Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat?

George Bush or Bill Clinton?

"It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."

Bill Clinton, addressing the subject of his administration's Iraq Liberation Act, which he signed into law on this day, October 31, in 1998 (it's only imperialism when the other guy does it):

Friday, October 30, 2009

Though Cowards Flinch And Traitors Sneer. . .

Against the lies and the bullying of the objectively pro-fascist "left," Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell, and the Antideutsche Tendency hold the old flag high.

Here's Namazie - a leading voice for Britain's Equal Rights Now and the One Law for All Campaign, a democrat, secularist and a member of the central committee of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran - on the degeneracy of the European 'left':

"It is an anti-colonial movement whose perspectives coincide with that of the ruling classes in the so-called Third World. This grouping is on the side of the ‘colonies’ no matter what goes on there. And their understanding of the ‘colonies’ is Eurocentric, patronising and even racist. In the world according to them, the people in these countries are one and the same with the regimes they are struggling against just as the ‘Muslim community’ here is one and the same with reactionary Islamic organisations, Sharia councils, and parasitical imams. Which is why at Stop the War Coalition demonstrations, they carry banners saying ‘We are all Hezbollah;’ at meetings they segregate men and women and urge unveiled women to veil out of ‘solidarity’ and ‘respect’."

The brave gay rights activist and socialist Peter Tatchell, meanwhile, is being subjected to a dirty smear campaign at the moment. Accused of "gay imperialism" and worse, Peter has been slandered and traduced by so-called "anti-war" noisemakers who are circulating the outright lie that they are being "censored" and that a book containing a chapter subjecting Tatchell to "anti-imperialist" criticism has been "banned." In fact the book's publisher, Raw Nerve Books, has now confessed that the criticism of Tatchell it published was just a collection of slanderous abuse.

The chapter contains "serious, defamatory untruths" about Peter and his comrades in the gay rights' group OutRage!, and the authors falsely claimed that Peter is "Islamophobic." The publishers further concede that it is a lie that Peter equated Muslims with Nazis, and he never “collaborated with the extreme right,” never “participated with several racist and fascist groups,” never “employed tactics of intimidation and aggressive divide and rule,” and that the "gay imperialism" chapter attacking Peter circulated malicious gossip arising from a sectarian political vendetta. "We accept that Mr Tatchell has never criticised Muslims in general, only Muslim fundamentalists – in the same way that he has also criticised all other forms of religious fundamentalism, Christian, Judaist and so on. . . The insinuation that he is anti-Muslim is untrue."

For years, Peter has been targeted for violent attack by the far right because of his anti-racist activism, and now Peter is being targeted for attack by dirty little blackshirts who have passed themselves off as "progressive" and have successfully affixed themselves in positions of leadership in the "anti-imperialist" camp, owing solely to their pedestrian use of the "left-wing" lexicon.

This sort of thing went largely unnoticed in Canada, and consequently the gangrene spread everywhere. It didn't seem to matter how obvious it was. Before you knew it, it was dirty little blackshirts, all in a row.

In the German case, there is a hopeful response. In Rosa Luxemburg's Corpse: The Stench of Decay on the German Left, 1932-2009, Jerzy Sobotta observes: "The Gulf War in 1991 and the resulting pacifist or even pro-Hussein sentiments of the broad German Left produced an insurmountable gap between Anti-Deutsch and other leftists. . . Most recently, in the wake of the anti-Semitic attacks of 9/11 and in the face of the fraternization of the global Left with the Ba’athists in Iraq and Islamists in Afghanistan and Palestine, Anti-Deutsch concluded that solidarity with Third World movements is solidarity with barbarism. Emancipatory, communist critique had to be articulated against the Left. . . . The only question that matters: How could it have been left to rot for such a long time?"

How, indeed? In Canada's case, I have had some thoughts of my own.

Sometimes, it's just fuzzy thinking and the counterculture's lingering liberal-bourgeois tendency to faint at the feet of any radical-chic windbag making the rounds of the celebrity circuit. Jonathan Steele is decidedly less than impressed with Princess Di's latest incarnation:

"What diminishes [Malalai] Joya are frequent lapses into a self-righteousness that alternates between sectarianism and bombast: 'When I speak around the world, I represent all the suffering people in every corner of my country.' The daughter of a resistance fighter who lost a leg during the Soviet period, she was educated in a Pakistani boarding school run by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). She remains under this secular madrassa's influence. Fair enough that RAWA and its many Maoist adherents would oppose the Soviet occupation. You did not have to be a Maoist to do so. The sad thing is that, even with hindsight, Joya has nothing good to say of the other secular modernisers whose desire to change Afghanistan was no different from hers, except that they felt they had to take Soviet backing in the civil war against the fundamentalists. Many Kabulis look back with nostalgia on these socialists who ran the country for three years after the Russians left and whose repeated offers of national reconciliation were spurned by the western-backed mujahideen. To Joya they are nothing but 'former Russian puppets'.

"She also criticises other secular anti-fundamentalists such as Sima Samar, the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and Ashraf Ghani, one of the leading candidates against Karzai in the imminent election. They are ruled out of court for once having served in Karzai's government."

Ah yes, but there is such virtue and righteousness in anti-imperialist uselessness, comrades!

