Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Respondent's Record

Original request for information, received in Ottawa by the Department of National Defence, December 14, 2006

Respondent's Record (sealed) filed in Federal Court in Ottawa by the Minister of National Defence, as represented by the Department of Justice, December 19, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"US to harness Afghan militias against Taliban"

OK, who's paying off The Guardian?

A "UN backed plan"? Show us the document. The only legal basis for this insanity would be UN Security Council Resolution 1386, itself dubious on the basis of subsequent events, about seven years' worth of plagues, toads, Cheneys, and miscellaneous other unnatural disasters.

Has Julian Borger sold his soul?

The Wonderful Optimism of Dr. Doom

Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Apocalypse

I'm just waiting around for the Minister of National Defence to file his Respondent's Record in T-680-08.

OK, so Nouriel Roubini, “Dr. Doom”, has been right on the money, literally. He’s called it from the beginning, giving the lie to “no one saw this coming”, Dr. Doom having spelled it out in words of one syllable. Not only that, he’s got a prescription, which also makes sense, even to the uninitiated, the prescription having been tried out by Sweden some ten years ago, for which there is evidence, evidence being in short supply in the current febrile climate in Washington and New York.

Some parts of the world like Canada and Europe started off by viewing the current strife as a purely American problem, but that delusion lasted only days, perhaps hours. Here in Canada we’re in the midst of a Federal Election, the governing Conservative Party having deigned to release its “platform” some 7 days before the vote – if you don’t have a platform, why did you call an election? – and our feeling of safety is disintegrating by the hour as it becomes clear that our own stock market is going south and there is no telling where the “bottom” of the American export market is going to be, and therefore the commodities market, and the North American car market is already a disaster which lands Ontario in Deep Serious from the get-go. What is a get-go?

The thing is, I’m a doctor myself, and I constantly have to explain technical things to patients so that they can make informed decisions, not that we doctors necessarily understand the technical things ourselves, but we do have experience and we try. Dr. Doom explains things so even I can understand the gist of what he says – which in medicine is a mark of talent, anybody can be obscure – and even though I don’t know the difference between a Credit Default Obligation and the London Interbank Overnight Rate, I get what he says.

The basic problem is, as I understand him, that the American economy is currently built on Funny Money, the United States spending more than it makes. This is not an advanced concept. At some point, as I understand Dr. Doom, somebody suggested that the Emperor Had No Money, at which point the Funny Money disappeared, and it got down to basics like food, essential services, and shelter. That point is right now. The thing is, the world can probably come up with food, essential services, and shelter for its population, but there happens to be a small group of people in the world who want a whole lot more than the basics (which is also fine, I have no desire to live in a 36 room mansion in the Hamptons or Muskoka, or fly falcons in Afghanistan from an air-conditioned tent while drinking champagne) but as it turns out this group is not interested in the large number of people who are hungry, without essential services, and homeless.

But back to Dr. Doom, who in my opinion shows the signs of an expert clinician. I mean, I’m all for a holistic approach to health, but if I develop Hairy Cell Leukemia say, just to pick a random example of horrible things that can happen to people without explanation, I don’t want some guy coming at me with magic crystals and acupuncture. I accept that the placebo effect is real, but I don’t happen to believe that crystals are gonna fix leukemia so I’ll take the advice of a hematologist who has been there and done that. I’m only saying that Dr. Doom shows signs of a clinician I’d trust. He’s not judgmental, although he’s been quite caustic in his analysis of the Economic Powers That Be, the Fed, the Hapless Henry, and so on, and he’s not smugly righteous either: as all his predicted disasters come to pass, he’s got a prescription. Even though the patient has ignored competent economic advice up to now, Dr. Doom is still in there slugging with the patient’s best interests at heart, rather than his own reputation.

He also, dear to a clinician’s heart, cites evidence. As with medicine, this disaster is not a bolt from the blue, it’s happened before, and there is evidence – clinical experience – as to how to deal with it. What stands out is that banks have to be re-capitalized before normal interbank lending resumes. This seems to be fundamental – like having a patent airway in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation – but yet ignored by Henry Paulson and the financial gurus who increasingly appear to be wizards who have relied on smoke and mirrors.

Here in Canada the turkeys are also coming home to roost, Canadian Thanksgiving occurring, in parallel with the two federal elections, some weeks earlier. Dr. Doom’s prescriptions, like all good treatments, don’t recognize national boundaries.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Terrorism and The English Language*

* Apologies to everyone who used that title before I did, particularly Lorraine and Anna. I've been writing this thing for years, so messed up on giving appropriate credits. However, the fact George Orwell's essay needs more publicity needs no apology.NK

Update:  January 2014.  Just discovered this first use in December 2001 in a thoughtful essay by John Pavlus.

