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.


Blogger IceClass said...

I picked up Ms Williams little book on the Clam Gardens and wanted to let you know I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It made for an interesting -if fast- read while I was stuck in a hotel on Baffin Island.
Thanks for the heads-up.

12:39 PM  

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