriminated the Harper government - a few examples (emphasis added):
Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor announced Wednesday that a deal had been struck with Afghan intelligence to get access to prisoners to investigate allegations of torture. Today, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day stunned the opposition by saying corrections officers have always had access to Afghan detainees after they have been transferred to Afghan officials.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed on Thursday during question period that officials had yet to draft the aforementioned agreement. But he added that the government expects to "formalize" a deal soon.

The prime minister said the (2006 annual Foreign affairs human rights report - see above) mentioned in the newspaper is an annual report produced for the Foreign Affairs Department that talks about the general state of the Afghan prison system. However, he said the government has no evidence of specific allegations of abuse.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said he didn't have a copy of the report on Monday, when he said he was unaware of any reports of torture. "I have now since reviewed the report," he said. "Having said that, of course we take these matters extremely seriously." He said he is in constant contact with officials in Afghanistan and has asked them to look into the claims of abuse.

"We take such allegations seriously," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. "That's why we've concluded a deal with the Afghan government. It's why we'll be in discussions with them to pursue this matter."

O'Connor, along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, countered that Canadian soldiers treat detainees properly and with care. Still, the allegations will be looked into, Harper and O'Connor said."We take these allegations seriously," O'Connor said. "The [Afghanistan Independent] Human Rights Commission promised to advise us if any of our detainees are abused."

"As I've said many times, the government takes these allegations seriously," Harper said. "We have agreements with the government of Afghanistan and also with the Afghan independent human rights commission. The knowledge we have at this point is that those agreements are operating as they should."
Needless to say, the incompetent Harper government was furiously scrambling around and about to save face - throughout calls for the resignation of O'Connor, accusations of cover-ups and outright incompetence.

And thus a new detainee transfer agreement was finally crafted and signed in May 2007, which guaranteed that captured fighters can be interviewed in private without the intimidating presence of their Afghan jailers, at any time and any place. In effect, Canada reclaimed its monitoring jurisdiction over transferred detainees - which had been previously relinquished illegally under the former agreement (see above and Part I). At the same time, the Harper government could feel being "in the clear" regarding Article 21 of the Convention Against Torture (see above), since the discussions and negociations leading to this new agreement could be construed as "communications" under 21.1.1 and 21.1.2 of said article. Same thing regarding Article 12 of Geneva III regarding enacting a primary detaining power's responsibility in rectifying matters if the detaining power to which detainees had been transfered had "problems" respecting Geneva III (again, see above).

In fact, Amnesty International opined that this second agreement may even be better than the other agreements that other NATO countries have individually entered into with the Afghan government.

Thus at last confirming O'Connor's previous, false, boasts to this effect back in April ... 2006 (see Part I).

So - all had become well and good after all - right?

Not so fast - for one, the fact remained that the Harper government still had contravened its legal obligations (Geneva III, Convention Against Torture) throughout the previous year and up to the signing of the second agreement in May 2007. For two, the central issue of whether the government had misled the House of Commons in its statements that torture allegations were merely Taliban propaganda, while at the same time being warned by its own bureaucrats that prisoners are at risk of abuse, remained an open question - indeed, improvements in the way information was communicated internally, implemented under former LPC Chrétien government Defense Minister Bill Graham, made it inconceivable that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was not aware of such allegations.And that they knew all along was evident on the very day of the announcement of the said second transfer agreement (emphasis added):
Ottawa negotiated the deal despite insisting that the allegations of torture were false.

"What we have done is enhance the 2005 agreement -- that is exactly what people were calling for," said Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.
For unbestknown to anyone, the PMO had begun a veritable campaign of smottering any further allegations of detainee abuse, in addition to begin a campaign of denial of any and all such allegations.

Need I say it - typical incompetent behavior.

And from there, it would only go further downhill ...

(Continued in Part III)