Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lies, Noble Lies, and Snake Oil

“I think I mentioned to you that the doctor kept a cheetah and a baboon. We had no feeling of security unless our doors were locked.”
– Arthur Conan Doyle, The adventure of the speckled band

Cheetahs and baboons outside the walls: terrifying! Obviously we need walls, and guardians on the walls. But what if the guardians are corrupt?

I heard maybe it's all Plato's fault for saying it's OK for the guardians to tell lies:

“Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good.”

This kind of stuff gives education a bad name. Irving Kristol for example is quoted as saying:

"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work." 

Well, no, Irv, I don't think so. First of all, get lost. Second, you might as well say: “There are aerodynamics appropriate for children, aerodynamics for adults, aerodynamics for pilots, and aerodynamics for aeronautical engineers.” Either you're flying or you're not. If you're not, as Eeyore said, “....it's all the same at the bottom of the river”, and the “appropriate” level of truth at which you understand that you're not flying is the same for everybody, which is to say, crashing.

Telling lies to preserve the truth is the same fallacy as destroying the village to save it, or abandoning free market principles to save the free market. To use Irv's own words: it doesn't work. The argument has been debunked by people who have thought about it a lot, like Shadia Drury.

However, at my level, the level of an ordinarily outraged Canadian citizen, the argument that the guardians know best what's good for us, and furthermore don't have to tell us what they're doing, and that, like Plato's guardians, they can tell “noble lies” in the public interest, is not only obnoxious but also the stuff that police states are made of, witness the systematic assault on the American Constitution by people who are sworn to uphold the American Constitution.

Or, to quote Uri Avnery, Israeli citizen:

“War – every war – is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one’s country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.”

This gets down to the “national security” trumps “open government” conflict being played out, particularly in NATO countries like Canada, where casual attacks on sacred institutions created by one thousand years' of political evolution, institutions like habeas corpus, should lead to insurrection. I'm doing my best, and fortunately, we still seem to have an independent judiciary.

On the other hand we have Jim Judd, a director of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, who is quoted by Craig Forcese as follows: “Democracies have taken a long period to develop and their values, laws and institutions continue to provide inspiration to those without the luxury of living in one.”

I take strong exception to any unelected Canadian Crown servant describing democracy as a “luxury”. The Canadian rule of law is a hard-earned right, derived from centuries of experience and relentless determination. The most part of the strength of Canadian democracy is not that it is protected from without by security services, but that is protected from within by open government and the will of its citizens to be governed openly.

Then, there's Kurt Vonnegut: “ There can be no doubt that the Allies fought on the side of right and the Germans and Japanese on the side of wrong. World War II was found for near-Holy motives. But I stand convinced the the brand of justice in which we dealt, wholesale bombings of civilian populations, was blasphemous. That the enemy did it first has nothing to do with the moral problem.”

Canada has fought many wars at the back of freedom and democracy. We've signed up for all of international humanitarian law. This is no time for weasel words.

From the ©New York Times Archives

Monday, November 29, 2010

Citizen Judd

“…ideas and programs which tended to justify and advance the cause of the institution at the expense of the nation; too much secrecy with too many experts who knew remarkably little either about the country involved or about their own country; too many decisions by the private men of the Administration as opposed to the public ones…”
David Halberstam, The Best and The Brightest, page 74

Viewing cable 08OTTAWA918,
WikiLeaks cablegate

1. (S/NF) Summary. Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director Judd discussed domestic and foreign terror threats with Counselor of the State Department Cohen in Ottawa on July 2. Judd admitted that CSIS was increasingly distracted from its mission by legal challenges that could endanger foreign intelligence-sharing with Canadian agencies. He predicted that the upcoming release of a DVD of Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr's interrogation by Canadian officials would lead to heightened pressure on the government to press for his return to Canada, which the government would continue to resist. Judd shared Dr. Cohen's negative assessment of current political, economic, and security trends in Pakistan, and was worried about what it would mean for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Canada has begun formulating an inter-agency Pakistan strategy, and CSIS had agreed to open a channel to Iran's intelligence service which Judd has not yet "figured out." (Septel will cover Dr. Cohen's discussions regarding Pakistan and the OEF and ISAF missions in Afghanistan.) End summary.

Run those Sections 15(1) and 21(1)(a) by me again...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The other Karl

"... the Greeks started for us that great revolution which it seems, is still in its beginning – the transition from the closed to the open society."

Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, page 175

Popper was born in 1902 to a Viennese family of Jewish origin. He taught in Austria until 1937, when he emigrated to New Zealand in anticipation of the Nazi annexation of Austria the following year, and he settled in England in 1949.

Excerpt from WikiLeaks release of American diplomatic cables
The Guardian, November 28, 2010

"In one cable, a US diplomat noted how Saudi foreign affairs bureaucrats were moderate in their views on Iran, "but diverge significantly from the more bellicose advice we have gotten from senior Saudi royals".

That seems pretty important for American citizens to know: the views of the Saudi royal family, urging the bombing of Iran, don't necessarily represent those of their subjects. It would be even more interesting to know the views of the moderate Saudi diplomats, particularly on Iran. It would be really good to have such a discussion before bombing Iran - like right now - rather than after.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Patriotism and Afghanistan

"...leaving one commanding general of the 4th to wonder out loud and in my hearing whether we were or weren't all Americans in this thing together. I said I thought we were. For sure we were."

Michael Herr, Dispatches, Random House of Canada, 2009, page 42

There has been a lot of discussion of WikiLeaks, and whether it is criminally responsible for...well, anything.

What stands out a mile is that WikiLeaks is the messenger. The leaks about the Afghan and Iraq wars can only have come from Americans - very unhappy Americans - who believe their own country has committed crimes. These very courageous people are the same as those who spoke up during the Nazi tyranny, usually with little effect, apart from their own executions. The Nuremberg Trials determined that some people who should have spoken up didn't, and were hanged as a result.

