Monday, February 28, 2011

A Prayer for NATO

Please, Allah, give the United Nations the strength and wisdom to keep NATO out of Libya.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Tripoli breadlift

Western imagination has failed spectacularly in north Africa. It's pathetic, whether it's Tunisia (where a prominent French politician wanted to train more effective thugs to put down the rebellion of ordinary people) or in Egypt where there was NATO bleating about "orderly transitions," to Libya, blah, blah blah.

Now, prominent Western politicians are demanding deeds not words in Libya. The French UN ambassador has frankly stated that military solutions are out of the question, on account of the disastrous experience in Bosnia.

I think "western" governments are short of imagination, David Cameron being a prominent example, a guy who thinks it reasonable to sell arms in the Middle East several days after popular uprisings against governments who suppress them using arms made in Britain. I think Cameron should get drunk, dress up in "full Buller rig", trash a London restaurant, then appear on television in the ruins to deliver a rambling monologue on the white man's burden.

One of course could nuke Tripoli, or at least send in cruise missiles to the "brother leader" compound. There are better solutions.

1. Create field hospitals and refugee camps in Tunisia and Egypt, on an industrial scale. One doesn't want of course to re-create Shatila and Sabra.

2. Carpet bread bombing. Fill up fabulous C-130's with bread, and conduct relentless low level bread bombing of Tripoli. I'm not sure what kind of loaf is aerodynamically optimal, but maybe it doesn't matter. People can get by on bread and water for some considerable time. The sight of waves of C-130's delivering bread will be immensely cheering.

3. Parachute milk drops. Milk is less aerodynamically stable than bread. One needs parachutes. In World War 2, the Germans apparently used canisters that opened automatically after landing, releasing supplies. That was 70 years ago.

4. Body armour drops. The fearless Libyans who demonstrate against the regime are completely without weapons. They could use a little Kevlar.

5. Memory stick drops. Libyans have computers. Drop millions of memory sticks with useful news and information.

People are always fighting the last war.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Obama, George Orwell, and international "norms"

Nor hell a fury like a liberal scorned...

So the black guy is doing some fancy tap dancing. His feet move don't see what his hands are doing. What are "international norms"?

Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He's trying to deal with "grave breaches of international law" in Libya, without acknowledging the reality of "grave breaches of international law," because if he did, the officials of the previous decade of American administration - including his own - are open to investigation for war crimes, an investigation long overdue and made stunningly obvious in the Iraq helicopter video, just to pick one example out of thousands, a crime so egregious that nobody in the USA knows what to do with it. It's much safer to pretend that an American diplomatic cable listing "sensitive" terrorist targets (like the Brooklyn Bridge, which is going cheap) is a big deal. Civilians murdered - there is no other word - by cannon fire are just awkward and it's much easier to pretend it doesn't matter.

Unfortunately, if you use the loaded phrase "international humanitarian law" the question of war crimes arises, but if - as George Orwell says: "This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse."- the awkwardness just magically disappears. I'm seeing Tinkerbelle in the form of Dick Cheney.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Harper is that?

Resigning chief scientist never briefed Gillard
By Tim Leslie
ABC Australia OnlineFeb 23, 2011

Professor Penny Sackett is resigning halfway through her five-year term due to "personal and professional reasons". (Stateline)
Related Story: Chief scientist stands down

Australia's chief scientist has told a Senate estimates hearing she has never been asked to brief Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Professor Penny Sackett is resigning halfway through her five-year term due to a combination of "personal and professional reasons".

While refusing to comment directly on how she viewed her interactions with the Government, she told the hearing she briefed former prime minister Kevin Rudd only once during his tenure and had never briefed Ms Gillard.

"I have not met, in her role as prime minister, Prime Minister Gillard. I have met with prime minister Rudd to give a direct personal briefing once," she said.
She also confirmed she was not asked to advise Mr Rudd in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate conference and was not invited to attend.

When quizzed about what improvements could be made to the role of chief scientist, Professor Sackett said it was the Government's responsibility to clarify what role the chief scientist should play.

"I think the responsibility rests firmly with the Government to make it, to decide how the role of chief scientist for Australia will fit into the variety of advice that it receives on matters of science," she said.

