Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Is Not A Story About Free Speech. This Is Not A Story About National Security.

(UPDATE: The full half-hour CHQR World Tonight radio interview version of this post's contents is here).

In his contribution to the cacophony about L’affaire Galloway, Christopher Hitchens is not wrong in the substance of the opinions he expresses here. It is just that they are wholly immaterial to the matter at hand. Hitchens is wholly wrong in his assumptions. He didn’t do a lick of homework. He fails, and fails utterly.

(UPDATE II: Appended to his Slate column today, Christopher writes: In my last column, it seems I may have done an injustice to the government and people of Canada in the matter of George Galloway's canceled visit to that country. For elucidation, please consult the following blog post. For my part, let me say it was not so much that Hitchens didn't do a lick of homework, but that the references he relied upon - Canada's national newspapers - are what led him astray).

The pretended difficulties that the fascist thug George Galloway has encountered in making his Canadian appointments are of his own construction and design. This has nothing to do with Geert Wilders, Skokie, or Jean Marie Le Pen. It certainly is not about “the risk of giving the power of censorship to any official.” It is not really a story about Canada's national security, either. None of these things are at stake here, any more than it was ever going to matter who won or lost when Galloway’s Canadian friends launched a court case to try and get Galloway in, the roundabout way.

This is a media circus of the same sort as the midway freak shows that involve displays of Britney Spears as she’s caught driving her SUV with a suckling infant on her lap, or Amy Winehouse snorting coke in a leaked home video. Dress it up anyway you like, that is the function the Galloway rumpus-making serves the news media.

Nevertheless, in the real world, something rather important did happen, and it actually did involve George Galloway.

A couple of weeks ago, a Canadian High Commission official in London had a conversation with someone in George Galloway’s parliamentary staff about the MP’s travel plans. The official then showed George Galloway the personal courtesy of writing him directly to advise him that a preliminary assessment of his admissibility to Canada was not favourable.

In that letter, Immigration Program Manager Robert J. Orr politely referred Galloway to certain provisions of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, specifically, Section 34 (1), which, among other things, cites “engaging in terrorism” as grounds to prevent a person from entering Canada. This provision concerns itself with the national security of peoples in faraway places; in this instance, with the security of the Palestinian people, and the Israeli people. In Canada, engaging in terrorism includes raising money for terrorist groups. In Canada, the death cult Hamas, the worst enemy the cause of Palestinian freedom has ever faced, is listed as a proscribed terrorist group.

Mere days before Orr wrote his letter, Galloway had delivered roughly $2 million (Cdn.) in vehicles, various goods and cash, directly to Hamas boss Ismail Haniyeh. Galloway boasted about this, and openly dared British and European authorities to charge him for breaking the sanctions against Hamas, and he went so far as to stage an event for Al Jazeera television in which he handed over a wad of cash in the equivalent of about $50,000 (Cdn.) directly to Haniyeh. Around the time Orr was composing his letter to Galloway, the British Charity Commission was preparing an investigation into the transactions Galloway was involved with in Gaza.

There is nothing occult about any of this.

In his letter, Orr noted that Galloway was not expected to make his Canadian appointments before March 30, and so he extended to Galloway the further courtesy of inviting him to make a submission to address his preliminary assessment of inadmissibility. The alternative would be that a Border Services Agency official might find himself obliged to make a final determination at some border crossing, informed only by the preliminary assessment, but without the benefit of a submission from Galloway himself. Orr also suggested an alternative to Galloway, to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit, but he also showed Galloway the further kindness of letting him know that it would be unlikely that such an application would succeed.

Instead of proceeding as he was so politely invited, Galloway had a Canadian law firm dash off a letter to Orr that included a citation from Galloway's Wikipedia entry, a denial that he was a member of Hamas, a complaint about Ottawa's affections for Israel, and several other subject-changing diversions. The letter did not deny (because it could not deny) what Galloway had openly boasted of doing.

Galloway hasn't even tried to enter Canada, remember. Instead, he has taken the opportunity to combine with his Canadian admirers to exploit the gullibility and general slovenliness of the press in order to tell a pack of lies, monger a lurid conspiracy theory about a secret plot hatched in Ottawa to silence critics of Canada’s engagements in Afghanistan, fabricate a free-speech controversy, and blame it all on the Jews.

That’s the story Hitchens missed, but he needn't feel lonely, because he wasn't the only one. It is a rare thing, though, when Christopher Hitchens falls for a story that never even happened. In all the foreign and domestic sniggerings, objections, protests and complaints about the way Canada and its officials have handled the Galloway file, you will have to look very hard before you find one - just one - that does not wholly depend upon an embarassing error of fact, a delusion, a conspiracy theory, or an outright lie.

Try it. You will be looking for a long, long time (see also Comrade Weiss, who has opened up a southern front for us on this point in The New Criterion).

To be clear: Despite what all Galloway's friends will tell you, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney did not ban George Galloway from speaking in Canada, or from not speaking in Canada, and neither did any Canadian official do anything of the kind, either. It did not happen. It did not occur. And it won't do to say, well, yes, but however you put it, the whole thing has only only served to draw more attention to Galloway and his "odious opinions." Something has given Galloway the attention he craves, to be sure. But he hasn't been given anything like the attention he properly deserves, and as for why this is so, well, that is a very good question. It is one of the more important questions raised by this whole affair, so I'll take a shot at answering it.

The bigger story in which l'affaire Galloway is a kind of defining moment involves a phenomenon that is playing out on the same tectonic scale as the emergence of a distinctly Canadian democratic socialism in the 1930s, the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s, and the rise of libertarian prairie populism in the 1990s. As is often the case in such upheavals, journalists are the last to notice.

Something wholly new is emerging in Canada, in all the spaces where the Left used to be, in its activist constituencies, its traditional institutions, and its lexicon. Whatever name you want to give the thing, its noticeable features include a betrayal of progressive internationalism, a pathetic weakness for conspiracy theories, and a routine apologetics for antisemitism and terror. Its outlook is generally parochial, but its global engagements tend to align with fascism’s contemporary Islamist variants, even to the point of objective support for the Taliban.

To read most Canadian newspapers, you probably wouldn't have a clue that any of this was going on.