There are a lot of people who are screwing around with the English language, generally to create what I believe the CIA refers to as "mindfuck".

Quite a few of such people seem to have axes to grind in Afghanistan, where foreign military forces (generally referred to as "NATO", "ISAF", "Coalition forces", or "UN mandated forces") are fighting people who are usually called "insurgents", "militants" or "Taliban". The fight is framed, often literally, as The Good Guys vs. The Bad Guys.

As Orwell said: "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." The current Afghan military operations could also be framed as the Afghan "resistance" fighting to rid their homeland of "foreign occupation troops". It looks quite different that way round. I'm not saying it's one way or the other, only that it's probably not one way or the other, it's more complicated.

So I wrote this thing Terrorism and The English Language which is a rip-off of Orwell's "Politics and The English Language", but Orwell's magazine has gone out of business. George, however, is on the web. So if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me, and having been rejected by respected journals like Harper's, Walrus, Frank etc., I decided to post it myself**. There are indeed problems about publishing things without proper editing or peer review, but as has been shown vividly over the past eight years, there is also a problem publishing things in respected journals like the New York Times, whose editing of Judy Miller seriously misled the entire population of the United States. And there is also a big problem in not publishing critical reviews of the "rationale" for say, the Iraq invasion, critical reviews easily available on the web and, as it turned out, entirely accurate.

**The embedded links on Google Docs somehow disappeared in the Great Google Blogger Meltdown of 2011. I shall restore these links in the fulness of time. They exist. It is not possible to make this stuff up.

I wrote to Orwell in high dudgeon.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cool justice...

From a decision of the Federal Court of Appeal

2008 FCA 401

Paragraph 20.

"I understand the Supreme Court of Canada to say that deference and comity end where clear violations of international law and fundamental human rights begin."

Justice Desjardins

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tet 2008

Wall Street isn’t the only game in town for Orwellian disaster hounds. Now we have the US “deciding” to arm local militias in Afghanistan. The “announcement” came from Robert Gates, hard on the heels of the “decision” to send 20,000 or 30,000 new American troops to Afghanistan.

In these broad brush strokes, Mr. Gates has painted out the cartoon-like characters said to have responsibility for military operations in Afghanistan (the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s central government, whatever) but left the stage empty. It’s not clear that either Bush or Obama has any influence over Mr. Gates. But Cheney?

Fast backward to Tet, 1968. Under cover of the lunar New Year, a massive assault was orchestrated by Võ Nguyên Giáp on American targets in Vietnam, effectively demonstrating that the American public relations campaign saying how well things were going was precisely an American public relations campaign saying how well things were going. In fact, from the point of view of the American administration, things in Vietnam were going spectacularly badly. On the other hand, important lessons were learned: New Year is a good time to cause trouble. And then, there’s the business with the Reichstag Fire and the Weimar Republic.

So if I was Dick Cheney here’s what I’d do. Events are clearly out of hand, something the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen, now being the Foundering Fathers. The United States needs to be rescued from the prospect of an uppity….person….in the White House and a Communist Congress. All the achievements of the last 8 years are about to be squandered. Desperate times need desperate measures.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve, 2008. Spectacular fireworks are planned in Washington. Obama is in Hawaii or Chicago, wherever. As midnight approaches, fire alarms go off in the Capitol, probably an accident. However, it turns out there is a real fire at the Capitol, probably some small isolated incident. As events unfold, the fire is bigger than previously thought, and the Department of Homeland Security is drawn into the response. There is evidence that incendiary devices have been set. Terrorism is back. Panic ensues. A major conflagration is shown on FOX News to be going on in the Capitol, and regular programming is interrupted. The Vice-President appears on network television from a secure bunker to say that both the President and the President-Elect are also secure.

The security of all 9 Justices of the Supreme Court has also been established on the order of the President.

Martial law is declared and Congress suspended. The Constitution is also suspended, as per Executive Signing Authority Whatever.

You’ve got to admit, Orwell saw all this coming. You’ve got to admit, it’s happened before. You’ve got to admit, Gates is a lousy Caesar. You’ve got to admit, Cheney is a lousy Giap. If you’re going to be corrupt, it hurts to be second rate.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

All Bent Out of SHAPE

NATO as Farce

I hadn’t realized that NATO’s executive decisions are made in Chicago. It’s difficult to keep up, particularly if you think international law means something. I think international law means everything, so I can’t keep up. The good news is that we’re getting somewhere; slowly, painfully, but definitely.