'Ignored and shunned'

Opposition science spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella says Professor Sackett is resigning because she was ignored by the Government.

"It's clear the Government has ignored and shunned her. She's supposed to be the Prime Minister's adviser, and guess what? She's never met Ms Gillard," she said.
"No wonder she resigned. She wasn't even invited to be part of Australia's huge delegation of over 100 people to Copenhagen. She wasn't involved in the process of setting targets we negotiated at Copenhagen."

Ms Mirabella says the comments show the Government is squandering the resources of the office.

"If the Prime Minister doesn't even meet with you and you're supposed to be her chief adviser on science, that shows a pretty rude disregard," she said.
"What is surprising is the Government set this office up, it employs 16 people and costs $2.3 million a year. Why wouldn't you use those resources?"

But the Government's Science, Industry and Innovation Minister, Kim Carr, told the hearing Professor Sackett's role was valued by the Government and he met the chief scientist regularly.

"She's performed a very, very important role on behalf of the Australian people, a role that this Government made full-time," he said.

"Professor Sackett has met with me on average once a month. We have regular dialogue on a range of matters, and of course formal briefings are presented."

Monday, February 21, 2011

The return of Milo Minderbinder to Libya

"Word spread that it was oil, and Chief White Halfoat was kicked off the base. Soon every man who could find a shovel was digging frenziedly for oil. Dirt flew everywhere; the scene was almost like the morning in Pianosa seven months later after the night Milo bombed the squadron with every plane he had accumulated in his M&M syndicate, and the airfield, bomb dump and repair hangars as well, and all the survivors were outside hacking cavernous shelters into the solid ground and roofing them over with sheets of armor plate stolen from the repair sheds at the field and with tattered squares of waterproof canvas stolen from the side flaps of each other’s tents."

Joseph Heller
Simon and Schuster, 2004, pg. 105

A guide to NATO humanitarian operations

In the best of all possible worlds, the "fighter jets" are French, the helicopters are American, the ammunition is British, and all the money is in Switzerland.

In the worst of all possible worlds, the "fighter jets" are Swiss, the helicopters are French, the ammunition is American, and all the money is in Britain.

So this is embarrassing...


Petro-Canada agrees to a one billion dollar "signing bonus" with Libya. You know, even Crosby can't pull that off.

The oil business is confusing. Norway is investing in Alberta Tar Sands, and Petro-Canada is investing in Libya. There must be an explanation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie....

18 February 2011 –The United States today vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning all Israeli settlements established in occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 as illegal, saying that while it agreed that the settlements are illegitimate the resolution harmed chances for peace talks.

The other 14 members of the Council voted for the resolution, which demanded that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard.” But as one of the five permanent members, the negative US vote is the equivalent of a veto.

The resolution, co-sponsored by over 120 of the UN’s 192 Member States, also called on both parties to comply with their obligations under the Road Map plan, sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and US, which seeks to establish a two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders.

It urged all parties to continue with their negotiations on final status issues in the Middle East peace process and called for the “intensification of international and regional diplomatic efforts to support and invigorate the peace process towards achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Memo to Anonymous Operations

To: Anonymous Operations

From: Neil Kitson

Re: Access to Information Act Request A-2006-01106

Dear Anonymous,

Some insane time ago, Canadians ended up fighting in Afghanistan as part of the War on Terror. During that time, Canadian troops took prisoners. The legal basis for taking prisoners, and the legal basis for transferring them to other jurisdictions, is not clear, at least not to me. This occurred to me when I wrote a little memo on the subject to Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff.

Subsequently, I decided to ask the Department of National Defence those very questions:

The rest....followed.... This entire blog exists to document that request.

My purpose was to seek confirmation that Canadian Forces, acting in the name of all Canadian citizens, had observed their human rights obligations defined by the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and all subsequent international treaties signed by Canada, and confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada as binding on Canadian citizens [2008 SCC 28]. That would include the UN Secretary General’s Bulletin of August 12, 1999 (exactly 50 years after the Geneva Conventions – not a coincidence) that the Third Geneva Convention applied to the actions of UN forces in the field, whether peacekeeping or peace-enforcing.