When Galloway visited Ottawa two years ago, he was every bit as famous as he is now. He was the guest of honour at a publicly-advertised 74th birthday party for the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. The SSNP is an unambiguously fascist movement with shiny boots and uniforms, its own distinctive swastika, and an anthem sung to the tune of Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles.

Not one Canadian news organization reported Galloway’s Ottawa visit.

In these ways, a dirty thing goes unreported when it shows its true face, but when it shows the face it wants us to see, it is "widely reported," and this is the face the news media has grown accustomed to presenting to us. In these ways, stenography masquerades as journalism, and journalism becomes something else again. Remember: the "news story" about Galloway that ended up going viral these past few days never even happened.

In that story, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney became so frightened that Galloway would say something fatally witty about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan that he lost his mind and invoked some little known police-state power to keep Galloway out of the country, and thus irretrievably contaminated Canada’s vital bodily free-speech fluids.

This is the story we were all invited to freely discuss. To guide us in our deliberations, the usual pundits took pains to affirm the virtue of their own avant-garde tastes and prejudices by condescending to explain that Galloway is really just a flamboyant British philanthropist, and Ottawa was being mean to him because of his humanitarian work among the Palestinians, and well, you know, the Jews were being beastly about it.

Do you notice how this commentariat consensus wouldn't be so ubiquitous if some Zionist cabal was controlling the media in Canada? Good. Thank you for noticing. Here's something else you will want to notice.

George Galloway is what we used to call a fascist thug. But nowadays, his Canadian fan base, his megaphone-carriers and his booking agents include New Democratic Party MPs, Bloc MPs, the Council of Canadians, the Ottawa Peace Assembly and a legion of student leaders, trade unionists and “anti-war” activists.

Whatever name you want to give this phenomenon, it hasn't been getting the attention it properly deserves. It's been underway for quite some time.

We should be paying attention.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

In Vancouver Magazine, on the Tsawwassen treaty: I Want from Now and Everlasting

“I am going to explain to you gentlemen how our ancestors were created in this place, right over at the high land here known as Scale-Up, or English Bluff.” This is how Harry Joe opened his arguments before the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission on Indian Affairs during its hearings at the Tsawwassen Indian reserve on April 28, 1914. He began with a story about arriving, and that’s the important part. After all these years, with Joe’s great-granddaughter, Kim Baird, at the middle of it, the story is still about arriving.

English Bluff is a place name that comes from the 1910 Admiralty Chart. Scale-Up comes from S’tlalep, a complex Hun’qum’i’num term that can be rendered as I Want From Now and Everlasting. Harry Joe was a prosperous fisherman and farmer who proudly displayed his vegetable varieties at the New Westminster agricultural exhibition every year. He was also chief of the Tsawwassen Indian band.

The grievance that Chief Joe put before the royal commission was this: back in the 1860s, the government had been disgracefully parsimonious in its allocation of reserve land to the Tsawwassen people. There was still good farmland around the village, Chief Joe said, but it was going to waste. Indians had been legally prohibited from pre-empting and developing land, so they had to settle for whatever the government gave them. Chief Joe and his people once owned all the land they could see for miles and miles around, and they’d been left with almost nothing. The Tsawwassen people needed more land.

The royal commission said no.

Harry had a son, Simon, who married Philomena “Birdie” Adams from the Katzie tribe. Simon and Philomena had a daughter named Edith who moved to Langley and married a white man named Lorne Baird. Edith raised four sons and a daughter, Kim. After Lorne died, Edith and her children led something of a vagrant life but eventually arrived back at the Tsawwassen reserve and settled down. . .

The first first modern treaty in Canada comes into force next Friday, April 3. Getting it has been the life's work of Kim Baird, Chief of the Tsawwassen people. The rest of the story is here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Attack Of The Giant Zionist Bus Drivers From Mars

I am completely at a loss to understand the plot of this movie.

Mabel Elmore is a woman known outside a circle of Vancouver New Democratic Party activists, trade union committee members and "anti-war" rally attendees for one thing, and one thing only. It was an interview she did with her StopWar pal Derrick O'Keefe for a Vancouver website that ended up going completely viral (it started here) because of her account of the valiant battles she was obliged to wage against "vocal Zionist" transit union members in the course of her workplace peace-and-justice activism.

The interview never made it clear exactly why she felt obliged to engage in "battles" with vocal Zionist union members, let alone soft-spoken Zionist union members, but nevermind. Elmore goes on to win the NDP nod in Vancouver Kensington after a hotly-fought and really nasty contest, and to nobody's surprise, the newspapers recall the Zionist-bus-drivers hilarity.

This prompts NDP leader Carole James to tell Elmore to dash off some sort of apology for maybe having said something several years before that might have sounded vaguely antisemitic or something. That's not the word that immediately springs to my mind as the right one to describe Elmore's strange interview statements, but on with the movie. In her apology, Elmore said her mistake was that she didn't know what the word Zionist meant, and was unaware the term was so "loaded," and maybe it carried some antisemitic freight "in the North American context," but she was sorry if anybody got offended.

By this time, I'm totally lost. And I'm not the only one. The whole thing causes Carole James to blow her gasket in as dignified a way as it's possible to do in front of a bunch of television cameras. James also hints a bit sternly that maybe heads would roll in the party's candidate-vetting department. I should say so. Elmore even passed Bill Tieleman's smell test, and he's supposed to be one of the smarter ones.

By this time, Elmore's NDP friends are starting to publicly pile on James. Then a letter appears in the Georgia Straight that begins "As Jewish British Columbians," proceeds to set out their definition of what Zionism means, and then asserts that they are angry and disapppointed and offended. Not with Elmore (who says she's not even sure what a Zionist is, remember) but with Carole James, and also with a variety of Zionist individuals and organizations in Canada and elsewhere, and also with the media, and several other things, plus that ratbag Avigdor Lieberman. And Elmore's troubles are all part a big cover-up of some kind, besides.

Great. Thanks for stopping by and clearing things up.

Anyway. Now Charlie Smith, the Georgia Straight's clinically overworked editor, blows his own gasket, rushes to Elmore's defence, and then trashes not just James but the journalists who got onto the story. Then Smith says it's really all about Iraq.

