Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's Time To `Out' The Cops Who Lied About Arar

In the current issue of Walrus Magazine, old-style investigative journalist Andrew Mitrovica has done a great job of exposing the complicity of Canada's national news media in the "terrorist" smear and persecution of Maher Arar.

The National Post's Adam Radwanski, and the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente and Paul Knox emerge with honour.

But the same can certainly not be said of the Globe's Jeff Sallot, Canwest's Robert Fife, CTV's Lloyd Robertson, The Toronto Star's Graham Fraser, the Ottawa Citizen's Sheldon Alberts, or - last but certainly not least - the Ottawa Citizen's Juliet O'Neill.

"At a minimum, the reporters who were complicit in blackening Arar’s name and reputation should offer him a swift and unambiguous apology," Mitrovica writes. "They might also want to revisit the journalistic convention stipulating that promises of anonymity are voided when sources are revealed to have lied. In Arar’s case, if anonymous sources kept an innocent man imprisoned, separated from his wife and newborn child, and tortured, and then prevented the truth from emerging, all under false pretenses, then they must be outed."

I wrote much the same last month, here, contrasting Arar's case with that of a Bangladeshi comrade, the journalist Sallah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury (whose case I updated here.)

Thanks to Damian for the tip, and also for noticing the Torch Carriers' righteous indignation over the Canadian news media's weird silence about the work Canadians are doing with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team:

Why don't ordinary Canadians know much about this intensely valuable and important work? Well, partly because the government has done a lacklustre job telling the public about it, as the MND recently admitted. Luckily, they're now working to correct that course of action. But you can't put it all on the government, either. Here's a stat that might surprise you as well: since January 16th of this year, 175 journalists from 37 different media outlets have embedded with the CF in Afghanistan. How many stories have you seen about the KPRT - other than from the BBC?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Progressive Muslims To Liberals: Don't Be Dupes

"Muslim delegates at the convention are not a herd of cattle for sale to the highest bidder," Salma Siddiqui says today, pointing out that Liberal Party leadership contenders should not assume that Islamist windbags like Mohamed Elmasry speak for Canada's Muslims.

Mohamed Ilmasry is the guy who answered the question: "So everyone in Israel and anyone and everyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?" with these words: "Yes, I would say."

"Muslim Canadians are not a tribe led by some medieval clan leader," Siddiqui says. "Any leadership candidate who thinks he can buy our loyalty by appeasing one self-styled community leader is in for a sad surprise."

Munir Pervaiz, Secretary General of the Muslim Canadian Congress, is calling for an end to 'ethnic politics' that panders to self-styled community leaders inspired by Islamist ideologies rather than Canada's fundamentally liberal values. "The racism of lower expectations must come to an end, once and for all," Pervaiz added.

That would be nice. The "racism of lower expectations" continues unabated today in the comments section below my column last week: Anti-War Movement's Strange Allies: Hard Line Islamists, with self-styled leftists citing Baathist and Holocaust-denial websites in aid of their attempts to the paint me as a neonservative Zionist.


The city's shut down, but at least the power's back

No buses running. No schools open. The university and the colleges are closed. The homeless shelters are bursting. But at least the electricity is back up.

After the drought, then the floods and record rain, this. And getting worse. Could climate change have anything to with it? Nah.

The view from my porch is nice, mind you.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Something Is Going To Give, Somewhere, Soon.

Since 2003, the number of billionaires in the world rose by more than half and their total wealth nearly doubled, while almost three billion people around the world were scraping by on less than $2 a day and almost half the world’s children were severely deprived of basic nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and education.

We’re living in the twilight of the oil age. The world’s poor are rapidly gathering in squalid, teeming megacities, and what’s looming over the global economy is an imminent skyrocketing of fuel costs, along with the costs of all those primary goods and services that rely on fossil fuels for their production and distribution.

Global-scale ecological collapse is already under way, carrying off such basic ecological services and natural resources as breathable air, clean water, arable land, forests, and fisheries. It’s already too late to scale back greenhouse-gas emissions in time to completely stop global warming, with forecasts ranging between the disastrous and the catastrophic.

Into all this gloom walks University of Toronto political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the
Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and author of the 1999 Caldwell prize-winner, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, and the 2000 Governor General’s Award winner, The Ingenuity Gap.

What Homer-Dixon has to say now is that things are every bit as bad as they look but they’re nowhere near as hopeless as they seem.

That's from my Georgia Straight column today. It's about Homer-Dixon's new book, The Upside of Down.