And now: the bad news. The bad news is hilarious, particularly if you have a sick sense of humour. The bad news is that 20,000 new American troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, which is 20,000 troops America doesn’t have, paid for with money America also doesn’t have, the money to be provided by China. I guess Obama works it out on the basketball court. There’s no way 20,000 Americans are going to make any difference to the fate of Afghanistan, given at a minimum that the current Chief White Halfoat, Dan McKiernan, said that 400,000 troops would be required to “pacify” Afghanistan, meaning occupation. We’re back to Eric Shinseki’s estimate of the troops required to occupy Iraq. So even with 20,000 additional troops – surge, escalation, call it what you will – we’re only up to some 200,000 troops, half of what is required, even if “it” was legal.

As I understand Tom Lehrer to have said, political satire died the day Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize.

Neverthe-dogboned-less, Walt Kelly is an authentic American hero and facts must be faced. Even if Afghanistan was peaceful, prosperous, and democratic – somebody paint me a picture of what that would look like – there would still be this problem of the “border with Pakistan”, the Durand Line, which cuts through the middle of the Pashtun “tribal belt”, the Pashtuns not being a people who take kindly to strangers. This brings us to the problem of Pakistan, a nation that might not be one, a nation in which revered leaders live in Oxbridge and Boston while the majority of the population exists in dirt-poor subsistence.

And then there’s the problem of Saudi Arabia, an oil-producing nation that shares our “values” – which as Bird and Fortune pointed out, are an enthusiasm for oil revenues and an abhorrence of corruption inquiries – a “nation” that supports a Royal Family of overwhelming excess and a clergy of savage repression – a problem not unlike Alberta: a one-party state where all decisions are made behind closed doors and everyone is better off.

So let’s get back to International Humanitarian Law, the point at which we allegedly came in: how does that fit in with the “announcement” of 20,000 or 30,000 additional troops for Afghanistan? Apparently, General Dan McKiernan “requested” them, but whether as commander of ISAF, or Operation Enduring Freedom is not made clear. Also, the role of the alleged Afghan government, widely reviled as corrupt, is also not made clear, but since it provides the legal cover for NATO involvement in Afghanistan, the political involvement of SHAPE in Brussels is crucial, particularly if one is looking at the whole thing from the perspective of a war crimes trial, which is precisely what I am doing, and specifically as it relates to Canada’s role in this tragedy. So did the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan request additional NATO or American troops to deal with the “insurgency”? Is the increase covered under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386? Is the United Nations in legal command of troops in Afghanistan? Is NATO?

So, Canadian troops are on the ground in Kandahar until 2011. Who is the legal commander of these troops? According to the Globe and Mail, command goes to the nation that has the most troops. Is this a sandbox? Who is making up these rules? What are the rules? What makes most sense is George Orwell, who said that there’s only one rule in power politics, which is that there are no rules. What’s going on in Afghanistan is a joke, a very bad joke, and Canada should bang heads together in Brussels or get out. NATO is an American invention, and Canada can withdraw on twelve months’ notice. The alternative is to continue to be a Canadian branch plant of the American military-industrial complex, a corporatocracy careening along a path of unchecked devastation, an engineering colossus that has taken over British nuclear weapons production from the inside, a Rube Goldberg enormity that turns common sense into “human terrain mapping” and leaves death and destruction in its wake.

All of this fabulous American and Chinese industry and imagination would be better employed putting people on Mars; Dick Cheney, for example. Or the entire House of Saud. There’s water on Mars, so maybe there’s oil, too. I’m not sure whether the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction on Mars, but maybe it won’t matter.

Let’s Make Kandahar Part of Canada

This will solve a lot of problems and we’re already most of the way there: we have a Canadian Forces Base, an airport and a Timmy’s, and a guy from Coquitlam has just been made Governor. All we need is Canadian Tire and a decent Junior Hockey team.

The advantages are obvious. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms would apply to everybody in Kandahar, and the civil service can move in, together with the RCMP, the National Parks Service, and universal health insurance. The Wheat Board can deal with the immense agricultural potential. Canadian Customs and Immigration and their charming beagles will sort out the border with Pakistan.

Perhaps we should ask the inhabitants. We’ll have a Referendum; we know how to do that, and ask one very straightforward question:

“Do you agree that Kandahar should become part of Canada after having made a formal offer for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Québec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?”

We can commission D3 systems of Langley, Virginia to do the survey – they’ve already done one for us – we just have to let them know what answer we want.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A dangerous mix of propaganda and public affairs?