Iraq? Elmore didn't even mention Iraq in her famous interview. Iraq was a war that Canadian soldiers weren't even involved with anyway. Nevertheless, Charlie writes: "The war in Iraq was illegal. Elmore was correct in trying to prevent Canadian kids from getting killed and wounded in this illegal war. And I have no doubt that she probably encountered opposition from vocal Zionists in her workplace."

Now that's a hell of a plot twist. Is it really possible that Elmore, who didn't know what a Zionist was, had to do battle with Zionist workers who were, by various strategems and for some unexplained reason, conniving against her efforts to ensure that Canada would not be lured into the American war in Iraq, which would have put Canadian kids at risk of injury and death, and that for her efforts she was obliged to endure what she herself called a "backlash"?

O'Keefe, Elmore's StopWar pal, says that's just about right. O'Keefe, now the editor of the accurately-named Rabble webzine, weighed in this week by piling on Carole James and calling her nauseating, and in a mere three-paragraph letter to The Vancouver Sun (at the bottom of his Rabble post) he manages to allege that the controversy is really part of a media censorship plot against "an open and honest discussion of the Middle East," repeats the canard of Israeli "apartheid," and then defends Elmore on the grounds that "Zionists in her union made it challenging to do work opposing the war against Iraq."

I give up. Unless maybe this explains it.

And now, from the Babble page at O'Keefe's Rabble, here's the headline of the month:

Invisible U.S. Death Machines Spy On Canadians From The Air.

Declassified photo of Zionist bus driver testing secret bus-stop death ray trap:

Best Teacher I Ever Had

After all these years I'm still learning from him, and we're still chums.

Mazel Tov, Fred Lepkin!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Remembering The Old Man

Richard Blair is a retired engineer who lives in a pleasant English village in Warwickshire. He is the son of George Orwell, and until now, he has never had much to say about life with his famous dad. By Richard's account, the author of Homage to Catalonia, 1984 and Animal Farm was a kind and loving father, and a great deal of fun besides. What few memories he has of Orwell, who died when Richard was six, are filled with little adventures around their remote home, on the island of Jura.

Orwell had, he says, “a heart of deep paternal affection.” George Packer's take here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Where Is The Outrage?" ™

The Evolutionary History of a Meme:

An American comic slated to play in Edmonton has been dumped after slagging Canadian soldiers on a Fox News talk show. He's one of these bastards.

Says Olivia Chow of the federal New Democratic Party: "Canadians are able to make their own judgement on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and freedom of speech is critical in a democratic country." Actually, that's what Chow said in support of fascist gangster George Galloway last week, alleging a government conspiracy to keep opposing "views" about Afghanistan out of Canada, and citing the October, 2007 barring of "US peacemakers" Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright of CodePink.

Back then, Benjamin said: "It's outrageous that Canada is turning away peacemakers protesting a criminal, illegal war that does not have the support of either U.S. or Canadian citizens." Actually, Benjamin and Wright were turned away because their rap sheets showed nine convictions between the two of them.

Origins of the sinister federal mind-control plot: "This was a bit of a test, to see what happens when they arrest someone who isn't agreeing with their current foreign policy." That was the American blackshirt Alison Bodine talking. Bodine had decamped at the University of British Columbia to become the star attraction for the cult known as the Mobilization Against War and Occupation, which takes this "anti-war" line on Afghanistan: "Wherever Islam is fighting against imperialism, ‘The Left’ must join with Muslims in this fight."

Bodine's MAWO was the first to trot out the NDP's conspiracy theory about a secret federal plot to bar from Canada "international experts" and others who hold "opposing views" about Afghanistan. Bodine's cause was immediately taken up by NDP MPs Libby Davies, Bill Siksay and Alex Atamanenko, NDP MLA David Chudnovsky, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Richmond NDP, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, and the Capilano Students Union.

Actually, Bodine was sent back to Americaland because she lied to border authorities and tried to sneak into Canada twice in the same day, and an inquiry into her case found that the refusal to let her back into Canada had nothing to do with her "views," or her "anti-war" activities.

This is how the rot spreads. Galloway and Bodine are objectively pro-fascist and counsel support for a "resistance" that slaughters innocent Afghans and murders the Canadian soldiers who are there keep the Taliban at bay. Codepink takes tea with Iranian theocrats who lynch adulterers, torture dissidents and imprison trade unionists. All the degenerate Yankee comic Doug Benson had to say about Canada and Afghanistan was: "I didn't even know they were in the war. I thought that's where you want to go if you don't want to fight."

So, like, where's the outrage, man?

Alison Bodine with some guy named Jack:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beverly Giesbrecht, aka Khadija Abdul Qahaarand, aka Paul Morris-Read, Unspun

One would certainly not want any harm to come to this pathetic and obviously unwell individual, but it does not help her case, or the public's understanding of what is really going on here, to persist in the fiction that she is a "Vancouver journalist" who has been kidnapped in Pakistan. It is even more ridiculous to keep on regurgitating this business about how the sorry tale begins with Giesbrecht having "converted to Islam." And if there is any truth at all to the widely-reported explanation that she was in Pakistan on some sort of assignment from Al Jazeera's English-language service, then heads really should roll, starting with the head of the boss.

To begin with, Beverly Giesbrecht - also known as Bev Kennedy, Zafir Jamaal, Ubaidah Al-Saif, Paul Morris-Read, and so on, is a West Vancouver businesswoman and recovering alcoholic with some entrepreneurial background in digital-media development and publishing, but not real journalism. In the course of her struggle with the bottle she became an avid Jesus enthusiast of the Southern Baptist variety, then suffered what appears to have been a psychotic episode after gazing for some long while, by her own account, at a picture of Osama bin Laden.

Giesbrecht ended up formally changing her name to Khadija Abdul Qahaarand, and she appears to have then devoted her life to the dissemination of jihadist propaganda, primarily through a website she set up under the name "Jihad Unspun." There may well have been even more to this enterprise than meets the eye: Her activity was so outlandish, so far removed from anything resembling journalism, and so outwardly partisan to the point of attempting to assemble a network of jihad-minded Arabic-speakers, that she was widely and not unreasonably suspected of being a part of some poorly-executed American counter-terrorism intelligence-gathering operation.