“The extremists, when we reach crises, they’re going to be organized,” Homer-Dixon told me during a conversation the other day. “They’re going to be ready. We should be ready as well.”

Meanwhile, today is the 17th annual Day of Support for Jailed Journalists.

The worst offenders:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Canada's Islamists And Their `Anti-War' Friends

This is what it’s come to: A disgraced, dictator-praising British MP who dances around in red tights on reality-television shows is visiting Canada to commemorate the founding of a fascist movement known for its own distinctive swastika and Nazi-style uniforms and an anthem that’s sung to the tune of Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles.

And it’s just another otherwise unremarkable day in the life of Canada’s “anti-war” movement.

Just how things degenerated so badly, and so fast, is a long and sad story. The upshot is that Canada’s anti-war movement has become not only the primary vehicle for an obscure, formerly left-wing group that attacks anyone who opposes sharia courts in Canada, it’s also now the main source of public respectability for a Toronto think-tank that advocates for the establishment of theocracies that hang gay people.

It’s a story that has left Canada’s progressive Muslims in despair, in disarray, and sometimes in fear for their lives.

That’s from my Tyee column today.

Sohail Raza, communications director for the Muslim Canadian Congress, told me that far too many Canadian progressives aren’t paying attention, and they’re unaware of just how successfully the Islamists and their supporters have insinuated themselves into Canada’s “anti-war” left.

“We can’t try to hide this anymore, and people should know what is going on,” Raza said. “All this is making it very very hard for us to do our work. . . These people are idiots, and as Muslims, we need to say it. And many of these people are very dangerous.”

Some of their collaborators are also pretty dangerous, I think. But spectacularly idiotic, too:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Louis Riel, Executed On November 16, At Regina

Dear Relatives and Friends: If you do not know it already, we shall tell you the reasons that induced us to take up arms. You know that time out of mind our fathers have defended, at peril of their lives, this land which was theirs and is ours. The Ottawa Government took possession of our country. For 15 years they have made sport of our rights, and offended God by overwhelming us with acts of injustice of every kind. The officials commit every species of crime. The men of the Mounted Police are the scandal of the whole country, by their bad language and their bad actions. They are so corrupt that our wives and daughters are no longer safe in their neighborhood. The laws of decency are to them a subject for pleasantry. Oh, my brothers and friends, we should at all times have confidence in God; but now that evil is at its height, we specially require to commend ourselves to our Lord. Perhaps you will see things as we see them. They steal our country from us, and then they govern it so badly, that if we let things go on it would soon be impossible for us to be saved. The English half-breeds of the Saskatchewan are with us heart and soul. The Indians are coming in and joining us from all sides. Buy all the ammunition you can; go and get it, if necessary, on the other side of the line. Be ready. Do not listen to the offers the Ottawa Government make you. Those offers are robbers' offers. Sign no papers or petitions. Let your trust be in God.

That's from here. A reasonable summary here. My son Eamonn's second name was my way of remembering him 14 years ago. He's up here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Latest News of Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury

UPDATE Nov. 16 (from Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay's office):
Thank you for your email of October 11, 2006, with which you attached a copy of your letter addressed to His Excellency Rafiq Ahmed Khan, High Commissioner for Bangladesh to Canada, regarding human rights abuses in Bangladesh, particularly the case of Mr. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.
Canada takes seriously the issue of human rights in Bangladesh. The Canadian government regularly presses the Government of Bangladesh to take more effective action against extremist violence, to uphold law and order, and to ensure the protection of human rights - including those of religious and minority groups.Please be assured that Canada will continue to raise its concerns, particularly in the lead up to the January 2007 national election in Bangladesh.
Thank you again for taking the time to write.
Sincerely, Peter G. MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs

The good news: Shoaib survived his day in court in Dakha on Monday. His trial has been put over to January. And he's in surprisingly good spirits for a journalist who has recently spent 17 months in solitary confinement and who has had his newspaper offices bombed and ransacked in recent weeks and is now facing 30 years in jail or execution on charges of blasphemy, sedition and treason. That much I can reliably report, based on my email-exchange / interview with Shoaib early this morning, and from an update he sent to his friends abroad yesterday.

The good news is also that his case is slowly beginning to attract the attention of more and more people around the world. Special thanks are due to his American friends Dr. Richard Benkin and Rabbi Sue Levy and such stalwart supporters as Jeff Weintraub and Ami Isseroff. The New York Sun's Daniel Freedman has done tremendous work in telling Shaoib's story, and today, Janet Albrechtsen of The Australian puts the story in context.

Shoaib's Canadian friends will be happy to know that yesterday I learned that former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, the internationally-renowned humanitarian, is now keeping a close eye on developments in Shoaib's case.