Reposted from CBC News

Last Updated: Saturday, December 13, 2008 | 9:38 AM ET Comments15Recommend17
By David Common, CBC News

UPDATE, Dec. 13, 2008:

Under intense pressure, the commander who had proposed merging the Afghan mission's Public Affairs and Psychological Operations teams, U.S. General David McKiernan, has now scrapped the plan.

On the evening of Oct. 14, 2004, a U.S. marine spokesman appeared on CNN announcing American forces had begun their assault on the insurgent-held Iraqi city of Fallujah.

In truth, that battle would not begin for another three weeks. But the statement was no mistake. It was, instead, a carefully planned ruse to see exactly how the insurgents would react. Within hours, reporters knew they'd been duped. It was a lie to gather intelligence.

From that point on, American journalists started questioning whether anything that was told to them was true. Soon, Canadian and other journalists may be asking the same question in Afghanistan.

A month before that 2004 CNN appearance, American commanders in Iraq had decided to combine public affairs, psychological operations and information operations under the umbrella of a single "strategic communications" office.

In short, those responsible for disseminating information to reporters and those responsible for spreading propaganda and influencing the Iraqi population were brought under a single command.

Fast forward to 2008: the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan is Gen. David McKiernan, the American who was the commander of ground forces during the 2003 invasion into Iraq.

McKiernan, the overall commander of the almost 50,000 troops from more than 40 countries that make up NATO's International Security Assistance Force, has recently ordered the combination of public affairs, information operations and psychological operations, just as was done in Iraq four years ago.

Allies worried

The move has worried the European NATO allies — Germany has already threatened to pull out of media operations in Afghanistan — amid concerns it could undermine the credibility of information released to the public.

Let's not kid ourselves. The public affairs officers dealing with journalists embedded with Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan will spin, restrict and enhance their message as it suits their goals. They may not share information unless confronted with it.

But we journalists don't tend to catch them in an outright lie. But, in an attempt to influence a government, group or individual's value systems or beliefs, psychological operations can and do distort the truth and lie.

Psy-ops have advanced far beyond the Vietnam-era of blasting rock music into the jungle to deny rest to the Viet Cong. In Afghanistan, the most obvious form of this is the numerous radio stations run by NATO nations in Afghanistan's various native languages. There are less obvious methods but the goal is the same: cause people to support or do something they may not be otherwise inclined to do.

Public affairs officers, meanwhile, co-ordinate the dissemination of information to journalists in Afghanistan and abroad and advise generals on a media strategy. Information operations don't specialize in speaking with journalists — rather they undertake activities to undermine the will of the enemy, while psy-ops include "black operations" or outright deception.

Seven years into the war, insurgent influence is spreading closer to the capital and many Afghans increasingly crave stability (albeit brutal and oppressive) like the Taliban rule once brought them. Afghans are increasingly opposed to the presence of foreign troops and to the government of President Hamid Karzai.

The Taliban have excelled — from the start — at the propaganda war. Their message is directed not just at Afghans but also at the citizens of countries that have troops deployed to Afghanistan.

Every time the word Canada is mentioned to a Taliban spokesman, he replies with a question. Why are Canadians doing the dirty work of Americans? Why are YOU their pawns? It's a message the Taliban feels can resonate with Canadians.

Militants gaining ground

Taliban militants, through their websites and the frequent calls or text messages to reporters, are also gaining ground in the information war.

Against this backdrop, there is certainly the temptation to blend the worlds of public affairs and psychological operations. But if it's done, it will undermine the credibility of anything NATO tells anyone again.

The ISAF spokesman, Canadian Brig.-Gen. Richard Blanchette, says McKiernan wanted the restructuring done by Dec. 1. But NATO headquarters in Brussels must review and approve the change, so his plan looks set to be delayed at the least.

If it goes ahead, the new command would be run by a one-star American general. Combined with the expected deployment of thousands more American soldiers, particularly in southern Afghanistan where Canadians currently operate, it demonstrates the gradual increase of American influence on all sectors of the war.

Everyone will be watching, but such a change could leave open the door that journalists in Afghanistan aren't just being spun, but deceived.

NATO in Afghanistan

Reposted from

The Issue of Legitimacy

NATO’s role in Afghanistan has two key aspects which are of concern: the first is the issue of legitimacy in the context of Afghanistan; and the second is its actual operations in Afghanistan and their shortcomings. This paper deals with the first issue.

This issue of legitimacy is critical because NATO has been expanding its mandate and operational milieu ever since the end of bipolarity. Not only has it increased its membership, it has also sought to transform the Alliance in terms of its strategic concept and functions. It has done this through the Partnership for Peace concept (PfP), primarily with Eastern European states; its programme for a Mediterranean Dialogue; and, most recently, the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI) – apart from its special arrangement with Russia.