In any case, to explain this poor woman's sordid behaviour as being somehow a consequence of her having "converted to Islam" after September 11, 2001 is precisely the kind of casual insult to Muslim people, ubiquitous these days, that displays a willful ignorance of the very real Islamist fascism that is tormenting and terrorizing millions of Muslims around the world, commonly employing the mentally ill to do its dirtiest work. It's the same as saying that some emotionally unstable real-estate agent who marries into the Phelps family in order to join the Westboro Baptist Church is merely a person who has "converted to Christianity." It should stop, not only because it is inaccurate and vulgar, but because it conceals rather than reveals anything about Giesbrecht's predicament. She didn't simply stop being a Baptist and start being a Muslim. She became a nutter, or more precisely, she became even more of a nutter than she already was.

The misreporting and commonplace inaccuracies one encounters in most accounts of Giesbrecht's calamity are a disgrace to conventional journalistic standards. It is no small irony that in a story the purports to be about a "Vancouver journalist," Giesbrecht's only connection with any journalistic enterprise that one can draw from what is known about her misadventure in Taliban country is her own dubious claim that she was there doing work for Al Jazeera. If there is even a scintilla of truth to this - which Al Jazeera has refused to discuss and has declined to acknowledge either way - then everyone at Al Jazeera who encouraged this poor deluded crackpot in her misbegotten mission should be fired, and the entire network should be held morally, legally and financially accountable.

That is what the otherwise-sensible Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) should be looking into, rather than passing this off as a case of an Al Jazeera journalist from Canada who has found herself in a bag of snakes. CJFE supporters, of which I am one, should take care to protect journalists and journalism, not least from the irresponsibility of management. One doesn't do the cause of free journalism anything but harm by engaging in lousy journalism, and then drawing frauds and lunatics within the embrace of journalism's empathy and solidarity. It makes matters worse and more dangerous for real journalism, and real journalists.

UPDATE: If you can stop yourself from choking on such obfuscations as the description of Jihad Unspun as merely "an aggregation Web site for news and opinions related to the Middle East and the United States 'war on terror'," you'll get a more complete picture of just how deeply disturbed this poor woman was, here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Company We Keep

George Galloway, the British MP who has just now been reportedly denied entry to Canada, is a petty and notoriously corrupt streetcorner demagogue who moonlights as a scab for the journalist-jailing authoritarian regime in Tehran. He is perhaps the English-speaking world's most strident defender of the boodthirsty, far-right religious movement Hezbollah, Tehran's proxy army in Lebanon. He is a successful fundraiser for the religious-fundamentalist death cult Hamas, which is banned in Canada and for which it is specifically illegal to raise funds in Canada.

Galloway is a thug, a collaborator with totalitian Baathism, and one of the most sinister champions of a global Islamist reaction that has resulted in the jailing, torture and execution of tens of thousands of Muslim democrats, women's rights leaders, socialists and liberals. A proper left-wing debate about what to do about someone like George Galloway might focus on whether he should be summarily executed as a counter-revolutionary, allowed to serve out the remainder of his miserable life in prison, or allowed to remain at large so that the people could laugh at him, insult him, or ignore him to their heart's content.

But when we turn in Canada for left-wing leadership on the question of what to do about George, we are summoned to rally to his cause, and instructed to subscribe to a conspiracy theory.

Worse - to give you an idea just how degenerate certain sections of the "Left" in this country have become - Galloway is routinely celebrated as an "anti-war" hero. And not just by lunatic-fringe elements who show up at demonstrations with embarrassing placards, either.

The first time Galloway visited Canada, he was warmly welcomed by Olivia Chow (who is taking up his cause again), Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton and MP Joe Comartin. Then he returned to Canada for a 74th birthday celebration for the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which has 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.

To shed further light into the depths of this degeneracy, both the Canadian Peace Alliance and the Toronto Stop The War Coalition are run by the Canadian affiliate of the formerly left-wing sect that formed Galloway's 'Respect Coalition' activist base, in alliance with far-right Muslim fundamentalists, after Galloway was ejected from the British Labour party for counseling the murder of British soldiers.

Galloway says he is going to sue Canada for denying him entry. I hope he wins. Not because of some dizzy libertarian argument about his "right" to visit Canada - he has absolutely no such right - but because the Immigration Act section under which he is being barred entry needs to be scrapped, and a wholly-rewritten section put in its place.

Canada can bar a foreign national for security reasons, such as spying, engaging in an act of subversion against a democratic government or institution or process, engaging in or instigating the subversion by force of any government, engaging in terrorism, being a danger to the security of Canada, or if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe a foreign national will engage in this sort of thing.

The "subversion by force of any government" is the problem. The effect of the law is to close Canada's doors to any freedom fighter engaged in armed struggle, or even advocating armed struggle, to overthrow precisely the tyrannies Galloway can't stop himself from sucking up to.

We should be allowed by our own laws to determine the company we keep. Much of the Left in Canada may well be too far gone to be able to recognize a dirty little blackshirt like Galloway for what he is. But that doesn't mean that the rest of us should not be entitled to live in a country with laws sufficient to welcome our friends in the struggle for democracy and against tyranny, and to deny safe harbour, of any kind, to any of their sworn enemies.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Field Report from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Through Surfing

Our beloved fellaheen Grant Shilling, a follower of the Holy Prophet Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz (grandpappy of Israeli surfing) can now report that he safely delivered to our Gazan brothers the wetsuits provided by Ralph Tieleman through a successful operation undertaken by Grant's Boards Not Bombs campaign.

Grant will provide a full report with a slideshow on Friday night (March 20) in Tofino, at the Clayoquot Community Theatre, 7 p.m. (Only $5 admission! Door prizes!).

The operation has contributed substantially to Grant's work-in-progress, Surfing With The Devil: In Search of Waves and Peace in the Middle East. Grant's report of his recent guerilla operation in Cuba, Fidel Don't Surf, is here. Grant's page is here, and Grant is of course the author of The Cedar Surf: An Informal History of Surfing in British Columbia, which is one of the titles in my Transmontanus series at New Star Books.

One World, Two States, Many Waves, One Voice.