This isn't about WikiLeaks. It's about tyranny.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


LAUNCELOT: Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of your son: give me your blessing: truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son may, but at the length truth will out.
Merchant of Venice
Act II, Scene 2

The fall of Sparta

"We see the United States as deeply worried about terrorism. But effectively fighting against terrorism does not mean increasing the number of military operations; it means fighting against what causes terrorism. If you introduce kindness and gentleness at the place where terrorism begins, you will eradicate terrorism without pain. It is necessary to examine the most sensitive areas of the earth. You can do nothing to stop the seventeen-year-old kid who has decided to place a bomb somewhere. You can do strictly nothing, and any effort against him will just fly back in your face. Countering violence with violence is the most ineffective response imaginable. Instead, we should target the pain, with the goal to alleviate it. I firmly desire a worldwide dialogue, and I would like to see the United States discharged from the monologue. The period of great wars is over. Science has put in the hands of children extraordinary means of death. The greatest error the United States is currently making is to think that international military operations can stop a seventeen-year-old child from acting. "

The illusions of overwhelming force should now be clear. Some nutbar with incompetently arranged underwear has paralyzed American air transportation. A nuclear bomb in a container ship docked in Manhattan would make the same point. There is no way in this day and age of protecting anybody from violence if in fact violence is intended. The suicide bomber has made clear that sophisticated technology is useless in the face of primitive technology in the hands of those willing to die for a cause, however nutty. The cause of ridding Afghanistan of foreigners is arguably not very nutty at all.

The Ten Thousand Village War

Detail from Asterix in Corsica.

So in the recent Afghan parliamentary elections, widely derided in NATO, there were to the nearest order of magnitude, about 10,000 polling stations. There are about 30million people in Afghanistan, and about 10 million registered voters, again, roughly, which works out to about 1,000 Afghans per polling station. It seems about right. This of course takes no account of similar villages in Pakistan.

As I understand Greg Mortenson, the key to assisting people in central Asia is to provide what they ask for, which often turns out to be for schools, for girls also, and that the village elders are the people to request the help and make it all happen. As I understand Mortenson's operating methods, there are three main rules:

1. Provide the help that's asked for;

2. Never accept money from the military;

3. Always travel unarmed.

All that remains is for NATO to leave in some organized way that minimizes suffering and loss of life. It doesn't have to be overnight, and there will be many in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran who will provide very genuine, helpful advice. The UN can organize the meetings. The crucial factors are that NATO soldiers have to leave, and the UN has to make it clear the Afghans are not being abandoned. Well-meaning white people don't have to organize anything except themselves.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Ten Thousand Day War

"Sevareid provided a nightly editorial on the CBS Cronkite newscast, and over the years reported from Vietnam. 'I'm sure that Hanoi,' he says, 'kept a very close watch on press coverage, public reaction to it, the demonstrations and so on, and no doubt they were encouraged by that. But the activity they had to respond to was in front of them - a constant reinforcement of the American air force, infantry, artillery, navy, everything else. There may have been a lot of anti-war feeling here but what was coming at them was more and more pro-war American power. So I never quite believed that the reason they fought so hard and tenaciously was because of things going on here.

'You weren't really fighting just a military force. You were fighting a society, a society equipped with a total faith.' It was the point which took so many people 10,000 days to grasp.

Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War, Michael Maclear, Thames/Methuen, pg. 323-324

Turkeys coming home to roost for American Thanksgiving

So Spiegel is making this diplomatic meeting public, immediately prior to an impending, widely advertised, and apparently dreaded, WikiLeaks release of American diplomatic cables. Is Spiegel breaking the embargo? Does it matter?

You know, there was an Information Commissioner in Canada, John Reid - weirdly for a time my own Member of Parliament for Kenora-Rainy River - who apparently said he never met a secret he liked. There are many confidential discussions - cabinet records, solicitor-client privilege, doctor-patient confidentiality - that are privileged. But if these protections are routinely used to hide immoral, unethical, and illegal transactions, then they should be blown (see also, The Great Minaki Lodge Meltdown, Carey v. Ontario, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 637).

What I really want from WikiLeaks is the forensic audit of Rights and Democracy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All the Secretary-General's men....

"All the platitudes, doubletalk, synthetic optimism and fudging at the NATO summit could not conceal the fact that for all their soldiers, fighter aircraft, heavy bombers, tanks, helicopter gunships, armies of mercenaries, and wizardly electronic gear, the western powers are being slowly beaten by a bunch of lightly-armed Afghan farmers and mountain tribesmen."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NATO in Afghanistan

"Afghan army will be strong enough to take over in 2011: U.S. general"

Last Updated: Monday, April 21, 2008 1:35 PM ET CBC News, or November 2010, or hell, the retreat from Kabul, January, 1842.

Afghan soldiers and police should be able to handle their own security by 2011, allowing international forces to start withdrawing, according to the commander of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.

Gen. Dan K. McNeill says Afghan forces should be able to take control of most of their country by 2011. (Virginia Mayo/Associated Press)

Gen. Dan K. McNeill, in an interview published Monday in the New York Times, said Afghan forces already have control of the capital city of Kabul.

News flash: even more updated update! by Doug Bandow, "What I saw in Kabul", American Conservative, December, 2010

"Roads are strewn with metal barriers, concrete blocks, sandbagged positions, and machine-gun topped trucks and Humvees. Some side streets are entirely closed to locals. Traveling even a short distance can take an hour or more. Kabul is a collection of small islands rather than a unified city.

"Armed men are everywhere: Allied troops. Afghan National Police. Private guards. None of this may come as a surprise in a city at war. But this is the capital of a country where the U.S. has been fighting longer than it did in Vietnam or World Wars I and II. The city is more dangerous than when our troops first arrived."

Meanwhile, back in 2008:

In three years, they should have control of much of the rest of the country, said McNeill, an American who took command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in February 2007. "By about 2011 there is going to be some pretty good capacity in the Afghan National Army," he said.

"It will take them a few more years to get their air transport and air support platforms on line, but they should be covering a lot of battle space by some time in 2011, in my view."

At that point, NATO can review whether it still needs to have 47,000 troops in the country, as it has now, McNeill said.

"I think you begin to get to a juncture and say, 'Probably not, maybe we should be starting to change the way this force works,'" McNeill said.

His words fit the timeline recently set out by Canada. In March, the Liberals supported a controversial Conservative government motion to extend the Canadian mission in the country by two years, to 2011. The motion stirred up heated debate in Canada, where some are calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops. Canada currently has more than 2,500 troops deployed in Afghanistan. It has lost 82 soldiers since the mission began in 2002.

McNeill's optimism seems to contrast with a somewhat bleaker view set out by Canada's international trade minister, David Emerson, on April 11. "I don't think any of us should be under the illusion that Afghanistan is going to be a thriving, prosperous democracy by 2011," said Emerson, chair of a cabinet committee overseeing Ottawa's war-and-development strategy. "But we hope we can get to the point where Afghanistan has become a viable state and we can normalize Canada's relationship."