So why should there be an issue of its legitimacy within the context of Afghanistan? Because it is an out-of-area operation. After all, NATO still remains, in legal terms, a collective defence organization in terms of its legitimacy through the UN system–under Chapter VIII, Articles 52 and 53,1 as well as Chapter VII’s notion of collective self- defence, as embodied in Article 51.2

However, regional collective defence organizations need to operate in the specific region of their membership, since decision-making is restricted to this membership. Despite NATO expanding its functions and strategic concepts, its essential purpose as stated in its 1999 Strategic Concept remains “to safeguard the freedom and security of its members by political and military means”.3And this continues to remain the prime focus of NATO, as we were informed at all the NATO briefings on our visit to NATO Headquarters in Brussels as well as at SHAPE. 4

Given the continuing European-Atlantic membership of NATO, it is somewhat disturbing to see NATO transforming itself from a collective defence organization (Article 5 of the NATO Charter is surely in the context of collective defence?) to a collective security organization to serve the interests of its membership or perhaps of future “coalitions of the willing”. There is no legitimacy for any collective security organization other than the UN with its universal membership. Article 51 of the UN Charter provides a very clear and limited framework for collective defence organizations. Article 52 of the Charter relates to regional arrangements in connection with the maintenance of peace and security; it talks in terms of these organizations coming into being “as are appropriate for regional action.” Also, under Article 53, there can be no action without the authorization of the Security Council, except against an enemy state as defined in Article 53:2.

So the question that remains unanswered is whether NATO is going to be an alternative to the UN system of collective security, peacekeeping, and so on–just as the notion of “coalitions of the willing” is a direct alternative to the UN and its Security Council. That NATO has the military capability while the UN may be lacking it, is not the issue her, since one is focusing on issues of legitimacy. In any case, the UN can be given more teeth if the members are prepared to do so and make effective Articles 43-47 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, including the provisions relating to the creation of a Military Staff Committee.5

Even within the context of regional organizations, actions have to have a UN mandate and this is where the case of Afghanistan is unclear. Post-9/11, the UN Security Council, through Resolution 1386 (December 2001), sanctioned the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan. As stipulated in the Bonn Agreement of December 2001, the progressive expansion of ISAF to other urban centres and other areas beyond Kabul was duly approved through follow-on UNSC resolutions.

So where does NATO fit into ISAF? Did the UNSC initiate NATO’s involvement or did NATO present a fait accompli to the UN Secretary General? Clearly, it was not any UNSC resolution that sought NATO involvement. Instead, what is available on record is that NATO informed the UN Secretary General, through a letter from its Secretary General, dated 2 October 2003, that on 11 August 2003 NATO had assumed “strategic command, control and co-ordination of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)”.6 This was followed by another letter from the NATO Secretary General to the UN SG informing the latter of the North Atlantic Council’s agreement on a “longer-term strategy for NATO in its International Assistance Force (ISAF) role in Afghanistan.” Both these letters were sent to the President of the UNSC by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on 7 October 2003, with the request that they be brought to the attention of the UNSC. So, in effect, NATO presented the UNSC with a fait accompli.

It was in the face of these developments that the UNSC passed Resolution 1510 on 13 October 2003, in which it acknow-ledged the 6 October NATO SG’s letter as well as communication from the Afghan Minister for Foreign Affairs and authorized the expansion of the ISAF mandate. But nowhere is there any reference to NATO’s role in Afghanistan. So is NATO really in Afghanistan because of UNSC resolutions?

Of course, the UN allows regional organizations to undertake military missions in their regional spheres but for NATO Afghanistan is an out-of-area operation–so, effectively, we now have Europeans and Atlantic states making decisions relating to the Asian region and this has far-reaching consequences for all Asian states in the long run.

Shireen M. Mazari
Director General
Article 52

Nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.

The Members of the United Nations entering into such arrangements or constituting such agencies shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council.

The Security Council shall encourage the development of pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies either on the initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council.

This Article in no way impairs the application of Articles 34 and 35.

Article 53

The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority. But no enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council, with the exception of measures against any enemy state, as defined in paragraph 2 of this Article, provided for pursuant to Article 107 or in regional arrangements directed against renewal of aggressive policy on the part of any such state, until such time as the Organization may, on request of the Governments concerned, be charged with the responsibility for preventing further aggression by such a state.
The term enemy state as used in paragraph 1 of this Article applies to any state, which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory of the present Charter.

