Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blowing Up Pakistan With UN Security Council Resolution 1386

OK, so the guy's only been in the job a few days and he's already done a lot of good, given the madness of the last eight years; he hit the ground flying.

But now, this.

We didn't expect anything different under the Bush administration – to hell with Nuremberg, fuck the Geneva Conventions, and isn't Habeas Corpus some place in Texas? – but the new guy is promising something different, not that it's going to happen overnight.

However, even regular soldiers are supposed to understand enough of international law to prevent abominations like what happened to Russian prisoners of war during the German offensive of 1942. People were hung at Nuremberg for not knowing, or choosing not to know.

Which brings us to missiles fired by Americans from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

Nuremberg Principle VI (originally published as part of the London Charter in 1945 during the short intermission between Hiroshima and Nagasaki) states in part:

“The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).”

Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations, signed by the United States states:`

“The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.
1.The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
2.All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
3.All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
4.All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
5.All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
6.The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
7.Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll."

So, at a minimum, if we put Principle VI up against Article 2, we have the United States violating the Charter of the United Nations by “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”, by launching missiles at targets in Pakistan over the objections of the government of Pakistan, which is prima facie a war crime.

I'm not a lawyer, but most of the people hung at Nuremberg weren't lawyers, and the only legal basis for NATO involvement in Afghanistan, flimsy though it is, is the “collective right of self defence, as stated in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter:

“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.”

And the Security Council has exercised its “authority and responsibility” in the Afghanistan mess by “authorizing” the International Security Assistance Force in Resolution 1386 and subsequent extensions, the most recent being Resolution 1833, passed at a 5 minute meeting September 22, 2008.

The question, the stone cold obvious emperor-has-no-clothes question, is how Resolution 1386 would stand up in the International Criminal Court as a justification for American bombing in Pakistan. And if the legal basis is not Resolution 1386, what is it?

I'd ask my own government directly, but know from experience I wouldn't get an answer, as an ordinary citizen would not get an answer from the United Nations Security Council. But I'm asking anyway.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lack of effective listening

A pointless war has led to a moral defeat for Israel
The Observer, Sunday 18 January 2009

In historical terms, it is impossible to separate Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza from the long narrative of conflict and mutual grievance in the region.
In geographic terms, the war over a tiny plot of land cannot be detached from the wider involvement and strategic interests of other countries: Syria, Egypt, the US, Iran.
All of which makes it difficult to judge where - even if a unilateral Israeli ceasefire holds - the war really begins and ends.
That fact alone explains why the operation represents a defeat for Israel, as was always likely to be the outcome. The notion that the country's security problems can be resolved by the unilateral use of extreme force is a persistent delusion among Israeli politicians. In this case, the problem was perceived to be Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel; the solution was judged to be a war against Hamas. That analysis did not allow for the vital, humane recognition that, in densely populated Gaza, an all-out war against Hamas is, by necessity, an attack on the civilian population.
Even on its own terms, the campaign has failed. Israeli authorities will insist that they have limited the ability of Hamas to launch rocket attacks. But the ostensible war aim was destroying that capability completely.
Israel will also claim that its campaign has exposed a lack of support for Hamas in many Arab capitals; that Hamas' position as the ruling authority in Gaza has been undermined; and that Hamas has been revealed as little more than a terrorist proxy acting on behalf of and armed by Syria and Iran.

Hard lesson for Hamas
Globe editorial
From Friday's Globe and Mail
January 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST

Israel's military operations in Gaza have failed to stop rocket and mortar attacks, which only intensified yesterday, but they at least serve to remind Hamas and other belligerents that Israel's political will and military prowess have not faltered, contrary to any impression of vulnerability they may have inferred from the mixed results in the last Lebanon campaign.
It is an important message for Hamas fighters, their hardline leadership and the terrorist states that back them, one that was being pounded home again yesterday. Said Siam, the so-called “strongman of Hamas” who served as interior minister in Gaza and controlled paramilitary forces there, was killed by an Israeli air strike. Israeli tanks moved deep into Gaza City, taking the fight with militants into their living rooms. Such warfare is fraught, and Israeli forces did strike the United Nations headquarters and several hospitals. In close fighting, mistakes and even excesses are regrettably likely to occur.
The message, though, is immutable. Islamists in Gaza cannot gain anything from fighting against Israel. The only way ahead for Gazans is through a cessation of rocket attacks on Israel, and through diplomacy. Hamas reportedly offered a ceasefire yesterday, with a spokesman for the militant group admitting it had “no other choice.” The tragedy is that with the understanding of the need for a truce there is still no illumination.
In fact, Hamas did have a choice.
The organization could have reined in its thugs. It could have ended the practice of firing rockets and mortars indiscriminately into Israeli towns. It could have sought to improve the lives of the Gazan people instead of committing atrocities against the Israeli people.
Just as after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Israel's opponents have again displayed their habit of missing opportunities for progress.
It is a tragedy for Gaza's impoverished and downtrodden population that it has taken so much death and destruction for Hamas to come to understand that a ceasefire is preferable to what has been experienced in Gaza in recent days. Hamas is defeated, or is in the process of being defeated. Its own leaders and fighters, and its own people, have died and been injured in numbers greatly disproportionate to the soldiers and people of Israel. It is time that Hamas, and the battered people they represent, understand not just the inevitability of defeat but also the other lessons of this new year. They must absorb the truth that harassment and provocation are not the way forward.

But the reality is that the status of Hamas as the preferred vehicle for Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation has been enhanced by the indiscriminate brutality of the military assault.
Meanwhile, that status guarantees the resurgence, in some form, of armed response, including rocket fire and terrorist attacks on Israeli soil. It is possible that Hamas' military capability has been drastically reduced. But even when Israel had full command of Gaza's external borders, it could not stop the trade in smuggled weapons. Sadly, Hamas will re-arm with or without a ceasefire agreement.
Meanwhile, any increased consideration of Iranian or Syrian sponsorship of terrorism will pale against global outrage at the extraordinary disregard shown by Israeli forces for the lives of Palestinian civilians. It is quite possible, as the Observer today reports, that an Israeli withdrawal will reveal evidence of actions deserving indictment as war crimes. Those allegations must be independently investigated.
Israel's allies in the west, chiefly the US, have traditionally defended the country on the grounds that it is a democracy besieged by despotic regimes and terrorists. But while Israeli citizens do enjoy immense political and social freedom, those values do not automatically prevent the state from committing atrocities.
The fact of Israeli democracy is not a reason to resist negotiations with Hamas. That was true before this pointless, brutal war and will remain so afterwards.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Despite the success of the operation, which included the arrest of several Taliban operatives, a Canadian soldier was killed in the raid."

How does that work? The CBC, Globe and Mail, and the Department of National Defence seem blissfully unaware.

And now, January 15, there are still no Canadian casualties...

The fabulous French sailors....

Amid the gloom, doom, and terror, are people (and not only French) who set out to sail alone around the world in ridiculously powerful boats.

It's the best of the human spirit.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Foreign Aid"

Canada will spend $50 million to help repair Afghan dam: Oda
Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin has been chosen by the government to repair the Dahla irrigation dam outside the city of Kandahar, Oda said.

When fixed, the dam — once the region's premier hydroelectric facility and irrigation regulator — is expected to irrigate 10,000 hectares of land and provide jobs for 10,000 seasonal workers.

"This is major project, and we're very, very pleased," Oda said during an announcement with the new governor of Kandahar, Tooryalai Wesa, at Canadian forward operating base Frontenac, which is within eyesight of the dam.

The repairs to the dam, which was built in the 1950s, should be completed by 2011, the year Canada is scheduled to end its military commitments in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, back in Kabul....

KABUL, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Afghanistan will not be able to reach its goal of being free from landmines and unexploded bombs by March 2013 unless urgent funding is received, the United Nations said on Monday.