One thing that's starting to bug me, though, I have to admit. It's the notable absence of gentile voices (and especially from those of us on the left) being raised on Brother Choudhury's behalf. So come on, fellow goyim. Get cracking. Canucks can make themselves useful by reading this and taking action (I'm trying to be cheerful here; after all, Shoaib is). Speaking of which, cheery letters of support can also be sent directly to Shoaib's newspaper, the Blitz, at, and I see his newspaper's online edition is up and running again.

Shoaib's day was quite eventful yesterday. He barely made it to the court at all, because of the Awami League blockades. There were no vehicles in the roads, and there were angry demonstrations underway everywhere.

"I woke up in the early morning to prepare for the court. By 8:30 am., I was already on my way. And, there was nothing on the road, except some bi-cycles and RIKSHAW (please check with google image search to know what is RIKSHAW). I had to walk for around 3 kilometers, before I could some how manage to find a RIKSHAW (distance between my residence and the court is above 20 kilomemeters). Then the RIKSHAW was stopped at one point, almost two kilometers away from the court by police, who put barricades on roads. Then I had to walk again. By the time I was inside the court building, I was sweating. As you know, till now, winter is not very much experienced in Dhaka, when the temparature is approximately 27 degree celcius.

The Court picked up my case at 1:35 pm., and there was a hearing for around 10 minutes. The judge, Mohammed Momin Ullah asked the Public Prosecutor to read the charge in front of me. He came and read, "By praising the Jews and Christians, by attempting to travel to Israel and by predicting the so-called rise of Islamist millitancy in the country and expressing such through writings inside the country and abroad, you have tried to damage the image and relations of Bangladesh with the outside world. For which, charges under section 295-A, 120-A, 124-A, 105-A and 108-A are brought against you. Are you guilty or not".

I replied, "I am not guilty." By advocating inter-faith dialogue, supporting relations between Bangladesh and Israel, I have not done anything wrong. Regarding the existence of Islamist radicals in this country, the matter is already endorsed several times by country's press, leaders, administration and judiciary.

The upshot is the Public Prosecutor was instructed to call witnesses to appear against him on January 22, 2007. That means we've still got time to organize on Shoaib's behalf. Here's what Shoaib is hoping his friends will join him in demanding: The immediate removal of the Islamist judge presiding in his case in the Metropolitan Session Judge's court; The immediate provision of police protection for Shoaib; Charges should be laid against the extremist Mufti Noorani in relation to the bomb that was exploded at the Blitz office in July, and the immediate arrest of the attackers who ransacked his office last month as well as the return of the US$ 3,000 and other valuables seized during his arrest.

In our exchange, I learned that Shoaib is not without friends in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Minority Lawyer's Association (BMLA) is providing him with legal counsel (via Samarendra Nath Goswami, the Secretary General of BMLA) and he also has the support of at least some Bangladeshi journalists: The daily Amader Shomoy, one of the largest-circulation Bengali-language newspapers in the country, has been particularly helpful, and Shoaib also enjoys the support of the Bangladesh Court Reporters Association. Local human rights groups funded by Western sources have been strangely quiet, however.

Of particular interest to journalists and anyone else who professes a commitment to free speech is the content of the charges against Shoaib.

Section 295-A is for Blasphemy. The prosecution feels that I have "hurt the sentiments of Muslims by praising Jews and Christians". So they brought the charge under the above section. Section 120-A, 124-A, 105-A and 108-A are sections for Sedition and treason. According to prosecution, "by attempting to travel to Israel, by demanding relations between Bangladesh and Israel, by predicting the rise of Islamist radicals in this country and by mentioning about training of terrorists in madrassas (especially in kindergarten madrassas), I have conspired to damage Bangladesh's image and relations with the outside world. So they incorporated these sections as well in the charge.

But Shoaib's spirits are high. His last words to me: Thank you once again for your precious support. I am completely indebted to you and others who are standing to raise voice against injustice, Islamofascists and all forms of evils.

So let's keep our spirits high, and let's not let him down, eh?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Bakunin, Oaxaca, & Hoodie-Clad Slingshotists

. . . Bakunin figures into Oaxaca in the same way that he figures into the 1997 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) pepper-spray rumpus at UBC, the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, and the pitched battle between rioters and Italian police at the July 2001 Group of Eight summit in Genoa that resulted in the death of 23-year-old Italian anarchist Carlo Giuliani.

That's my take, from my Chronicles column today. Mark Leier, a fine thinker and writer, goes a tremendous distance in making sense of it all for us in his great new book.