Article 51
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security. Chapter 2: The transfor-mation of the Alliance

Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe

Article 43

All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.
Such agreement or agreements shall govern the numbers and types of forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of the facilities and assistance to be provided.
The agreement or agreements shall be negotiated as soon as possible on the initiative of the Security Council. They shall be concluded between the Security Council and Members or between the Security Council and groups of Members and shall be subject to ratification by the signatory states in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.
Article 54

When the Security Council has decided to use force it shall, before calling upon a Member not represented on it to provide armed forces in fulfillment of the obligations assumed under Article 43, invite that Member, if the Member so desires, to participate in the decisions of the Security Council concerning the employment of contingents of that Member's armed forces.

Article 45

In order to enable the United Nations to take urgent military measures, Members shall hold immediately available national air-force contingents for combined international enforcement action. The strength and degree of readiness of these contingents and plans for their combined action shall be determined within the limits laid down in the special agreement or agreements referred to in Article 43, by the Security Council with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee.

Article 46

Plans for the application of armed force shall be made by the Security Council with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee.

Article 47

There shall be established a Military Staff Committee to advise and assist the Security Council on all questions relating to the Security Council's military requirements for the maintenance of international peace and security, the employment and command of forces placed at its disposal, the regulation of armaments, and possible disarmament.

The Military Staff Committee shall consist of the Chiefs of Staff of the permanent members of the Security Council or their representatives. Any Member of the United Nations not permanently represented on the Committee shall be invited by the Committee to be associated with it when the efficient discharge of the Committee's responsibilities requires the participation of that Member in its work.

The Military Staff Committee shall be responsible under the Security Council for the strategic direction of any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council. Questions relating to the command of such forces shall be worked out subsequently.

The Military Staff Committee, with the authorization of the Security Council and after consultation with appropriate regional agencies, may establish regional sub-committees.

UN Document S/2003/970 Annex I

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Canada's Parliament 2.0

Full frontal optimism from a polite citizen

Rome wasn't burned in a day, Washington either. Canada tried to burn down Washington in 1814, allegedly for Americans' burning down Toronto, but we've noticed Washington has been rebuilt. Unfortunately, so has Toronto. Except for the Leafs. (If that sounds strange, any random Canadian will explain.) Meanwhile back in D.C., Dick and George have managed to finish the job and burn down Washington quite thoroughly. Those fires don't look to be going out any time soon.

We've had a similar problem up here, but dealt with it differently. This apparently caused confusion on The Daily Show, and stimulated a Canadian need to apologize to Americans (particularly) for being boring. The last thing we should do is apologize. I'm here to help clear up the confusion.

In a nutshell, the Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) built a Cult of The Leader inside the federal government and is about to get his head in a bag as a result. It's pretty straightforward. We don't normally hold with megalomaniacs up here, unless of course hockey is involved, but even in hockey it doesn't pay to act like a star, especially if you aren't one. There's no obvious government to replace Steve’s Conservative Party either, even if they found a new head, not that people haven't tried. Some have despaired. Heartfelt moaning can be heard about the decline in standards of civility and debate in the House of Commons, and about the inability of Members of Parliament to behave like grownups. People think the political outlook is like the economic outlook: dismal.

People should get a grip and Jon Stewart should pay attention. Canada is about to fire its executive using an antique method developed haphazardly over centuries. Charles I lost his head over it. It’s called parliamentary democracy and it’s a Rube Goldberg contraption with two standard and fabulously incomprehensible features built in: (1) it works, (2) it learns. I’m not an expert, I just grew up here and I don’t see anything confusing about it at all. Stand back and watch it work.

Bad news is everywhere of course, not just in Canada. Apart from the economic disaster, the last eight years have been ugly for anybody who thought that Nuremberg and International Humanitarian Law actually meant something, and Canada is in ISAF up to its back bacon. But so what? The good news is that the British form of parliamentary democracy has one thousand years of momentum behind it, and seems to evolve relentlessly towards open and responsible government despite frequent attempts at sabotage, including those made in Canada. I'm not saying Americans are doomed any more than the rest of us – I sure as hell hope not – just that it's too soon to know if the American Constitution can withstand the current savage onslaught from within.