After nearly 30 years of war, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world with more than 640 km square (247 square miles) of land still contaminated, the U.N. said.

Afghanistan signed the Ottawa Treaty in 2003, committing itself to ridding the country of all mines by March 2013. In a separate agreement with the international community, 70 percent of the country is to be cleared by March 2011.

"In order to reach these objectives ... over the next five years, based on our calculations, the programme needs another $500 million," Mohammad Haidar Reza, programme director for the U.N. mine clearing agency (UNMACA) told a news conference.

Exexutive summary: Canada has $50 million to funnel to a Quebec engineering company while the mine clearing progamme, as imagined by the Ottawa Treaty, is broke.

John Perkins
Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man

Monday, January 5, 2009

Good News from the Middle East - Food

Many terrible events occur in the Middle East, not to mention south Asia. Food can counter these terrible events and save the world.

For many years I have attended an unpretentious restaurant near the Vancouver General Hospital. It was founded by a couple from Iraq: one a biochemist and the other a nuclear physicist. Both worked at the University of Baghdad. Why did they leave Iraq, one wonders. Continuing to be alive and sane is the obvious answer. Having fled to Canada and unable to find employment in their respective professions, they started a restaurant. It is extremely cool. The décor is basic. The legality is unlicensed. The food is fabulous.

I keep trying to break out of my monotonous routine, which is to order the chicken combo. Unfortunately I have failed, owing to the fabulosity of the combo, which consists of delicious chicken, excellent salad, rice, and two sauces. It is very healthy and I don’t understand why the whole concept isn’t being mass marketed as fast food with attitude. Every once in a while I get a little crazy and order the lamb combo or a falafel donair, and they’re all good, but I keep coming back to my regular order: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

In the terrible photos from Abu Ghraib posted by the New Yorker and substantiated by General Anthony Taguba, I can’t help but notice that there are no fat Iraqis. This contrasts sharply with the Halliburton Effect, where American soldiers gain weight due to unrestricted access to American food while living on American bases as “fobbits”. Hello? I’d like to see a “pyramid” of hooded naked men from the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Department of Defense, arranged by rank, and see how these would “stack up” against the existing photos from Iraq, or alternatively, to see a photo of a naked Dick Cheney being menaced by attack dogs. These are not images that leap easily to the mind, the mind already having been somewhat distorted by the reality of what has already occurred, and in particular the unpublished photos seen by Don Rumsfeld from Abu Ghraib, and unpublished photos from places like Bagram Air Base where Afghan taxi drivers were “pulpified”.

But getting back to food, the atmosphere at my restaurant, Falafel Magic, is marked by an array of Arabic speaking customers at the counter who are usually watching football – “soccer”– and commenting on the events at considerable volume. Most of these customers are doctors who work at my hospital. I definitely don’t want to bother them when they’re involved in something important. There was an Irish national team manager who said something like: “Football isn’t a matter of life and death; it’s far more important than that”.

I can only agree. As we turn to our respective food orders, barked out in Arabic, sirens scream on their way to the nearby Emergency Department, but these are clearly as distraction from what is really important: food and football.

In Canada of course, it’s hockey, ice hockey to the uneducated. I saw a patient the other day from Russia. He, like me, had watched the 1972 “summit series” between the USSR and Canada, a series narrowly won by Canada but which revealed to all the world that Canadians did not play the best hockey in the world by birthright, moral prerogative, or superior values such as freedom and democracy. In fact, it turned out that the USSR had cheated by practicing beforehand, not to mention adopting a rational approach to physical conditioning and team play. Although the result was a triumph for Canada, everyone knew it was the opposite: the cold water of reality was visited on Canadians from people who didn’t buy into the Canadian national mythology.