McNeill said he has confidence that Afghanistan will be secure enough to hold a presidential election in September 2009.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/04/21/afghan-troops.html#ixzz15yvNRE4J

Friday, November 19, 2010

The document in question...


It shouldn't take six bloody months to figure that out.

The Fogh of War

Prostenic Vogon Jeltz sat irritably in his slimy ill-fitting seat, impatiently awaiting the task of obliterating the planet Earth, which was obstructing a proposed hyperspatial bypass.

His First Officer approached him diffidently, with reason. "We have had a message, Sire, from the planet, warning us that NATO will activate its missile defence shield if we don't clear off."

This was the most interesting event for some time in his career as a destructor of hapless planets.

"What is NATO?"

"We don't know, but the being who sent the message is Anders Fogh Rasmussen."

It meant nothing to Jeltz. What was a Fogh?

"Tell them to launch," he said.

Seconds later his First Officer reported, "There are a number of missiles launched that contain primitive thermonuclear weapons."

"Eliminate them."

The Vogon fleet deployed its array of tractor weapons, Ultimate Death Ray Interceptors, and so forth.


"They have been destroyed, Sire."

"Very well," he sighed. "Activate the Destructor Beams."

The Vogon had a slight regret about the Earth - regret being an unfamiliar sensation - that it was too bad about NATO. Somehow, they had been on the right track.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Notes on NATO

Excerpt from George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism" May, 1945


All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by "our" side. The Liberal News Chronicle published, as an example of shocking barbarity, photographs of Russians hanged by the Germans, and then a year or two later published with warm approval almost exactly similar photographs of Germans hanged by the Russians. It is the same with historical events. History is thought of largely in nationalist terms, and such things as the Inquisition, the tortures of the Star Chamber, the exploits of the English buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake, for instance, who was given to sinking Spanish prisoners alive), the Reign of Terror, the heroes of the Mutiny blowing hundreds of Indians from the guns, or Cromwell's soldiers slashing Irishwomen's faces with razors, become morally neutral or even meritorious when it is felt that they were done in the "right" cause. If one looks back over the past quarter of a century, one finds that there was hardly a single year when atrocity stories were not being reported from some part of the world; and yet in not one single case were these atrocities -- in Spain, Russia, China, Hungary, Mexico, Amritsar, Smyrna -- believed in and disapproved of by the English intelligentsia as a whole. Whether such deeds were reprehensible, or even whether they happened, was always decided according to political predilection.

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles. Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own antisemitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness. In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one's own mind.

Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should -- in which, for example, the Spanish Armada was a success or the Russian Revolution was crushed in 1918 -- and he will transfer fragments of this world to the history books whenever possible. Much of the propagandist writing of our time amounts to plain forgery. Material facts are suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed from their context and doctored so as to change their meaning. Events which it is felt ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied. In 1927 Chiang Kai Shek boiled hundreds of Communists alive, and yet within ten years he had become one of the heroes of the Left. The re-alignment of world politics had brought him into the anti-Fascist camp, and so it was felt that the boiling of the Communists "didn't count", or perhaps had not happened. The primary aim of progaganda is, of course, to influence contemporary opinion, but those who rewrite history do probably believe with part of their minds that they are actually thrusting facts into the past. When one considers the elaborate forgeries that have been committed in order to show that Trotsky did not play a valuable part in the Russian civil war, it is difficult to feel that the people responsible are merely lying. More probably they feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly.

Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events. For example, it is impossible to calculate within millions, perhaps even tens of millions, the number of deaths caused by the present war. The calamities that are constantly being reported -- battles, massacres, famines, revolutions -- tend to inspire in the average person a feeling of unreality. One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. What were the rights and wrongs of the Warsaw rising of August 1944? Is it true about the German gas ovens in Poland? Who was really to blame for the Bengal famine? Probably the truth is discoverable, but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in almost any newspaper that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or failing to form an opinion. The general uncertainty as to what is really happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs. Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied. Moreover, although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him. All nationalist controversy is at the debating-society level. It is always entirely inconclusive, since each contestant invariably believes himself to have won the victory. Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

David Richards, 3 years or 4 years or, hell, 40 years on...

This is the same guy, right?

Now, it looks like 30 or 40 years.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

International Psychiatry in Lisbon

You know, I think NATO exhibits the signs of a delusional disorder. I don't have the expertise to take it farther than that. But in my business, dermatology, we see people who have delusions that they're infested with parasites.

Naturally, doctors are on guard in case patients actually do have parasites, but there are a limited number of skin parasites, and the symptoms are usually clear cut. In fact, the delusional patients also present a clear picture.

Be that as it may, from the perspective of a medical practitioner who is not a psychiatrist, NATO's approach to Afghanistan has the hallmarks of a delusional disorder.

Interested readers are referred to the following reference:

Delusional disorder is an illness characterized by the presence of nonbizarre delusions in the absence of other mood or psychotic symptoms, according to the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR).1 It defines delusions as false beliefs based on incorrect inference about external reality that persist despite the evidence to the contrary and these beliefs are not ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture.

Nonbizarre refers to the fact that this type of delusion is about situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, being loved, having an infection, and being deceived by one's spouse.

Delusional disorder is on a spectrum between more severe psychosis and overvalued ideas. Bizarre delusions represent the manifestations of more severe types of psychotic illnesses (eg, schizophrenia) and "are clearly implausible, not understandable, and not derived from ordinary life experiences".

Speaking for myself, I'd say that further "training" of "security forces" in Afghanistan borders on the implausible, not understandable, and not derived from ordinary life experiences.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Looks like the Dahla Dam's had the schnitz...

He was looking at the black napalm blasts, and the wreckage along the wall. “Looks like the Imperial City’s had the schnitz,” he said.

Michael Herr, Dispatches,1977, page 70

The repair of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system, the building and repair of schools, and the eradication of polio are all projects that will improve the lives of the Afghan people, so measuring progress against benchmarks will be important,” said the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation. “Canadians need to know where we are making advances and where the challenges remain. Publishing these results meets a key commitment of our government to report frankly and frequently to Canadians.”