Which brings us back to Steve, Canada’s Prime Minister, who has alienated lots of Canadians including some of his supporters, by trying to run the country as if it were a one-party state like Alberta. Not all Canadians might use those words but people are riled and Steve can be fired in several imaginative ways; we don't have to wait eight years like our neighbors to the south. I don't think we should feel shy about pointing out these advantages to our American friends. In fact there's a good chance Steve will be fired in January, most likely by the Governor-General unless there's a revolt in his own party and the Conservatives fire him first. I'm impressed that the Governor-General can actually fire Steve, having no apparent power other than that conferred by history and tradition, and more remotely, some transatlantic telegraphy to the Queen. We don't talk about that much, and it doesn't seem to matter. When you learn that the Governor-General was born in Haiti and is getting her constitutional advice from a New Zealander, you'll have to admit American family dynasties look, well, awkwardly feudal.

And here's another thing, we have the Bloc Québécois, a federal party dedicated to removing Québec from Confederation (which arouses a lot of consternation) but the system accommodates this contradiction, and peace, order and good government continue to happen. A Venezuelan acquaintance saw his first Canadian federal election recently and couldn't believe it: “At home, there would be bloodshed, family breakup, and interruption of basic services. Here, everything keeps working.” Americans might think this is a little weird too, but last I heard there were some elements in the South that weren’t too crazy about joining up with the North and that pockets of disenchantment linger still.

I'm not saying Canadian parliamentary democracy is perfect, but it learns. The next stage of evolution might be the involvement of citizenry more directly in federal politics by means of the Internet. Word reached us some guy named Obama came to the same conclusion. Whatever. Within hours of Steve discovering he wasn’t Dear-Leader-for-Life and being forced to make an unplanned visit to the Governor General, thousands of comments about this were posted on websites of the CBC and Globe and Mail among other members of the “press”, and Members of Parliament heard from their constituents almost instantaneously. No more waiting for the news to filter out from Ottawa by mail or telegraph, even. I'm betting this will change the way government works, maybe even frustrate crazed Orwellian attempts to run Canadian politics as if selling lousy beer to stupid customers. Such change won't happen overnight of course but …we'll add a new feature to the Rube Goldberg contraption and then.....

Canada's Parliament convenes January 26, 2009. It's show time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bang heads together or bring 'em home

Mr. Michael Ignatieff
Leader of the Official Opposition
House of Commons,

Dear Iggy,

Re: The giant sucking sound of Afghanistan.

I admit, I'm not a big fan of yours. There is, as Rick Salutin observed, the whole business of your being a fashionable intellectual camp follower, providing literate, urbane cover for the grossest violation of everything that Nuremberg stood for.

Nevertheless, you are here as the New, More Streetwise and Reformed Iggy, Leader of the Official Opposition, a Canadian who can wield both official languages with style and effect, the literate answer to Don Cherry. Speaking as an ordinary private citizen, I am extremely grateful that you are here, given the rhetorical wasteland of the last several years.

Obviously, the economy is on your mind; that would be the horrendous crashing noise. But don't let that obscure the horrible sucking sound of Afghanistan, an undealt-with problem that won't conveniently go away until 2011. I point out some obvious facts, which seem to be getting trampled in the rush to deal with, say, the auto industry.

1. Afghanistan is draining money we don't have out of the Canadian economy, conservatively 5 times as much as the projected auto industry bail out, with absolutely no chance of repayment or having a viable industry as a result.

2. There is no plan for Afghanistan. The Manley Report is a prevarication.

3. Canadian soldiers continue to die in Afghanistan, and nobody knows why. All official explanations are transparently wrong.

4. You have the votes to bring down the government.

5. Something is terribly wrong with NATO, and by extension, the United Nations Security Council that is rubber stamping ISAF. NATO operates in secret, always bad news, and cannot agree among its own members what it's doing in Afghanistan. If it had its act together, somebody could explain it to us, and all its soldiers would run the same risks as ours.

You don't have to be Winston Churchill to figure this out, Iggy, and a lot of Canadians feel the same way, including most of Quebec. We need a debate, a real debate, in the House of Commons, but there's nothing stopping Canada from banging heads together inside NATO right now: we're their friends, we've more than paid our dues, and anything less than brutal honesty from Canada is a gratuitous insult to our own soldiers.

There's no doubt you have the brains for this job. The question is, do you have the soul and the balls?

One Day in the Life of the United Nations Military Staff Committee

Office of the Rotating President
0800 Got in to work. Locked out of office again. Office turns out to have been moved again.
0810 Called locksmith to get at files.
1136 Locksmith arrives. Surveys problem and will return after lunch.
1425 Gain entry to office after breaking down door. In-tray empty. Phone disconnected.
1440 Call UN switchboard on cell phone to find new office. Got answering machine.
1500 Go for coffee while awaiting return phone call.
1700 Go to bar while awaiting return phone call.
1931 Fall into interesting collegial discussion with locksmith.
2217 Give in-tray to locksmith with careful instructions to drop in East River.
2317 Go home to watch The Daily Show.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

100 dead soldiers

Somebody had better have a good explanation.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Talk about slant...