Over four years later, having exhausted the provisions of the Access to Information Act, I’m still waiting for information, and turning to you for help. I’m not the only one. The entire House of Commons is waiting for information from the Government of Canada on Afghan “detainees”: an opaque procedure requiring at least a year with no obvious result.

I feel that I – among many others – am being jerked around. The document I want, which I had to go to Federal Court to know even existed, is the “CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM DETAINEE TRANSFER LOG”, meticulously kept by the Department of National Defence from 2002 on, and available in redacted form on Amir Attaran’s website, and completely redacted from April 2006 onwards.

I want this fucking document, and I want it unredacted. I am entitled to it by provision of the Access to Information Act, Section 2.

"2. (1) The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government."

I explicitly do not want any other document, particularly any that might compromise the safety of Canadian soldiers anywhere. I do not want, for example, the address, floor plan, and phone number for the Canadian Ambassador’s Residence in Kabul. Nor do I want the arrivals and departure information for Canadian Forces flights at Kandahar Airfield, or for that matter, the opening and closing hours for Tim Horton’s at KAF.

I want one, single, unredacted document that tells the truth.

Thanks for any assistance.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jim Gavin and Hillary Clinton

"Far more troublesome was the role of the Department of State. Knowing that the war could come to an end, sooner or later, the Department of State should have prepared a plan that had the concurrence of the War Department and the approval of the White House. By not having developed a plan, it was forced to acquiesce to the course of action proposed by the War Department. In other words, it subordinated itself to the wishes of the War Department in carrying out foreign policy.

"In subsequent years this condition has been allowed to grow in an alarming manner. Military people can always rationalize almost any problem's becoming military and thus susceptible to a military solution. They dislike interference on the part of the State Department when that Department sees serious political consequences stemming from the use of military force. I have discussed problems of this nature in the Pentagon, and with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on many occasions. I remember quite vividly a senior officer in the Pentagon referring to State Department officers who were raising questions about the political aspects of Alaskan statehood. The General referred, rather derisively I thought, to State Department people as "those field marshals in striped pants." Actually, it was the generals who were wearing the striped pants. The State Department acquiescence in the policies of the War Department was a most alarming portent of what was to come. The State Department translated this into a foreign policy described as "brinkmanship." Obviously this was not a policy. It was a slogan.

"It was not long thereafter that the State Department acquiesced in the Pentagon's desire to intervene in south-east Asia. As a general who opposed the Southeast Asian involvement from the outset, I found this deeply disturbing. Surely there must have been, among the more thoughtful people, some who saw the ultimate consequences, from a political if not military point of view of our venture. Ultimately, this proved to be one of the greatest foreign policy and military disasters in our nation's history.

"But the abandonment of foreign policy initiative to the War Department at the time of Berlin, and afterward, is profound in its implications. There have been outstanding State Department people who have opposed such policies, such as George Ball and Averell Harriman, among others. And there have been State Department junior officers who have given up their careers because they believed that they could not continue to serve with the policies of the Department. This has resulted in considerable paralysis and ineffectiveness that has troubled every President in recent years. President John F. Kennedy was very much concerned about this, and in my last conversation with him on October 21, 1963, when we were discussing a forthcoming visit of General de Gaulle, he tilted his head toward the State Department and said to me, "But first I must straighten out that State Department." Earlier, in the summer of 1961, President Kennedy is reported to have remarked to High Sidey of Time, "The State Department is a bowl of jelly." The condition of the Department, whether it began with World War II, or much earlier, as believed by many, is one that must be corrected as a matter of highest priority."

James M. Gavin
On to Berlin
"A fighting general's true story of airborne combat in World War II"
Viking Press, 1978, pg. 355-357

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dear Bev - Criminal Code of Canada FYI

Falsification of Books and Documents
397. (1) Every one who, with intent to defraud,
(a) destroys, mutilates, alters, falsifies or makes a false entry in, or
(b) omits a material particular from, or alters a material particular in,
a book, paper, writing, valuable security or document is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

PLAINTIVE NOTE TO CBC POLITICS: Two months elapsed between the time the CIDA officers signed off on the recommendation (September 25, 2009), and the time Minister Oda signed (November 27, 2009). There MUST be copies within CIDA of the document signed on September 25.