And here we have a field report from Oliver Percovich in Kabul on the latest revolutionary gains accomplished by our comrades with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Skateistan:

Why Afghanistan Needs Democracy

In the midst of deliberations about the strategy and scope of the Afghan mission in the U.S. and elsewhere, when the country is preparing to take part in another historic election this year, some analysts are trying to put the emphasis purely on the military, while others still hold importance in democracy-building and reconstruction activities.

Meanwhile, every poll and survey continues to show that everyday Afghans, while critical of some aspects of the mission over the past eight years, believe in further developing democratic values and structures as a safeguard against extremism and injustice that are considered universal threats.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Al Wada', Marc Diab. Allah Ma'ak.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Misjudgment Of Historic Proportions II: "We've Come A Long Way. . ."

I will go easy here on New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, even as he makes yet another "I told you so" attempt, as brazen as last time, to find his way back into the company of grown-ups in the matter of Canada's role in the global commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan and defeating the enemies of the Afghan people. I will go easy on him because he is at least, in his way, trying.

I will go easy on him, as I've done before, because it is certainly not solely his fault that by September, 2006, Canada's NDP - on the matter of Afghanistan and what that poor country's friends should be doing to help its people - had gotten things so badly and so wrong that it had become the laughing stock of every serious political party in the entire developed world. So even the hint of a departure from that state of affairs is a relief.

It's certainly not Layton's fault that the NDP's activist base, by 2006, had become so completely uprooted from its working-class traditions, and so addled by an antique (and curiously American) counterculture pseudo-analysis of Afghanistan's torments, that all the NDP could say on the subject was that it was all about oil or all about the Haliburton-Blackwater global corporate hegemony or something. Or more succinctly, it was all just "George Bush's war." Or as Layton himself was fond of saying, in those moments when he was caught up in flights of his own oratory, it was all just a "George Bush-style seek and kill mission."

If Layton was willing to overlook the fact that Canada was and remains one of 39 countries operating under a United Nations mandate with troops in Afghanistan, at the invitation of Afghanistan's democratically elected government, then the rest of us should be big enough to look the other way now that Layton is insinuating that it has been someone else who has been engaging in "name calling and overheated rhetoric" all this time.

I realize it doesn't help that ever since September, 2006, it's been all "NATO troops out, UN peacekeepers in," and Support The Troops, Bring Them Home, and then after our soldiers are gone we'll send Canadians back, only this time armed with Blackberries, to engage the Taliban in peace talks. It's also true that for nearly three years, the NDP has had no place in the critically important debates about what our soldiers should be doing in Afghanistan, anyway, because the NDP's official party policy has been that our soldiers shouldn't even be there at all. But still.

Let's put it all behind us, Layton now says. Fair enough. We'll try, and it does make it somewhat easier to do when you know that all along, there has been a brave, browbeaten and principled minority of New Democrats who never took the king's shilling in the first place, to borrow a phrase. And if you try hard enough, you can even make yourself forget that from the standpoint of those brave Afghans who traditional New Democrats would flatter themselves to count as comrades, Layton's New Democrats have been backing the other side by arguing for the position staked out by the most retrograde, extreme-right and anti-democratic factions afoot in Afghanistan.

"We've come a long way," Layton begins his National Post essay. I should say so.

Layton starts out this way and then proceeds by dissembling to leave the impression that somehow the whole world, Barack Obama and Stephen Harper included, has at last come around to his way of thinking. Nevermind that, now that George Bush is gone, the opposite is much closer to the truth, because Obama himself has gone to pains to insist that as far as talking to the Taliban is concerned, the White House policy remains unchanged from the Bush days.

And nevermind that when Layton refers to Prime Minister Harper as having "confessed recently" to the likelihood of a semi-permanent background hum of Afghan lawlessness - an expectation that most grown-ups have at least occasionally confessed to harbouring about Afghanistan's prospects for some decades now - the truth is that Harper is first known to have expressed this view, explicitly, almost a full year ago. Damned if I can tell how this would affirm any prescience or foresight on Layton's part, anyway.

So, nothing new there. Besides, even the Globe and Mail's editors got that one wrong, embarrassing themselves in the bargain by making a big hullaballoo about it without even fact-checking so far as to glance at the pages of their own newspaper. So let's cut Jack some slack here, and being really fair, Layton does appear to have been spending some of his spare time brushing up on Afghanistan. Only a year ago he couldn't say whereabouts it was that our soldiers have been in that country, or what they have been doing there, or even for how long.

Further to Layton's credit, when he says "we are seeing a new will emerging to turn the page" in Afghanistan - with the obvious implication that we should anticipate that this new page shall reveal at least some of the right-all-along outlines of Pax Laytonica - there is more than just a grain of truth to it. A disgraceful betrayal of the Afghan people does indeed loom large on the horizon at the moment. The threat of it is everywhere.

To be even more fair, it could be that Layton has struck upon the most efficient way to expedite matters, with this idea of relegating the deal-making to conferences and workshops overseen by a couple of journeymen diplomats who honed their skills with the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference - the largest and most reactionary anti-democratic voting bloc at the United Nations.

Layton does have one small problem in his timing, though. His elucidations come rather too fast on the heels of an International Crisis Group analysis, released just last week, which sums up just about everything about Layton's 'new' approach, this way: "In most cases, the ideas on offer – from declaring victory and pulling out, to negotiating with the insurgents, to organising regional conferences, to prioritising relationships with favoured individuals and allies over the development of strong democratic institutions – have been tried at least once in the past two decades, with no success: we know now what not to do."

At least there is a kind of consistency to all this.

"Once again, the opportunists are on the rise, seeking anew to make Afghanistan a lawless place — a locus of instability, terrorism and drug trafficking. Their means are desperate: suicide bombs, kidnappings, the killing of government officials and hijacking of aid convoys." So said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in January, 2008. He went on: "Almost more dismaying is the response of some outside Afghanistan, who react by calling for a disengagement or the full withdrawal of international forces. This would be a misjudgment of historic proportions, the repetition of a mistake that has already had terrible consequences."

One thing I noticed in his National Post essay is that Layton did not once call for an immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan. That, I would have thought, is news. Other than that, he appears to be demonstrating an almost uncanny consistency of judgment, in every last respect.