The way I put it, Bakunin figures into all this because the vanguardists involved in these violent showdowns—and there have been dozens of such donny­brooks in recent years, large and small—are in many ways the ideological heirs of Bakunin. But it is not as though all the activists who vainly court such excitements have been reading too much Bakunin, Leier told me the other day. If anything, they’ve been reading far too little of him.

One thing Leier argues is that it is in the violent “propaganda of the deed” that hoodie-wearing, slingshot-firing activists err by a tragic misreading of Bakunin, and the emergence of identity politics and other postmodernist currents would not have made Bakunin any happier. For one thing, Bakunin was no violence-fetishist. For another, Bakunin would never have abandoned the working class as the primary agent of social change, and he certainly wouldn’t have gone looking for more “revolutionary” substitutes for it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Fish The Size Of A London Bus, For Instance

I'm especially proud of my Transmontanus series these days.

Scotty Wallace's first book, for instance, is a history of the relationship between people and basking sharks, here on the west coast. After an eradication program run by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans - the great toothless beasts were a nuisance to fishermen - they're all gone.

Then there's Judy Williams' new book, which does sterling service in the cause of shedding silly ideas about aboriginal life on Canada's west coast.The presence of several dozen kilometres of carefully-built rock walls supporting "clam terraces" provide irrefutable evidence of intensive mariculture and yet one more solid nail in the coffin of the Indian hunter-gatherer myth.

There's lots worth reading at the moment.

My colleague at the Tyee, Jared Ferrie, recommends Ahmed Rashid's Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, and Ferrie gets straight to a very important point:

Consider the folly offered by some anti-war activists that to pull international troops out would lead to an Afghan democracy. Instead it would lead to a horrific civil war.

On the other hand, if Canada and the rest of NATO don't change tactics quickly, the Taliban will regain complete control over the South, and the country will slide again into full-fledged civil war.

This follows on Ferrie's excellent contribution on the same subject, last week, headlined "Like Giving Germany Back to the Nazis", which derives mainly from an interview with Norine MacDonald of the Senlis Council.

Meanwhile, a clear-eyed and thorough analysis of Canada's role in Afghanistan appears in this week's Macleans magazine. It's from Sean Maloney, a professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston:

A lack of perspective in Canada is a continuing problem. False analogies to the Soviet period (and even Vietnam) even figure in parliamentary committee debate: "the Soviets and the British couldn't succeed, therefore we can't," one MP told me. We are not trying to do what the Soviets were attempting, but let's look at the numbers anyway. The Soviets killed two million Afghan civilians using indiscriminate firepower and socialist societal transformation techniques. Soviet losses from their illegal intervention in 1979 to their withdrawal in 1989, we now believe, were around 28,000 killed over 10 years, or 2,800 per year. NATO and OEF losses over a five-year period are around 500. We are not employing indiscriminate firepower, there are comparatively few civilian casualties, and we are there in support of a legitimate, elected government. There is no real comparison.

Also, Tom Koenigs, the United Nations' head honcho in Afghanistan, boxes the Germans about the ears for being such wankers in Afghanistan:

"The conflict cannot be won by military means alone but NATO must not lose it," he said, calling for an "enormous military effort" against insurgents in the country.

He said that while diplomatic and humanitarian aid was essential, attacks mounted by the hard-line Taliban movement and other militants had to be stopped.

"Otherwise the entire NATO alliance is absurd and not usable for peacekeeping in the Third World," he said.

And NATO's bigshot has some advice, mainly for the Yanks:

BERLIN: NATO's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, is calling for a radical overhaul of military, civilian and development operations in Afghanistan that would involve the U.S.-led military alliance in playing a greater role in training the Afghan Army and the European Union taking over the entire training of the police forces.

Elsewhere. . .

At Slate, Chris Hitchens pleads for clemency in the matter of deciding whether or not to hang Saddam Hussein. Well not clemency, exactly. You'll see.

Huch Macleod at the San Francisco Chronicle describes the circumstances facing an Arab ethnic group that has suffered far, far worse than the Palestinians in recent years - but of course most of us have never even heard of them. They're the Ahwazis of Iran.

That's the great thing about the connectedness allowed by the internet. You can read all sorts of stuff, from all sorts of newspapers and magazines, from all over the world. But it's not like that for everyone, as Reporters Without Borders points out today:

More than 60 cyber-dissidents around the world are currently in prison for expressing themselves online. Something that is fairly simple for anyone to do in most countries is nonetheless banned in 13 of them. You can go to prison for posting your views on a blog or website in China, Tunisia or Egypt, for example.