Go, Asmaa! According to Wael Ghonim, she was the only woman present at the Sunday discussions with the Supreme Military Council. I think Germaine Tillion would be cheering her on. Who wouldn't?


Excerpt from “Déchiffrer le silence”:
A Conversation with Germaine Tillion
by Alison Rice
Research in African Literatures 2004 35(1):162-179

"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 focus should be placed instead on alleviating the pain in the most sensitive regions of the world, beginning with Jerusalem."

Germaine Tillion
Indomitable French enthnologist who survived the concentration camps to champion human and women’s rights in Algeria
Obituary from The Times
April 24, 2008

Red White and Black Valentine

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

"There will be plenty of time for pessimism of the intellect. Now is a moment to celebrate the optimism of the will, so dramatically and inspiringly demonstrated by the throngs in Cairo's Tahrir Square and other cities across Egypt. The pro-democracy crowds have awakened hope, a sense of possibility, and that -- not Husni Mubarak's resignation from the presidency -- is their revolutionary act. "

The editors of Middle East Report reflect (and rejoice) in "Red-White-and-Black Valentine," now in Middle East Report Online:

Middle East Report Online is a free service of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Phone Conversation Between Ngo Dinh Diem and Henry Cabot Lodge, November 1,1963

DlEM: Some Units have made a rebellion and I want to know, what is the attitude of the U.S.?

LODGE: I do not feel well enough informed to be able to tell you. I have heard the shootings but with all the facts. Also, it is 4:30A.M. in Washington and the U. S. Government cannot possibly have a view.

DIEM: But you must have some general ideas. After all, I am Chief of State. I have tried to do my duty. I want to do now what duty and good sense require. I believe in duty above all.

LODGE: You have certainly done your duty. As I told you only this morning, I admire your courage and your great contribution to your country. No one can take awav from you the credit for all you have done. Now I am worried about your physical safety. I have a report that those in charge of the current activity offer you and your brother safe conduct out of the country if you resign. Had you heard this?

DlEM: No. (pause) You have my phone number.

LODGE: Yes. If I can do anything for your physical safety, please call me.

DIEM: I am trying to re-establish order (hangs up).

SOURCE: Sheehan and others (eds.), The Pentagon Papers, p.232.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ehud Mubarak Obama

If you think the Goldstone Report is wrong, you haven't read it.

Egypt in Washington

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fisk in Cairo!

It's gotta be...


Stephen Harper's Privy Council Decisions, 2006-2011

The finely tuned Governor-in-Council

"[39] Section 12(8) of the Telecommunications Act stipulates that when the Governor in Council makes an order such as this, reasons shall be set out. Mr. Heintzman, Counsel for Globalive, described the structure of the Governor in Council's document as being one in which the section 12 Order is set out in the "Whereas" pages and the decision under section 16 as to whether Globalive is in fact not controlled by non-Canadians is set out in the Schedule. Mr. MacKinnon, for the Attorney General, argued that both the "Whereas" portion and the Schedule can be said to constitute the Order and the Reasons. Counsel for the Applicant and those supporting the Applicant were puzzled as to what portion of these documents can be said to be the Reasons."

2011 FC 130

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BBC trash and sceptic tanks

"0022Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress tells the BBC's Matt Frei that most of what the US is doing on Egypt is happening behind the scenes. He says there is an "aggressive diplomatic surge" to push Egypt's rulers to the next stage: a negotiation over power. That looks to be a complicated political negoitation involving a diverse array of opposition figures. Mr Katulis says we should not forget the real fragility of the situation: this is a country that has suffered before at the hands of Islamic extremists."

If you're gonna quote these guys, you should say where their money comes from. How does Matt Frei end up talking to Brian Katulis? Where is the conflict of interst disclaimer?

The Fantastic Mr. Fisk

There's one guy who's been there and seen that.... forget the Wolf Blitzer masurbators.

Omar Suleiman - the 1.3 billion dollar thug