Update: A good Yankee analysis can be found in Afghanistan and The Left (thanks, Mark), and Norman Spector makes some good points here.

Let's All Punch Ken Loach!

It would be perfectly understandable, after all, and in the meantime: "We look forward to Mr Loach's next film, which is expected to 'understand' discrimination against black people because of all the shitty things African governments do."

Further elucidation here. As for me, I blame the Freemasons, although the Rotarians are just as bad. And I am not alone. Do you really think it's a coincidence that this lot looks just like Shriners?

They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests.

With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.
Cunning bastards.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Fighting Left: For Internationalism and Egalitarianism

Against "the tyranny of assumptions" and "the realm of the unquestioned": The Pro-Afghanistan minority caucus among the New Democratic Party's rank and file presents Ashraf Ghani, co-founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness. Ghani discusses the mobilization of capitalism for the purposes of state-building, here. Importantly, he observes that most of the world does not share in the benefits of either capitalism or democracy, but rather experiences the state as an instrument of repression.

"It is at the intersection of ideas that new developments and breakthroughs occur," Ghani notes, which is an observation directly relevant to our purposes, in two ways. First, Ghani is a frontrunning candidate in Afghanistan's upcoming presidential elections, slated for August. Second, the most fervent of partisans for engagement in the struggle for global democracy these days find themselves in the minority on the left, on the right, and in the centre.

From each minority caucus come contributions to this "intersection of ideas" that find expression in the most unlikely ways, such that when our comrade Michael Weiss went looking for a welcoming home for his excellent inquiry into the toxicity of Afghanistan's corruption - and its implications for capital investment, the rule of law, and the development of democratic institutions - he found it not in The New Republic, or The Atlantic, but rather in New Majority, a project aimed at breathing life back into America's intellectually and morally exhausted Republican Party.

Meanwhile, here's more from Ghani, a Q&A on Afghanistan, which begins this way:

Q. "What scares you most?" A. "What scares me most is you, your lack of engagement."

And note this well: "Ninety-one per cent of the men of Afghanistan and 86 per cent of the women listen to at least three radio stations a day. In terms of their discourse, in terms of their sophistication of knowledge of the world, I think I would dare say they are much more sophisticated than rural Americans with college degrees, and the bulk of Europeans. Because the world matters to them. And what is their predominant concern? Abandonment."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"All those who want a dialogue with the Taliban should go to hell."

We were talking in Pashto, but the young man’s prompt reaction came in English: "Dialogue? Taliban? My foot!" Then he returned to Pashto. "All those who want a dialogue with the Taliban should go to hell. No dialogue with the Taliban. The army must kill them all."

That's from Farhat Taj of the Aryana Institute, which has just released a public opinion poll conducted in Pakistan's "tribal belt" showing that the ordinary people are actually not so bent out of shape about American predator-drone strikes after all, and overwhelming support the proposition that the Pakistani Army should start getting serious and carry out targeted attacks on Taliban lairs. As Taj explains to the Washington Times, the west's mainstream punditry about the area is a joke. "They constantly distort the realities of our people and area. Most of them do not even bother to come and see what is happening." Poll results here.

Which reminds me. I am now aware of least 14 public opinion polls and focus group surveys that similarly refute common misconceptions about "what Afghans think" about foreign forces in their country, about the rights of women to education, employment, to hold public office, (in favour, in favour, in favour and in favour) and various other matters. For a sampling of that public opinion data (warning to hippies and stoppists: it will make you cry), a sampling is here.

Speaking of the capacity of mainstream punditry to be wrong, wrong, and wrong again, I see our brave and brilliant Comrade Sister Christie Blatchford is kicking ass with particular vigour today, right here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Mr. Frankenstein needs to be eliminated rather than be engaged in negotiations."

One of these things is not like the others:

I. "The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine, and so on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims or, if faced by incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression."

II. "In most cases, the ideas on offer – from declaring victory and pulling out, to negotiating with the insurgents, to organising regional conferences, to prioritising relationships with favoured individuals and allies over the development of strong democratic institutions – have been tried at least once in the past two decades, with no success: we know now what not to do."

III. ". . .the exit strategy for Afghanistan involves talking to the Taliban, even as a surge of diplomacy integrates Iran's neighbors into the mix and the United States encourages a worldwide effort to lavish economic aid on Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The People United, The Commentariat Flummoxed: Crush The Zombies.

In Belfast, the streets around City Hall were brought to a standstill as thousands of people gathered for a rally organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). There were rallies and vigils in Derry, Lisburn, Newry, Downpatrick, Craigavon, and several other places around the Six Counties and the Republic.

The outpouring of grief and solidarity was sparked by a number of savage outrages carried out by nihilistic fanatics in the name of Irish republicanism. The murders have also generated the usual kinds of punditry and windbaggery in matters related to Ireland, and the commentary routinely elides the necessary distinctions between armed struggle, the violence of the dispossessed, and raw terror. It's typical of the incoherence in Canada in the matter of Afghanistan and its troubles - an incoherence which is also a defining feature of confused, leftish polemics on the question of Palestinian freedom and Israel.

I'm pleased to see that in Spiked Online, Brendan O'Neill (and yes, I am well aware of his associations with 'Living Marxism' and its Revolutionary Communist Party roots) makes these necessary distinctions, in a most useful way. If you feel you must reach for analogies, please leave off this business about the recent murders being an outgrowth of traditional "physical force" republicanism, O'Neill advises.

If it's an analogy you want, the recent eruption of barbarism in Ulster is more clearly understood in its affinities with the jihadist bloodlust that torments and terrorizes so many millions of people around the world today, and which sometimes erupts from disaffected Muslims in "the west." It is not negotiable, it is not comprehensible in the context of national liberation or human liberty or progress, but is instead grounded, in O'Neill's description, in "feelings of alienation and bitterness, a desire to say ‘fuck the police’ or ‘fuck the authorities’ rather than to transform society."