Ninth Quarterly Report to Parliament, September, 2010

1. The Dahla Dam and its irrigation and canal system rehabilitated, generating jobs and fostering agriculture. *Canadian Signature Project*
Progress Indicator: Progress in the rehabilitation of the physical structures of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation components.
Baseline: Access road completed and bridge nearing completion (March 2009).
2011 Target: Completion of all planned rehabilitation activities in accordance with the project plan.
Quarterly Report: An additional 52,000 cubic metres of silt were removed from the canal, improving water flow along the system and to the district.
Progress to date: A number of planned rehabilitation activities took place over the past year, including the removal of 137,500 cubic metres of silt from the canals, improving water flow along the system.
Progress Indicator: Number of jobs created by the Dahla Dam project.
Baseline: Project plan is in development and will be finalized in the fall of 2008.
2011 Target: 10,000 seasonal jobs created by the project.
Quarterly Result: 700 jobs were created this quarter.
Progress to date: A total of 1,911 seasonal jobs have been created, mostly related to construction..
Progress Indicator: Number of hectares of land benefiting from improved irrigation and water management.
Baseline: 20,000 hectares of land currently have access to irrigation (of varying degree and quality) via the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system.
2011 Target: 30,000 hectares in total benefiting from improved irrigation and water management.
Quarterly Result: Up to 1,800 hectares of land have benefited from improved irrigation this quarter.
Progress to date: Over 5,300 hectares of land have benefited from improved irrigation..

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN—A Canadian drive to transform Kandahar’s water supply is sputtering toward disaster despite Ottawa’s assurances to the contrary, the Toronto Star has learned.

The $50-million Dahla Dam irrigation project, touted as Canada’s best chance for a lasting legacy in Afghanistan, has all but stalled as its lead contractor, a partnership involving the Canadian engineering giant SNC Lavalin, battles for control against a sometimes violent Afghan security firm widely believed to be loyal to Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family, insiders close to the project say.

For the record, Ottawa says progress on its “signature project” is proceeding on time and budget, with shovels finally in the ground after a careful two-year planning phase involving thousands of hours of engineering and design work.

Canada’s International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda went so far last month as to wave panoramically during a helicopter press tour and proclaim the green expanse of the fertile Arghandab River valley below as the early signs of Canadian success.

But a three-week Toronto Star investigation, including interviews with more than 20 private contractors, government officials, Afghan tribal leaders and others knowledgeable about the project, shows a disaster in the making.

Foremost among the setbacks, insiders say, was a dramatic confrontation on Feb. 20, when rising tensions between Canadian security officials hired to oversee the project and members of Watan Risk Management, a group of Afghan mercenaries with close ties to the Karzai family, culminated in a “Mexican standoff” — the guns hired to protect the project actually turned on each other in a hair-trigger confrontation.

“That was the day Canada lost control. The thugs from Watan won, and the Canadian security managers involved were put on the next plane home, lucky to be alive,” a witness to the standoff told the Toronto Star on condition of anonymity.

“Ever since, the project has been basically held hostage by the Karzai mafia, who are using ‘security concerns’ to stall the work. They are able to put fear in the heart of the Canadian contractors, telling them ‘There is evil outside the gates that will eat you.’ The longer they delay, the more money the Afghan security teams make. The Canadians have good intentions but that is the reality.”

And now we're leaving. And, we can't even spell Dahla...

Ms. Oda insisted Canada will continue to fund its signature projects like the reconstruction of the Dhalla Dam, which will irrigate the Arghandab River valley that flows into arid Kandahar. But whereas about half of Canadian aid now goes to Kandahar, the much-reduced sums will now be spread across Afghanistan, government officials said.

Even the Dhalla Dam project will see more U.S. involvement, Ms. Oda suggested. The first phase of the dam’s “rehabilitation” is on track, she said. “And we have been in discussion with our international partners, because of the work we’ve started, of course, they are very anxious to build their own programming around the strong base that we’ve started in the Arghandab valley,” she said.

The removal of Canadians from the Kandahar PRT involves not just aid officials who managed things like agricultural programs but also political officials advising Afghans on rebuilding a provincial court system that has only 15 judges and corrections officers who helped rebuild Kandahar’s oft-attacked Sarpoza prison.

Whatever happened to the man from Coquitlam?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Afghanistan - America's Vietnam

AP Photo
This is a Feb. 15, 1989 file photo of the last Soviet to leave Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Boris Gromov, left, with his son Maxim, at the bridge over the Amu Darya River, at Termez, Uzbekistan. Max looks like a guy who got his dad back.

Learning things the hard way is a painful experience. Learning the same thing a second time the hard way seems like stupidity. I do it all the time...

So it seems with the United States. The stone-cold obvious lessons of Vietnam were:

1. Overwhelming technical superiority doesn't beat primitive righteousness (see also, American Revolution);

2. Ignorance is not a virtue;

3. History has teeth.

Instead, American society seems to have learned:

1. If overwhelming violence doesn't work, the solution is more violence (see Curtis LeMay Syndrome);

2. If a free press exposes the lies on which a war is based, then the solution is to eliminate a free press.

It's not looking good for an outbreak of common sense in NATO any time soon, like Lisbon.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On the usefulness of training...

"SEOUL, South Korea — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday he is reluctantly deploying military trainers to Afghanistan for three years because he doesn't want the past "sacrifices" of Canadian soldiers to be in vain.

"After several days of reports that the Conservative government was considering assigning nearly 1,000 soldiers to Afghanistan after Canada ends its military combat mission next year, the prime minister confirmed the plan."

The Windsor Star, November 11, 2010

“I haven't made a secret of the fact that I'd like to see all of our troops come home. That said, as we look at the facts on the ground, I think the reality is, there does need to be some additional training of Afghan forces. So we are looking at some training options for a smaller number of Canadian troops, but this would be a strictly non-combat mission.”

Norman Spector (quoting Stephen Harper), The Globe and Mail, November 11, 2010

"...that hope still burned, the myth that the problem with the ARVN was a lack of training; Americans had been training the Vietnamese army for a decade, and still held to the hope that more training was the solution..."

David Halberstam, The Best and The Brightest, Ballantine Books 1992, pg. 559-560

"Afghan National and Border Police

"By end-2010, a fully constituted, professional, functional and ethnically balanced Afghan National Police and Afghan Border Police with a combined force of up to 62,000will be able to meet the security needs of the country effectively and will be increasingly fiscally sustainable."