Don't count your blessings, and don't mourn. Do something useful. Reporters Without Borders has an idea about what you can do today about free speech, and about the right to read and to write, which you will see if you click the above link. I'm not sold on it. But still.

If you want to do something more substantial, about a specific case, do something for Salahuddin Chaudhury.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The "Real Left" Stands Up on TVO & in Progress

Shalom Lappin does a fine job of setting out the ideas of the Euston Manifesto on the TVOntario program The Agenda, now online here. He's followed by Morton Weinfeld, a sociology professor at McGill, who ably defends progressive internationalism in a conversation with Buzz Hargrove of the Canadian Auto Workers, Corvin Russell of, and Laurie Adkin, from the political science department at the University of Alberta.

I winced at some of the things Buzz had to say (I rather like Buzz) and I couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for Corvin Russell (maybe he should have taken a few minutes to gather his thoughts first), but Adkin did manage a valid criticism of the Euston Manifesto, in that it fails to properly take into account the relevance of ecological collapse and related matters.

Take global warming. Could anything be more important? It is not as though a "Eustonian" perspective should be incapable of addressing it. I've tried to, this way: Global warming is a macro-economic problem, with vast ecological, cultural and geopolitical implications. It may be the greatest single impediment to global human progress. Its impact will be felt mainly by the poor. In other words, it's a class problem. More of that here.

Jeffrey Sachs makes some important points about all this:

Our political systems and global politics are largely unequipped for the real challenges of today’s world. Global economic growth and rising populations are putting unprecedented stresses on the physical environment, and these stresses in turn are causing unprecedented challenges for our societies. Yet politicians are largely ignorant of these trends. Governments are not organized to meet them. And crises that are fundamentally ecological in nature are managed by outdated strategies of war and diplomacy.

Some unhelpfully sweeping statements in that essay, and some false either-or choices implied, I thought. But what he's saying deserves to be taken seriously.

Brian Brivati makes an excellent case for clear thinking here, in Progress Online:

We should not abandon liberal interventionism. It is a new system for the relations between states and we are in the very early days of developing it. Of course there have been terrible mistakes and the cost in human life of those mistakes should haunt anyone who advocates interventions in the future. Moreover, the nature of the interventions we favour need to become much more long term, linking the right to development with the responsibility to protect. So we can do it better and we should do it better. There is a legal case for intervention and under the UN charter we are obliged to fulfil our responsibility to protect. Victory in the global war on terror will only be achieved by policies that link the use of force with economic intervention to promote development. But more than all of these things, democratic socialists should retain a sense of our moral commitment to global citizenship. Universalism is deeply unfashionable at present but the moral imperative of our responsibility for each other as human beings is more urgently required than ever.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Duty of Solidarity We Owe the Iraqi People

Setting aside all the arguments and lamentations over whether it was right for an Anglo-American alliance to invade Iraq and smash the Baathist state there, the only really important question is: What do we do now?

Ever since the bombs started falling on Baghdad, that's the only question that has really mattered, and it's also the question that the mainstream "anti-war" movement has got wrong, by any standard recognizable in the traditional perspective of the progressive left. "Troops out" offers no effective solidarity with pro-democracy Iraqis, and offers far greater advantage to the "resistance" fighters who behead kafirs, put bombs in mosques and assassinate trade union leaders.

"Troops out" was wrong from the start because, as all the facts now show, it didn't make a difference. It will be the right answer eventually, of course, the way a broken clock is right, twice a day. Canada was right to say no to joining the American-led invasion, given the circumstances. And the hour will come when the circumstances will be right for the Yanks and the others to go home.

But that hour has not yet come. Not according to His Excellency Howar Ziad, anyway. Ziad is the Iraqi Ambassador, a senior adviser to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a brave patriot and a progressive liberal, unapologetically of the left, and his view of the world is the subject of my Tyee column today.

By nine this morning, the nutters were already at it in the comments. My previous Tyee column, the inaugural one, set off almost two weeks of it, non-stop. Turns out I'm a CIA agent, a secret advocate of Dershowitzianism, "evidence of just how deeply the Israel Lobby has infiltrated every aspect of our media" and a former girl named Teri who had a sex change operation who's somehow associated with the Rothschilds and the Bilderbergs. After that you get into favourable nods to Ernst Zundel, some references to the Freemasons and the Illuminati, and then: "The telephone lines are all bugged.The keystrokes are all recorded. We're all on secret lists accompanied by profiles."

Geez. And I was trying to be nice.