It is especially necessary to face, as O'Neill does, that for good or ill, nationalist support for the armed campaign waged by the Irish Republican Army between 1969 and 1994 was grounded in the demand for British withdrawal from Ulster, and for Irish self-determination. It arose from outrageous discrimination and structural unemployment, from ghettos that were routinely subjected to pogroms, and where the people saw little choice but to take up arms as part of a political struggle for civil rights. The struggle was set in the context of internment without trial, the Bloody Sunday massacre, and an occupation force of 30,000 British soldiers. "Today there is no political struggle, no national movement, just splinter groups that shoot soldiers and pizza delivery boys," O'Neill writes. "It is purposeless terrorism."

In this way, the preposterous volume of analogy-making between the IRA and Hamas (and between Ulster and Palestine) that was generated by the recent bloodshed in Gaza can be seen very clearly for the malarky that it really was. For a while there, you couldn't pick up a newspaper without finding some pseud wringing his hands about Israel's intransigence in accommodating Hamas, along the lines of, 'just look at Northern Ireland, we negotiated with the terrorists there, and everything's just lovely now,' and then proceeding to counsel tea with the Taliban and Hezbollah too.

But as Henry McDonald observes in his excellent Z-Word essay, The Limits of the Northern Ireland Analogy: "On the surface this thesis appears seductive: if the most sophisticated terrorist organisation in the western world can be brought in from the cold then surely the same can be done with the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. However, the formula is in fact entirely bogus and anti-historical."

Aye and aye, and on a related subject, Afghan Envoy Assails Western Allies As Half-Hearted, Defeatist.

No Surrender. The People Will Win.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not Negotiable. Free Parwez Kambakhsh. Now.

He was "arrested" unlawfully, his trial was conducted in flagrant violation of Afghan law, his sentencing was illegal, he has committed no crime, he is being held illegally. Enough. Get him out of there. Now.

Monday, March 09, 2009

More Men Like This, Please.

Erin Doyle, of Kamloops, British Columbia, was born March 20, 1976 in Maple Ridge, B.C., and died in Afghanistan on August 11, 2008. More soldiers like him, please, and more good writing, like this (found here). Remembering also this fine man, and these three men, too.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Travellers, Lucht Siúil, Walking People, Tincéirí. As You Like.

Elsewhere called Kuchis: We used to have everything. Our hearts were full,
our stomachs were full and our children were healthy.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

All The News That Fits What We Want You To Think, We Print

In the midst of all the embarrassment that Canada's national news media brought upon itself this week by its strange and hugely public display of myopia, amnesia, and perhaps something rather worse, I found myself a bit troubled by a nagging question.

The question wasn't just about why it appeared to be too much trouble for the Globe and Mail to check its own front pages from less than a year earlier before pronouncing that something Canada's prime minister had said about Afghanistan was a thing he'd never said before. That did bother me, but having spent almost my entire adult life as a working journalist, I'm merciful about these things. Newspapers do make mistakes.

The question I can't shake is this: Why is it that I have to turn to an interview on an American television news program (the interview that several Canadian newspapers so badly misreported) and then read the results of an expansive interview hosted by the editors of an American newspaper in order to get an idea about what Canada's own prime minister actually has to say for himself on the subject of this country's engagement in Afghanistan?

And now this morning, I see my friend Mark Collins, an astute observer of all things related to Canada's military role in Afghanistan, raises a similarly disturbing question about the Canadian news media's strange silence about this country's contributions to Afghanistan's upcoming national elections. "Why is this carried by the Chinese government's Xinhua (and MSNBC) but none of the Canadian media?" His suggestion: "One can only surmise that they are fixated on the death-watch at Kandahar and at home."

I guess it could be worse. You could be relying on the Guardian (UK) for your news about Afghanistan. Joshua Foust has just pointed this out in a withering deconstruction of a report by the Guardian's Julian Borger. Foust writes: "I’ve become almost permanently uninterested in reporting on Afghanistan. Reading these accounts describes a country and a people I have never visited or met. . . and I am there right now, spending time outside the wire."

I was left with precisely that strange feeling when I was in Afghanistan late last year, pretty well the entire time outside the wire: "It's as though there are two completely different Kabuls in the world. There's the city that routinely shows up in English-language dailies – a miniature, Central Asian version of Stalingrad during the siege – and then there's the one you never hear about, a bustling, heartbreakingly poor but hopeful and splendid city."

Speaking of weird reporting and the news media's amnesia, I'm happy to see that the Independent Elections Commission is standing up to President Karzai and his attempts at getting a snap election over with by April. But spinning this as a victory for western diplomats is a bit much. It's worth remembering that it was only a few short weeks ago that Karzai couldn't turn a corner in Kabul without bumping into a gaggle of western diplomats arm in arm with Afghan parliamentarians urging him to postpone the elections for a year, or cancel them altogether.

At the time, Karzai adviser Jafar Rasuli told me that the thinking around the presidential palace was that the best time for a vote would be late August, after the harvest and before the snows. It looks like we're back to that now. Here's my story in The Vancouver Sun on what the rumpus looked like back then.

And here's more from Josh Foust in the Columbia Journalism Review, on The birth (and death) of a meme: Embedded reporters don't always get the full story.

UPDATE: The Guardian's Borger makes his newspaper look silly, again. Foust: "You could be contributing to this instead of playing the know-it-all crank. What gives?"

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

American Q & A: Canada’s Role In "The War in Afghanistan"

An expansive and informal conversation, with the University of Ottawa's Nipa Banerjee, who headed CIDA's efforts in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2006, Ron Hoffmann, Canada’s new Ambassador to Afghanistan, formerly deputy head of mission there, and yours truly.

You can listen to it all here.

I'd say it went extremely well. Maybe it was because it was us three Canucks talking to an American audience, but there sure seemed like a lot of consensus among us. It helped that Martin was hosting. He's a solid journalist, and born in Lachine, Quebec, besides.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post version of the conversation is headlined "Canadians Fiercely Debate Their Role In Afghanistan." Who knew?

Elsewhere, I see reports that Ameer Haider Khan Hoti of the Awami National Party has directed officials to distribute 30,000 rifles among “patriotic people” and “peace loving groups” to guard their villages and assist in the struggle against the Taliban.

If you can’t count on Islamabad, or Washington or Brussels, the least you must do is arm the people.

ANP Zindabad.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Hundred Flowers Bloom, A Hundred Schools Of Thought Contend

I hope we never live to see the day when a thing is as bad as some of our newspapers make it.
- Will Rogers.