Afghanistan Compact, 2006

"FDD training was completed by 420 ANP in the key districts this quarter, for a total of 2,820 officers. Progress to date: Current ANP in the key districts total 2,588, of which approximately 50% have received FDD training against the 2008 target of 80%. Since 2008, however, 2,820 ANP members have received FDD training. Many have since been killed or wounded in action, left the ANP or moved elsewhere,highlighting the difficulties the ANP has faced in retaining numbers. Accordingly, while more ANP have been trained than was initially planned, training will continue in order to achieve the full 2008 target."

Details from Canada's Quarterly Report to Parliament to June 30, 2010 , page 16

The relevant excerpts from the Appendix are here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Arm the Wheat Board"

Still - 3 years later - it's as reasonable an idea as any, and more than most.

"...that hope still burned..."

Hole in the Wall, American Embassy Saigon
Tet Offensive, 1968

Johnson in particular was pleased by Westmoreland's reputation; he had liked the general when they met at West Point, and Johnson was impressed that Westmoreland was straight from West Point, perhaps he would be better prepared to train the Vietnamese army (that hope still burned, the myth that the problem with the ARVN was a lack of training; Americans had been training the Vietnamese army for a decade, and still held to the hope that more training was the solution).

David Halberstam, The Best and The Brightest, Ballantine Books 1992, pg. 559-560

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Afghanistan Compacted

The London Conference on Afghanistan
London 31 January – 1 February 2006
The complete, sad, sorry document is here.