You also can’t cheat on food. Either you like it, or you don’t. Middle Eastern food has survived the test of time, and so it should. I mean, I’ve eaten Italian food in Bologna – which was wonderful – I’ve eaten Indian food in Vancouver – also wonderful – and I’ve had Swedish food in Sweden. I’ve also had Canadian prairie “fowl suppers” that have to be seen or experienced to be believed. At the Saskatchewan Pavilion at the World’s Fair in Vancouver in 1986, the associated restaurant that featured turkey dinners with Saskatoon pie for desert was so oversubscribed you couldn’t get in. The whole thing had to be continued after the fair was over.

All the world’s problems should be settled after dinner.+

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service - an oxymoronic career in Orwellian public relations

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is recruiting photogenic models who demonstrate good clothes sense and can crouch attractively with laptops. "Looking for a career at the forefront of national security? Choose a career with CSIS and join a place like no other.

"CSIS contributes to making Canada among the world's best countries in which to live. The importance of our mandate is reflected in a highly professional environment that values critical thinking and ethical practices. Our expertise in the use of leading-edge technologies helps to put us at the forefront of the world's security intelligence organizations. CSIS offers more than a job; it provides an environment where you can build a meaningful and rewarding career."

Meanwhile, in a unanimous 9-0 decision, The Supreme Court of Canada (2008 SCC 28), May 23, 2008, stated:

"The process in place at Guantanamo Bay at the time Canadian officials interviewed K and passed on the fruits of the interviews to U.S. officials has been found by the U.S. Supreme Court, with the benefit of a full factual record, to violate U.S. domestic law and international human rights obligations to which Canada subscribes. The comity concerns that would normally justify deference to foreign law do not apply in this case. Consequently, the Charter applies."

Two months later, CSIS fought back with public relations:

"Canadian Security Intelligence Service - 2003 Interviews with Omar Khadr - Media Coverage
Ottawa, July 21st, 2008

"Information relating to interviews of Omar Khadr by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service CSIS and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) were recently released to Mr. Khadr’s legal counsel, following rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada in May 2008, and by the Federal Court of Canada in June 2008.
"Following the public release of this information by Mr. Khadr’s lawyers, there has been much national and international media coverage pertaining to these interviews. Much of this coverage has focussed on video footage of Service interviews conducted with Mr. Khadr in February 2003.
"Mr. Khadr was questioned by CSIS in 2003 about individuals - including those linked to the Al Qaeda organization - who may pose a threat to the security of Canada and its interests.
CSIS interviewed Mr. Khadr to collect threat-related information and intelligence and did not discuss consular issues with him, as this is not CSIS's role.

"During the recent media coverage of this issue, some factual errors have been reported by certain media outlets. Specifically, select media outlets have claimed that Mr. Khadr had been mistreated by U.S. authorities - including via sleep deprivation - prior to those 2003 interviews with CSIS. This is simply not accurate. In fact, it should be clear that CSIS had no information to substantiate claims that Mr. Khadr was being mistreated by U.S. authorities in conjunction with the CSIS interviews in 2003.
"Furthermore, the allegations which subsequently surfaced regarding sleep deprivation were in relation to a 2004 interview in Guantanamo Bay with Mr. Khadr, an interview in which CSIS was not a participant."
All of which misses the obvious unresolved problems:

1. Liaison was good enough with American "authorities" that CSIS could travel to Guanatamo, unless of course they got a holiday charter to Holguin, rented a car, and drove over.
2. The obvious mistreatment of prisoners was known to the FBI at the time, as documented by the American Civil Liberties Union there, or for that matter in Iraq and authorized by "Executive Order".
3. The proposition that CSIS "interviewed K[hadr] and passed on the fruits of the interviews to U.S. officials" (2008 SCC 28, see above), and yet were completely innocent of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, is laughable. What did they talk about, baseball?

None of which changes the fact that international humanitarian law is binding on the Canadian government and its agents, and the fact that collusion in a war crime is a war crime in International Humanitarian Law, and in particular, the Nuremberg Principles:Principle VII
"Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principles VI is a crime under international law."

Document from the ACLU website, highlighting added.

All of which is a complete surpise to CSIS.