Sometimes, the gulf between what you read in the newspapers and the stuff that actually happens in the real world turns out to be a gaping, yawning chasm. Such is the case in the matter of what Great Helmsman Stephen Harper is reported to have said and meant on the subject of Afghanistan just lately, and what he really said and obviously meant.

Turns out that what he said wasn't even especially newsworthy, which is to say it wasn't new, in that it's what everyone who knows anything about the subject and anyone with a lick of sense has been saying about the prospects for peace, democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan from the very get-go. Harper put his own rather dreary, pessimistic and conservative spin on it, of course, but what should we expect? He's a conservative. That's what conservatives are for.

This was the case I made this morning on the Rutherford Show, in conversation with guest host Rob Breakenridge. I expect I will reiterate the case in simpler language on American radio this afternoon. I see also the Globe and Mail's editors concur. As does the People's Liberation Army.

In today's National Post, my conservative-leaning collaborator and friend Jonathon Narvey sets things to rights in a direct, engaging and thoughtful fashion, and goes further to properly counsel against cynicism and draw our attention to "the sad reality that our government, in common with those of our allies, has done a fairly poor job of defining what victory looks like."

At the University of British Columbia, our liberal-leaning comrade Brian Platt, no friend of the Harper government, took the trouble to listen closely to Harper's account of the situation in Afghanistan and concludes: "I agreed with most of what he said." But Platt makes the unavoidable judgment that Harper is nonetheless a hapless numpty when it comes to explaining how Canada might continue its role in the liberation struggle the Afghan people are waging.

Brian reserves his harshest judgment for dead-enders who fancy themselves to be "progressives" while they counsel the most reactionary, lunatic posture that it is possible to adopt on the Afghan question: Troops Out. "Remember who these people are and what they say. Remember how they claim themselves as leftists while insisting that we end the UN-sanctioned nation-building project in Afghanistan. Years from now, when Afghanistan emerges as a stable democracy, remind them of their words."

Being to the left of both Jonathon and Brian, I am less patient, but at the same time I must counsel moderation, both in our policy towards the Taliban and to the semi-literate, humourless and unwitting but objectively pro-Taliban windbags who have so thoroughly infested and enfeebled the Left in this country. Something like this:

"We must make it clear to the district and village cadres and the masses that persons who have incurred the bitter hatred of one and all for their heinous crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people's anger must be put to death for this purpose. It is only on those counter-revolutionaries who are guilty of capital offences but have not incurred deep popular hatred and whose execution is not demanded by the people that we shall pass the death sentence with a two-year reprieve and impose forced labour to see how they behave."

He was a horrible auld bags. But you must admit he did have a good idea now and then.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Exit Strategies, Echoes of Molotov-Ribbentrop, Edward Said, A Radio Program . . .

My Comrade Nick Cohen, who confesses to a kind of family loyalty in regards to Eric Hobsbawm (Nick's grandpappy was Hobsbawm's Communist Party mentor), reflects on the cold shoulder MI5 has recently shown the decorated Marxist historian and takes the opportunity to provide visitors to his web log with a lengthy and terrific excerpt from his book, What's Left? In passing, Cohen reminds us: "Stalin wasn’t the only tyrant communists supported. During the Hitler-Stalin pact they had to argue that British imperialism rather than German fascism was the real enemy. The echoes of our own day when so many on the liberal-left go along with Islamo-fascists are chilling and fascinating."

In favour: I must say, I do love it when Rosie gets mad: Israeli Apartheid Week is a "detestable, despicable annual campus hate-fest. . .a pile-on of hyperbolic anti-Semitism that de facto equates Zionism with racism, not even pretending to draw distinctions any more. . . I apologize for even mentioning the shrill and intellectually distorted confab. . . Jew-bashing cloaked in righteousness." (Related: "Broadly speaking, in other words, the locus of anti-Semitism has moved almost entirely from the right side of the political spectrum to the left." - Jonathan Kay)

In similarly high spirits, Peter Tatchell, picking up on the theme Cohen touches on, has written a long-form, richly annotated polemic on the disgraceful anemia abroad in "anti-imperialist"circles on the question of Iranian fascism: "Principled, consistent left-wingers do not base their politics on the unprincipled, inconsistent geo-political manoeuvres of western powers. We stand with the oppressed against their oppressors, regardless of what the west (or anyone else) demands or threatens. . . Iran is an Islamo-fascist state – a clerical form of fascism based on a confluence of Islamic fundamentalism and police state methods. It differs, of course, from traditional European-style fascism, being rooted in religious dogma and autocracy. This makes it no less barbaric. Iran under the ayatollahs has a history of repression that is even bloodier than Franco’s clerical fascist regime in Spain. Sadly, it merits far less outrage by the left."

Exit Strategy - Cheap 'Gotcha' Journalism Version: For the life of me, I see absolutely nothing newsworthy in anything Prime Minister Harper said - Is there any serious person anywhere who thinks that America or NATO alone can defeat the 'insurgency' in Afghanistan? - but this hasn't stopped the screaming headlines. I'll let Mark Collins explain it to you.

Speaking of Afghanistan, you can catch me tomorrow on this American radio broadcast, where I will be joining Ron Hoffmann, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan, and Nipa Banerjee, the former head of CIDA's Afghan operations, to try and make sense of the Canadian debates and controversies about the Afghanistan question for an American audience.

Exit Strategy - Expansive, Engrossing and Seriously Literate version: My own mentor and dear friend Stan Persky, over at Dooney's Cafe, considers at some length Edward Said's On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain. You'll probably want to put up your feet and take some time with this. It's a gorgeous piece of work. He manages to bring into the conversation a constellation of big-forehead people, including Thomas Hobbes, Saul Bellow, Mordechai Richler, Doris Lessing, Czeslaw Milosz. . . you'll see.

Here's a handy list, come the revolution. No soup for you!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Price Of Negotiating With The Taliban

"If anybody really wants to wage jihad, he must fight the occupation forces inside Afghanistan. Attacks on Pakistani security forces by militants in the tribal areas and elsewhere in Pakistan are harming the war against U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan."

- Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, in a letter to the commanders of the Pakistani Taliban, urging them to immediately stop attacks on the Pakistani army.