The Afghan Government, with the support of the international community, is committed to achieving the following benchmarks in accordance with the timelines specified.
International Security Forces
Through end-2010, with the support of and in close coordination with the Afghan Government, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and their respective Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) will promote security and stability in all regions of Afghanistan, including by strengthening Afghan capabilities.
Afghan National Army
By end-2010: A nationally respected, professional, ethnically balanced Afghan National Army will be fully established that is democratically accountable, organized, trained and equipped to meet the security needs of the country and increasingly funded from Government revenue, commensurate with the nation’s economic capacity; the international community will continue to support Afghanistan in expanding the ANA towards the ceiling of 70,000 personnel articulated in the Bonn talks; and the pace of expansion is to be adjusted on the basis of periodic joint quality assessments by the Afghan Government and the international community against agreed criteria which take into account prevailing conditions.
Afghan National and Border Police
By end-2010, a fully constituted, professional, functional and ethnically balanced Afghan National Police and Afghan Border Police with a combined force of up to 62,000 will be able to meet the security needs of the country effectively and will be increasingly fiscally sustainable.
Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups
All illegal armed groups will be disbanded by end-2007 in all provinces.
By end-2010, the Government will strengthen its law enforcement capacity at both central and provincial levels, resulting in a substantial annual increase in the amount of drugs seized or destroyed and processing facilities dismantled, and in effective measures, including targeted eradication as appropriate, that contribute to the elimination of poppy cultivation.
By end-2010, the Government and neighbouring and regional governments will work together to increase coordination and mutual sharing of intelligence, with the goal of an increase in the seizure and destruction of drugs being smuggled across Afghanistan’s borders and effective action against drug traffickers.
Mine Action and Ammunition
By end-2010, in line with Afghanistan’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Afghanistan’s Ottawa Convention obligations, the land area contaminated by mines and unexploded ordnance will be reduced by 70%; all stockpiled anti-personnel mines will be located and destroyed by end-2007; and by end-2010, all unsafe, unserviceable and surplus ammunition will be destroyed.
Governance, Rule Of Law And Human Rights
Public Administrative Reform
By end-2010: Government machinery (including the number of ministries) will be restructured and rationalised to ensure a fiscally sustainable public administration; the civil service commission will be strengthened; and civil service functions will be reformed to reflect core functions and responsibilities.
A clear and transparent national appointments mechanism will be established within 6 months, applied within 12 months and fully implemented within 24 months for all senior level appointments to the central government andthe judiciary, as well as for provincial governors, chiefs of police, district administrators and provincial heads of security.
By end-2006 a review of the number of administrative units and their boundaries will be undertaken with the aim of contributing to fiscal sustainability.
By end-2010, in furtherance of the work of the civil service commission, merit-based appointments, vetting procedures and performance-based reviews will be undertaken for civil service positions at all levels of government, including central government, the judiciary and police, and requisite support will be provided to build the capacity of the civil service to function effectively. Annual performance-based reviews will be undertaken for all senior staff (grade 2 and above) starting by end-2007.
The UN Convention against Corruption will be ratified by end-2006, national legislation adapted accordingly by end-2007 and a monitoring mechanism to oversee implementation will be in place by end-2008.
The Census and Statistics
The census enumeration will be completed by end-2008 and the complete results published.
Reliable statistical baselines will be established for all quantitative benchmarks by mid-2007 and statistical capacity built to track progress against them.
National Assembly
The National Assembly will be provided with technical and administrative support by mid-2006 to fulfil effectively its constitutionally mandated roles.
The Afghanistan Independent Electoral Commission will have the high integrity, capacity and resources to undertake elections in an increasingly fiscally sustainable manner by end-2008, with the Government of Afghanistan contributing to the extent possible to the cost of future elections from its own resources. A permanent civil and voter registry with a single national identity document will be established by end-2009.
By end-2010: the National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan will be fully implemented; and, in line with Afghanistan’s MDGs, female participation in all Afghan governance institutions, including elected and appointed bodies and the civil service, will be strengthened.
Rule of Law
By end-2010, the legal framework required under the constitution, including civil, criminal and commercial law, will be put in place, distributed to all judicial and legislative institutions and made available to the public.
By end-2010, functioning institutions of justice will be fully operational in each province of Afghanistan, and the average time to resolve contract disputes will be reduced as much as possible.
A review and reform of oversight procedures relating to corruption, lack of due process and miscarriage of justice will be initiated by end-2006 and fully implemented by end-2010; by end-2010, reforms will strengthen the professionalism, credibility and integrity of key institutions of the justice system (the Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary, the Attorney-General’s office, the Ministry of Interior and the National Directorate of Security).
By end-2010, justice infrastructure will be rehabilitated; and prisons will have separate facilities for women and juveniles.
Land Registration
A process for registration of land in all administrative units and the registration of titles will be started for all major urban areas by end-2006 and all other areas by end-2008. A fair system for settlement of land disputes will be in place by end-2007. Registration for rural land will be under way by end-2007.
By end-2010, the Government will increase the number of arrests and prosecutions of traffickers and corrupt officials and will improve its information base concerning those involved in the drugs trade, with a view to enhancing the selection system for national and sub-national public appointments, as part of the appointments mechanism mentioned earlier in this annex.
Human Rights
By end-2010: The Government’s capacity to comply with and report on its human rights treaty obligations will be strengthened; Government security and law enforcement agencies will adopt corrective measures including codes of conduct and procedures aimed at preventing arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extortion and illegal expropriation of property with a view to the elimination of these practices; the exercise of freedom of expression, including freedom of media, will be strengthened; human rights awareness will be included in education curricula and promoted among legislators, judicial personnel and other Government agencies, communities and the public; human rights monitoring will be carried out by the Government and independently by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), and the UN will track the effectiveness of measures aimed at the protection of human rights; the AIHRC will be supported in the fulfilment of its objectives with regard to monitoring, investigation, protection and promotion of human rights.
The implementation of the Action Plan on Peace, Justice and Reconciliation will be completed by end-2008.
Economic and Social Development
Infrastructure And Natural Resources
Afghanistan will have a fully upgraded and maintained ring road, as well as roads connecting the ring road to neighbouring countries by end-2008 and a fiscally sustainable system for road maintenance by end-2007.
Air Transport
By end-2010: Kabul International Airport and Herat Airport will achieve full International Civil Aviation Organisation compliance; Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kandahar will be upgraded with runway repairs, air navigation, fire and rescue and communications equipment; seven other domestic airports will be upgraded to facilitate domestic air transportation; and air transport services and costs will be increasingly competitive with international market standards and rates.
By end-2010: electricity will reach at least 65% of households and 90% of non-residential establishments in major urban areas and at least 25% of households in rural areas; at least 75% of the costs will be recovered from users connected to the national power grid. A strategy for the development and the use of renewable energies will be developed by end-2007.
Mining and Natural ResourcesAn enabling regulatory environment for profitable extraction of Afghanistan’s mineral and natural resources will be created by end-2006, and by end-2010 the investment environment and infrastructure will be enhanced in order to attract domestic and foreign direct investment in this area.
Water Resource Management
Sustainable water resource management strategies and plans covering irrigation and drinking water supply will be developed by end-2006, and irrigation investments will result in at least 30% of water coming from large waterworks by end-2010.
Urban Development
By end-2010: Municipal governments will have strengthened capacity to manage urban development and to ensure that municipal services are delivered effectively, efficiently and transparently; in line with Afghanistan’s MDGs, investment in water supply and sanitation will ensure that 50% of households in Kabul and 30% of households in other major urban areas will have access to piped water.
In line with Afghanistan’s MDGs, environmental regulatory frameworks and management services will be established for the protection of air and water quality, waste management and pollution control, and natural resource policies will be developed and implementation started at all levels of government as well as the community level, by end-2007.
Primary and Secondary Education
By end-2010: in line with Afghanistan’s MDGs, net enrolment in primary school for girls and boys will be at least 60% and 75% respectively; a new curriculum will be operational in all secondary schools; female teachers will be increased by 50%; 70% of Afghanistan’s teachers will have passed a competency test; and a system for assessing learning achievement such as a national testing system for students will be in place.
Higher Education
By end 2010: enrolment of students to universities will be 100,000 with at least 35% female students; and the curriculum in Afghanistan’s public universities will be revised to meet the development needs of the country and private sector growth.
Skills Development
A human resource study will be completed by end-2006, and 150,000 men and women will be trained in marketable skills through public and private means by end-2010.
Afghan Cultural Heritage