Taliban destroy 100 trucks in biggest raid on Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan

US rises to Taleban's challenge

It's the same story.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nuremberg, the United Nations Security Council, and Everything

“Well, when the president does it – that means that it is not illegal.”
Richard Nixon talking to David Frost, 1977

Who's in charge in Afghanistan? Where is Douglas Adams when we need him?

A normally paranoid and suspicious citizen (me) of a UN member country (Canada) figures that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386 is what authorizes the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and the continued authorization of said Force is by Resolution 1833 (September 22, 2008), a resolution that the Security Council passed unanimously at a meeting that lasted precisely 5 minutes (from 1 to 1:05 PM). The fabulous World Wide Web, given to us by physicists in Switzerland, makes all of these documents easily available anywhere for neurotic scrutiny by any ordinarily obsessed person who worries about what happened at Nuremberg. As tidily noted on the UN website, the 5 minute meeting lasted long enough that the Libyan representative (admittedly from the Axis of Untouchables):

“…voiced his concern over the magnitude of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and reasserted that the struggle to defeat terrorism did not excuse such deaths. He urged the international force to protect civilians and their rights, and asked that those who harmed civilians be brought to justice. He also stressed that terrorism would not be defeated by force alone.”

There was no other discussion.

I’m with the guy from Libya. You’d think that other members of the Security Council might have had something to say about the continuing civilian casualties caused by ISAF in Afghanistan or provided some comfort for the Libyan representative, although Libya’s concern is perhaps tainted by the Lockerbie terrorist bombing and destruction of Pan AM Flight 103 (269 deaths). On the other hand, the rocketing and destruction of Iran Air Flight 655 (290 deaths) by the USS Vincennes could equally well lead to fears about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Or maybe not. But the Security Council could at least have advised ISAF to ease up on Afghan wedding parties.

Resolution 1833 seems to make clear that its legal basis is Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which states in Article 47 that military operations should be administered by the UN Military Staff Committee. The UN….what? It’s in the Charter, and it apparently exists, but the Committee seems to have done nothing but have a rotating president for over 60 years. And if the Military Staff Committee does nothing but rotate, where is the chain of command – I’m talking about legal military chain of command – from the UN Security Council to ISAF? What about NATO? What about Operation Enduring Freedom, whatever the hell that is? If war crimes are committed in Afghanistan by ISAF forces, and ISAF has been “authorized” by the UN Security Council, can members of the Security Council be indicted in the International Criminal Court?

Why not? At Nuremberg, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel was hung on the order of the International Military Tribunal because he did not resist Hitler’s “crimes against the peace” or “crimes against humanity”. Keitel’s role was administrative. As far as is known, he did not himself advocate the invasion of Austria, or murder with his own hands Russian prisoners of war. However, he “authorized” these acts, as found in the judgment:

“When, on 8th September 1941, OKW issued its ruthless regulations for the treatment of Soviet POW's, Canaris wrote to Keitel that under international law the SD should have nothing to do with this matter. On this memorandum in Keitel's handwriting, dated 23rd September and initialled by him, is the statement: ’ The objections arise from the military concept of chivalrous warfare. This is the destruction of an ideology. Therefore I approve and back the measures’."

As a result, he was found guilty and executed. He of course was a military officer.

Nuremberg didn’t stop there. Civilian administrators were indicted and convicted. Fritz Sauckel for example, was hung for his role in the Nazi slave labor program. Which brings us to UN Security Council Resolution 1386 (December 20, 2001):

“Acting for these reasons under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Authorizes, as envisaged in Annex 1 to the
Bonn Agreement, the establishment for 6 months of an International Security Assistance Force to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas, so that the Afghan Interim Authority as well as the personnel of the United Nations can operate in a secure environment;”

As unequivocally established, Afghan prisoners at the Bagram Air Base under American administration were “pulpified” among other atrocities (the medical term for this is rhabdomyolysis but “pulpified” is more poetic) and these events occurred subsequent to 1386. The responsibility for these and similar violations of the Third Geneva Convention would seem to a very uptight civilian to rest squarely with the American chain of command (just as responsibility for transfer of prisoners from Canadian custody to illegitimate “Transferring Powers” in Afghanistan rests squarely with the Canadian chain of command), but why not also with the Security Council that “authorized” the force?

How would Security Council Resolution 1386 stand up in either the World Court or the International Criminal Court? When the UN Security Council does it, does that mean it’s not illegal?