Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To All My Friends On Shore: So Long, For Now

I'll check in here if and when I can (no, Im not really on a boat). There won't be much point sending me emails for a week or two, but after that I should be in range of reasonable worldwide intertube connections. I'll try to post amusing photographs or something. Back in Canada the week of June 11.
My parting shot is in today's Vancouver Sun - same volleys as in the Ottawa Citizen last week.

Friday, May 11, 2007

'. . . You Know What You Are, And So Do We.'

I had my say in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday. Today, Citizen columnist John Robson follows up on what we first brought to light about the Cairo conference here, and here, and here:

. . . I realize that most progressive politicians, academics, journalists and citizens would never attend such an event. But it's not enough. They must publicly and indignantly refuse to rub shoulders with people like the Canadian Peace Alliance, who have been rubbing shoulders with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Jamaat al-Islamiya. Unless, as writer Terry Glavin warned in yesterday's Citizen, they don't mind seeing causes they support hijacked by lunatics. And unless they cherish the disgraceful title of fellow travellers.

. . . Blowing up civilians isn't peace and you know it; Hezbollah loathes homosexuality and you know it; the Hamas Charter speaks of killing Jews, not Israelis, and you know it; and so on. Why expend useful argument on unresisting villainy? You know what you are and so do we.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why The Left In Canada Gets Afghanistan Wrong

My essay in today's Ottawa Citizen: This week, the Citizen provided its readers with a rare glimpse of a scandal that has severely damaged Canada's ability to effectively engage in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and it has nothing to do with the ill-treatment of Taliban detainees. . .
It's about that section of the left that has made common cause with the Islamist far right, and how the sect around which it revolves now provides the staff positions for the Canadian Peace Alliance and the Toronto Stop the War Coalition, as well as the leadership of the War Resisters Support Campaign and other allied groups.
. . .you've got to hand it to these people. They have successfully framed the debate on the left about Canada's policies in Afghanistan, and about Canada's approach to the tragedy of the Middle East. They are among the leading authors of a widely accepted narrative against which NDP leader Jack Layton must now pass muster in order to maintain the allegiance of a vocal component of the NDP's support base.
In that narrative, the Taliban are not the brutal tormentors of the proud Afghan people. George W. Bush is, and so are NATO and the Canadian military. In that narrative, Canadian soldiers are not friends of the Afghan people. They are part of an imperialist army of occupation. In that narrative, Afghanistan and Iraq are conflated in a single quagmire. Zionists control pretty well everything. Israel is always wrong.
If you notice that Hezbollah attributes American support for Israel to a Masonic conspiracy, or that Hamas is a death cult that boasts of turning Palestinian children into human bombs with which to kill Jews, you'll risk being tarred an Islamophobe. If you point out that there is absolutely nothing progressive or liberal or brave about the fashionably strident "troops out" position on Afghanistan, it won't matter that you've been a person of the left all your life, as I have been. You will be called a warmonger, a neoconservative, a red-baiter, and worse.
One thing there wasn't room for was an especially vivid illustration of the convergence of the far left and the far right that's going on here: "Anti-war" hero George Galloway visited Ottawa last year for the specific purpose of attending a Canadian celebration of the 74th birthday of Syria’s fascist movement. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party sports its own stylized swastika, sings its anthem to the tune of Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles, and dreams of a greater Syria from the Nile to the Euphrates.
(On the same subject, in Haaretz, Michael Fox reviews What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way, that terrific book by our comrade Nick Cohen).

Friday, May 04, 2007

So Pack Up your Sea-stores, Consider No Longer

I won't be around for a while. I'll pop in here, if and when I can, with the occasional dispatch.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Another Take On The Alibi Room Af'stan Debate

That's from an analysis Ian King has written about the Tyee panel debate on Afghanistan last Thursday. It's a fine account. There's also this:
". . .The most intense moment of the night was a standoff between Glavin and [Michael] Byers, ending with Byers telling Glavin that he’s no longer a socialist and that he’s left the left. 'You used to be cool' was the message from Byers to Glavin."
That's certainly what it must have sounded like, but what Ian didn't hear is that Byers wasn't telling me I was no longer a socialist. He was telling me I had gone "over to the dark side" because I have written critically about the New Democratic Party's incoherence on the question of Afghanistan.
That's what set me off, anyway. For two main reasons.
The first reason is I've tried to be generous to the NDP about this from the beginning, as in this column fom last March:
The good news in all of this is that the job of NDP defence critic has fallen to Dawn Black, the eminently capable and progressive New Westminster MP who regained the riding in the January 23 election. In an interview, Black, who has worked in democracy-training efforts in Bosnia and Cambodia, agreed that the NDP's position on Afghanistan is still evolving. But she was clear on this much: "I think there is a real role for Canada to play and that Canada is playing."
And this column, about a particularly brave NDP candidate, Randall Garrison, who agrees with me that the NDP has been rather less than coherent in its Afghanistan policy:
Garrison believes in things that any self-respecting social democrat would be proud to believe in. And he's not afraid to do the heavy lifting that comes with those beliefs. . . Garrison is a new and different sort of New Democrat. He isn't afraid to say this: 'An independent foreign policy requires a strong military.' He isn't afraid to say this: 'People who serve in the Canadian Forces are ordinary people, and the left has distanced itself from people who do that service. We disdain that service, and we should not' And he's also unafraid to say this: 'You know, if you were a woman or a gay person, what happened in Afghanistan wasn't a war of occupation. It was a liberation.'
So there's all that, but the second big reason for the standoff was that Byers chose to assume an insulting and dangerously naive position, which is that it's traitorous to be concerned enough about the NDP's drift from its core anti-fascist and socialist roots to write about it - but more importantly, because it betrays a crippling incapacity on the part of Canada's self-proclaimed left to even recognize the really dark side on these questions.
Byers' testiness with me had begun only a few minutes earlier when he took as an insult what I had intended as a compliment. I told the audience that I was optimistic about the NDP because it was fortunate enough to have acquired Byers as a senior adviser. He snapped back at me, and said I was bringing "partisan politics" into the debate. And on that point, it may be that I was being the tiniest bit naive.
I had no idea that around the same time as the Afghanistan panel, Byers' association with the NDP was becoming a topic of public debate and scrutiny. And it's not letting up.
As for me, I've said my piece. For a synopsis of what I had to say at the Alibi Room debates, read this. And then start paying attention to Lauryn Oates and Jared Ferrie.
AND FOR ANOTHER THING: Read this essay from last summer by my fellow Eustonard Morton Weinfeld, in the Ottawa Citizen (Will The Real Left Please Stand Up?) It captures the dilemma precisely.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More Lurid Tales From the Tenured & Unhinged

The occupation forces in Afghanistan are supporting the drug trade, which brings between 120 and 194 billion dollars of revenues to organized crime, intelligence agencies and Western financial institutions. The proceeds of this lucrative multibillion dollar contraband are deposited in Western banks. . . there are indications that the opium economy is being promoted at the political level (including the British government of Tony Blair).
That's the latest plot revealed by University of Ottawa economist Michel Chossudovsky, head honcho of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Chossudovsky has worked as a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme, the African Development Bank and the International Labour Organization. He's also a past president of the Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. You might not trust him around sharp objects, but he's a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique.

Tony Blair a drug dealer? I thought that was supposed to be Her Majesty's job.
Then there was the time a Chossudovsky conspiracy theory got so out of hand (The Americans knew the tsunami was coming but refused to tell South Asia!) the U.S. State Department was forced to issue a formal denial. . .