A comprehensive inventory of Afghan cultural treasures will be compiled by end-2007. Measures will be taken to revive the Afghan cultural heritage, to stop the illegal removal of cultural material and to restore damaged monuments and artefacts by end-2010.
Health and Nutrition
By end-2010, in line with Afghanistan’s MDGs, the Basic Package of Health Services will be extended to cover at least 90% of the population; maternal mortality will be reduced by 15%; and full immunisation coverage for infants under-5 for vaccine-preventable diseases will be achieved and their mortality rates reduced by 20%.
Agriculture and Rural Development
Agriculture and Livestock
By end-2010: The necessary institutional, regulatory and incentive framework to increase production and productivity will be established to create an enabling environment for legal agriculture and agriculture-based rural industries, and public investment in agriculture will increase by 30 percent; particular consideration will be given to perennial horticulture, animal health and food security by instituting specialised support agencies and financial service delivery mechanisms, supporting farmers’ associations, branding national products, disseminating timely price and weather-related information and statistics, providing strategic research and technical assistance and securing access to irrigation and water management systems.
Comprehensive Rural Development
By end-2010: Rural development will be enhanced comprehensively for the benefit of 19 million people in over 38,000 villages; this will be achieved through the election of at least a further 14,000 voluntary community development councils in all remaining villages, promoting local governance and community empowerment; access to safe drinking water will be extended to 90% of villages and sanitation to 50%; road connectivity will reach 40% of all villages, increasing access to markets, employment and social services; 47% of villages will benefit from small-scale irrigation; 800,000 households (22% of all Afghanistan’s households) will benefit from improved access to financial services; and livelihoods of at least 15% of the rural population will be supported through the provision of 91 million labour days.
By end-2010, the Government will design and implement programmes to achieve a sustained annual reduction in the amount of land under poppy and other drug cultivation by the strengthening and diversification of licit livelihoods and other counter-narcotics measures, as part of the overall goal of a decrease in the absolute and relative size of the drug economy in line with the Government’s MDG target.
Social Protection
Poverty Reduction
By end-2010, in line with Afghanistan’s MDGs, the proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day will decrease by 3% per year and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger will decrease by 5% per year.
Humanitarian and Disaster Response
By end-2010, an effective system of disaster preparedness and response will be in place.
By end-2010, increased assistance will be provided to meet the special needs of all disabled people, including their integration in society through opportunities for education and gainful employment.
Employment of Youth and Demobilised Soldiers
By end-2010, employment opportunities for youth and demobilised soldiers will be increased through special programmes.
Refugees and IDPs
By end-2010, all refugees opting to return and internally displaced persons will be provided assistance for rehabilitation and integration in their local communities; their integration will be supported by national development programmes, particularly in key areas of return.
Vulnerable Women
By end-2010, the number of female-headed households that are chronically poor will be reduced by 20%, and their employment rates will be increased by 20%.
By end-2010, the Government will implement programmes to reduce the demand for narcotics and provide improved treatment for drug users.
Economic Governance and Private Sector Development
Financial Management
By end-2007, the Government will ensure improved transparent financial management at the central and provincial levels through establishing and meeting benchmarks for financial management agreed with and monitored by the international community, including those in the anticipated Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PRGF). In turn, and in line with improved government accountability, donors will make more effort to increase the share of total external assistance to Afghanistan that goes to the core budget.
Domestic Revenues
Afghanistan’s total domestic budgetary revenue – equivalent to 4.5% of estimated legal GDP in 1383 (2004/05) – will steadily increase and reach 8% of GDP by 1389 (2010/11). The ratio of revenue to estimated total recurrent expenditures, including estimated recurrent expenditures in the core and external development budgets, is projected to rise from 28% in 1383 (2004/05) to an estimated 58% in 1389, resulting in a continuing need, in accord with the principles in Annex II, for (1) external assistance to the core budget and (2) increasing cost-effectiveness of assistance that funds recurrent expenditure though the external development budget.
Private Sector Development and Trade
All legislation, regulations and procedures related to investment will be simplified and harmonised by end-2006 and implemented by end-2007. New business organisation laws will be tabled in the National Assembly by end-2006. The Government’s strategy for divestment of state-owned enterprises will be implemented by end-2009.
Financial Services and Markets
Internationally accepted prudential regulations will be developed for all core sectors of banking and non-bank financial institutions by end-2007. The banking supervision function of Da Afghanistan Bank will be further strengthened by end-2007. Re-structuring of state-owned commercial banks will be complete by end-2007. State-owned banks that have not been re-licensed will be liquidated by end-2006.
Regional Cooperation
By end-2010: Afghanistan and its neighbours will achieve lower transit times through Afghanistan by means of cooperative border management and other multilateral or bilateral trade and transit agreements; Afghanistan will increase the amount of electricity available through bilateral power purchase; and Afghanistan, its neighbours and countries in the region will reach agreements to enable Afghanistan to import skilled labour, and to enable Afghans to seek work in the region and send remittances home.
The international community has made a significant investment in the future of a democratic state of Afghanistan since December 2001. This Compact is an affirmation of that commitment. The Afghan Government and the international community are further committed to improving the effectiveness of the aid being provided to Afghanistan in accordance with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005), recognising the special needs of Afghanistan and their implications for donor support.
Consistent with the Paris Declaration and the principles of cooperation of this Compact, the Government and the international community providing assistance to Afghanistan agree that the principles for improving the effectiveness of aid to Afghanistan under this Compact are:
Leadership of the Afghan Government in setting its development priorities and strategies and, within them, the support needs of the country and the coordination of donor assistance;
Transparency and accountability on the part of both the Government and the donors of the international assistance being provided to Afghanistan.
Under these principles and towards the goal of improving the effectiveness of aid to Afghanistan, the Government will:
Provide a prioritised and detailed Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) with indicators for monitoring results, including those for Afghanistan’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
Improve its abilities to generate domestic revenues through, inter alia, customs duties and taxes; and to achieve cost recovery from public utilities and transportation;
Agree with donors, international financial institutions and United Nations agencies on the benchmarks for aid channelled through the Government’s core budget and for the utilisation of such aid; and monitor performance against those benchmarks; and
Provide regular reporting on the use of donor assistance and performance against the benchmarks of this compact to the National Assembly, the donor community through the Afghanistan Development Forum and the public at large.
The donors will:
Provide assistance within the framework of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy; programmes and projects will be coordinated with Government in order to focus on priorities, eliminate duplication and rationalise donor activities to maximise cost-effectiveness;
Increasingly provide more predictable and multiyear funding commitments or indications of multiyear support to Afghanistan to enable the Government to plan better the implementation of its National Development Strategy and provide untied aid whenever possible;
Increase the proportion of donor assistance channelled directly through the core budget, as agreed bilaterally between the Government and each donor, as well as through other more predictable core budget funding modalities in which the Afghan Government participates, such as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) and the Counter-Narcotics Trust Fund (CNTF);
Provide assistance for the development of public expenditure management systems that are essential for improving transparency and accountability in the utilisation of donor resources and countering corruption;
Recognise that, because of the need to build Afghan capacity, donor assistance provided through the external budget will be designed in such a manner as to build this capacity in the Government as well as the private sector and non-profit sector;
Ensure that development policies, including salary policies, strengthen national institutions that are sustainable in the medium to long term for delivery of programmes by the Government;
For aid not channelled through the core budget, endeavour to:
Harmonise the delivery of technical assistance in line with Government needs to focus on priority areas and reduce duplication and transaction costs;
Reduce the external management and overhead costs of projects by promoting the Afghan private sector in their management and delivery;
Increasingly use Afghan national implementation partners and equally qualified local and expatriate Afghans;
Increase procurement within Afghanistan of supplies for civilian and military activities; and
Use Afghan materials in the implementation of projects, in particular for infrastructure;
Within the principles of international competitive bidding, promote the participation in the bidding process of the Afghan private sector and South-South cooperation in order to overcome capacity constraints and to lower costs of delivery;
Provide timely, transparent and comprehensive information on foreign aid flows, including levels of pledges, commitments and disbursements in a format that will enable the Afghan Government to plan its own activities and present comprehensive budget reports to the National Assembly; this covers the nature and amount of assistance being provided to Afghanistan through the core and external budgets; and
For external budget assistance, also report to the Government on: the utilisation of funds; its efficiency, quality and effectiveness; and the results achieved.
These mutual commitments are intended to ensure that the donor assistance being provided to Afghanistan is used efficiently and effectively, that there is increased transparency and accountability, and that both Afghans and the taxpayers in donor countries are receiving value for money.

F-35 vs. the Twin Otter

There has been a lot of discussion in Canada about the purchase of the F-35, a “fifth-generation” fighter. The debate has been mainly about procurement. The unspoken assumption is that Canada needs a jet fighter.

What would it do?

Obviously, there are people who like to fly airplanes really fast. Makes sense to me. But as for defence of the realm? The objections are obvious.

1. We don’t need to intercept anything. Flocks of Russian bombers are not going to appear over Canada anytime soon, and even if we thought such a threat existed there is easily available missile power to wipe them out.

2. Jet fighters are not needed to “intercept” airliners hijacked by madmen with the intent of taking out the CN Tower. Older aircraft would be perfectly capable of shooting down a civilian airliner over Peterborough, if that really seems like a defence priority in Canada.

3. NATO has no idea what it’s doing. Not only is it fighting the last war, it doesn’t know why it exists. It’s having a mid-life crisis at 60. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of money and career tied up in NATO, and it’s a difficult thing at 60 to say, well, yes, my career has been useless.

In fact, we’ve reached a stage in human evolution where the “military” and “defence” may be useless concepts. At one level, there’s no stopping the suicide bomber. At another, nuclear weapons are available, and the technology is well established, and if somebody wants to send a nuclear weapon from Karachi to Manhattan in an innocuous shipping container, sooner or later somebody is going to do it. Overwhelming force is only a solution to this problem if you think you can pre-emptively destroy the world.

Against this madness we have the Twin Otter, a classic aircraft. If you can put Hellfire Missiles on a Predator drone, you can surely put them on a Twin Otter, if in fact you can think of a use for Hellfire Missiles not outlawed by existing International Humanitarian Law. The ordering of multiple Twin Otters by the Canadian government would definitely create jobs in Canada, and there would be certain to be advances in “low and slow” technology, extending easily to remotely piloted Twin Otters. We could have such aircraft over Nunuvut 24/7, equipped with all sorts of sophisticated sensors to sense things. This “Otter in the Sky” could also be deployed along the Canadian/American border, with suitable weapons to take out American drones that strayed over the 49th Parallel.

Could we credibly fulfill our role as a NATO partner using the Twin Otter Deterrent? Absolutely not. The best way to fulfill our role as a credible NATO partner is to bang heads together in Brussels.

November 11, 1918

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Children with Matches"

Posted By Fred Reed On November 8, 2010 @ antiwar.com

Oh, good. I see that Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to attack Iran. The U.S., he says, should “sink their navy, destroy their air force, and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard.”

Sen. Graham has the brains of a tapeworm, making him eminently qualified for the Senate. Tapeworms, I note, do not have brains. It is characteristic of warlike innocents, to include the Pentagon, to believe that if you destroy navies and air forces, you win wars. This worked well in Vietnam, you will recall, and as soon as we destroy the Taliban’s navy, Afghanistan will be a cakewalk.

See original at Antiwar.com

Truth and Remembrance Day, 2010

November 11, 1918 - German surrender to Allies

June 22, 1940 - French surrender to Germany

Yes, it's the same railway carriage! Whatever you say about him, Hitler had a sense of theatre, although a little grandiose.

The truth is, there's a lot of grandiose theatre at this time of year.

The truth is,there's no sugar-coating the tragedy of November 11.

The truth is, the Conservative Government of Canada doesn't give a shit about the Canadian Armed Forces or its veterans.

The truth is, if Canada really cared about the "sacrifices" made by its troops, there wouldn't be veterans on the streets protesting their neglect, older veterans wouldn't be frankly discussing their abuse at the hands of people who should know better (our political representatives), and most citizens would be spending volunteer hours doing whatever they could for all our veterans.

The truth is, that in the absence of real support for veterans and their families, Remembrance Day, 2010 is grandiose empty theatre.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Komodo Dragons in Nuremberg

Ray: This evening we're privileged to have with us Dr. Darryl Dexter from Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Dr. Dexter is one of the world's experts on international criminal law, and in particular the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Dr. Dexter, thanks for being here tonight. Please tell us about the tribunal.

Bob: The International Military Tribunal was created by the London Charter of August 8, 1945. Its purpose was to give fair and public trials to those charged with war crimes under existing International Humanitarian Law, at that time mainly the Hague Conventions of 1906, although other international agreements were also applicable, such as the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and Warfare, Geneva, 17 June 1925. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany. The first and best known of these was the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, which tried 22 of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany. It was held from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946.

Ray: Where was it held?

Bob: The....most well known International Military Tribunal Trials at Nuremberg were held...as the name implies...in the City of Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany. A number of other sites for the trials had been considered, such as Leipzig, Munich, and Luxembourg, but Nuremberg was chosen because the Palace of Justice was intact, there was a large prison attached, and Nuremberg had been a powerful symbol of the Nazi regime, and for example, the scene of many theatrical demonstrations for propaganda purposes, the so-called "Nuremberg Rallies."

Ray: Why choose Nuremberg particularly?

Bob: The .... choice of Nuremberg allowed the trials - particularly the Trial of Major War Criminals - to proceed in an open forum to give some credence to the ideal, as put forward tenaciously by Robert H. Jackson, then chief American prosecutor, and as articulated in a subsequent address to the Canadian Bar Association in 1949, that: "... those who gave some of the best effort of their lives to this trial are sustained by a confidence that in place of what might have been mere acts of vengeance we wrote a civilized legal precedent and one that will lie close to the foundations of that body of international law that will prevail when the world becomes sufficiently civilized."

Ray: I read somewhere that an American judge thought what went on at Nuremberg might be important in the future. Is that true?

Bob: Yes. The....chief...American prosecutor...Robert H. Jackson, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, also said...to the Canadian Bar Association in 1949, in his address entitled Nuremberg In Retrospect: Legal Answer To International Lawlessness: "...I do think that we have forever laid to rest in the minds of statesmen the vicious assumptions that all war must be regarded as legal and just, and that while the law imposes personal responsibility for starting a street riot, it imposes none for inciting and launching a world war." And certainly the so-called "Nuremberg Principles" have been an important foundation for the subsequent development of international law, through the United Nations and establishing of the International Criminal Court.

Ray: So these principles would be used by our own Military Commissions trials now going on in Guantánamo?

Bob: Well...

Ray: Dr. Dexter, I can see we've about exhausted this topic. Do you have a ride home this evening?

Bob: As a matter of fact, no.

Ray: Well, perhaps a member of the audience would give you a lift to Guantánamo. It can't be far from there to Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

Bob: Thanks, I'd appreciate it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Green Zone Lite

"U.S. awards $500 mln contract to expand Afghan embassy"

Great Zarquon! White Star Lines awards contract for refurbishment of Titanic! Pentagon renovates MACV! Dien Bien Phu relaunched as luxury underground hotel!

Will there be a swimming pool? A tunnel to the Serena?