Holding the British fort, meantime, are these fine people from Defend Our Secular Democracy, having a bit of fun at the expense of the Islamist reactionaries known as Al Muhajiroun:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Evidence for the prosecution.

Exhibit A:

"Hamida Hussan is one of a growing band of gusty, young Afghan women - mostly single, childless and in their 30s - who are doing everything in their power to try and ensure the international community doesn't turn its back on Afghanistan. They are terrified that history is about to repeat itself and that Afghanistan will once again be abandoned. Talk of ''targeted counter-insurgency'' and the US ''reducing its footprint'' in Afghanistan, and negotiations with so called ''moderate'' Taliban, has them lobbying hard against troop withdrawal."

Exhibit B:

Dick Fadden, head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service: “Why then, I ask, are those accused of terrorist offences often portrayed in media as quasi-folk heroes, despite the harsh statements of numerous judges? Why are they always photographed with their children, given tender-hearted profiles, and more or less taken at their word when they accuse CSIS or other government agencies of abusing them? It sometimes seems that to be accused of having terrorist connections in Canada has become a status symbol, a badge of courage in the struggle against the real enemy, which apparently is government.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Afghanistan: It's Always The Context You'll Want To Keep Your Eye On.

"Western skeptics of today´s Afghan mission should make no mistake: unlike those earlier conflicts, the international community´s objectives in Afghanistan align closely with those of the Afghan people. The Taliban cannot win by popular consent — polls regularly show that only 5-7 percent of Afghans support them or their aims. That is why they terrorize civilians through the threat and use of violence — including concerted attempts to sabotage the Afghan elections — and only sustain their campaign through revenues from illegal narcotics, financial support from fellow extremists overseas, and military training by Al Qaeda’s foreign legions. Put bluntly, the Taliban can only prevail if the international community loses its will to help the Afghan people build a functioning state and society governed by law rather than the barrel of a gun."

- Dan Twining, the German Marshall Fund.

"Bravery is not an American monopoly. Most allies report many soldiers volunteering to return to Afghanistan despite the increased violence. A Canadian officer who lost his leg in a roadside bomb attack in 2007 recently returned to Kandahar, in his words, "to do good." Dutch soldiers engaged in the dangerous Uruzgan province since 2006 have none of the uncertainty about their mission that marked those who were accused of failing to stop the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. . . [but] no foreign political leader can persuade his or her parliament or public to rubber-stamp a strategy 'made in the U.S.A.' "

- Leo Michel and Robert Hunter, in the LA Times.

Thanks, Leo and Robert. Just the other day I mentioned that if it's just about fighting for the Yanks, then to hell with it.

Peter Galbraith, ever vigilant about his reputation, is manufacturing more exculpation for himself in an op-ed for the New York Times, but he nonetheless gets some important things right. Afghanistan's Elections Complaints Commission, routinely described as merely a "UN-appointed" body, is rather more than that: "While the United Nations appointed three of the commission’s five members, it is truly an Afghan institution regulated by a law that Mr. Karzai signed." It is also the very body that Galbraith should have trusted to do its work. Instead, he wanted UN grandstanding. The ECC did its work. Thanks again, Mr. Kippen.

Some cheeky context in which to situate Galbraith's protests: "Galbraith is intimately involved in Kurdistan and has never uttered a peep about the human-rights abuses and corruption ongoing there. He has never spoken about Barzani family members on the CIA payroll, or Barzani family members involved in drug and weapons smuggling. Why not? Since I posted on the issue last, Galbraith has confirmed to the Norwegian business daily Dagens Naeringsliv what he denied to the U.S. Senate: that he took money from Barzani (and Talabani) in addition to the oil interests which he also has sought to keep secret."

Apart from the daily acts of Taliban savagery - a few UN workers slaughtered here, a few innocent townspeople slaughtered there - The NYT's eminently-reliable Dexter Filkins is causing an unholy ruckus over his report, weakly supported as it is by various unnamed former and current American officials, that the CIA has been rather too cozy in its intrigues with Ahmed Walid Karzai. Some say Ahmed Walid is "on the payroll" (there's that phrase again). Others say he's merely some kind of "landlord" and a recruiting sergeant for some local hard boys the CIA has found useful. The context is of course that Ahmed Walid, the president's brother, is supposed to be some sort of drug kingpin, which even the always-sensitive John Kerry is getting tired of being told.

A confession: A clandestine "Kandahar Strike Force" composed of slightly brutish Afghan gunmen who are perhaps insufficiently inclined to the delicate sensibilities of the American Civil Liberties Union yet vaguely responsive to the suggestions of certain characters in the otherwise unremarkable suburb of Langley, Virginia, is not something I find altogether displeasing at the moment. What with the context of this sort of thing and all.

With our commander in chief, here's our captain, Simon Mailloux, mentioned in dispatches, in that LA Times essay by Michel and Hunter. Mailloux may be without a leg, but he's by no means lacking a backbone or a moral compass:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Proximate Cause.

"It will be a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die. They will disappear. That people will disappear from the face of the Earth."

- Green party activist, poet, amulet-seller, meditation enthusiast and Yoga-bioenergy fancier Radovan Karadzic, now on trial at The Hague.

How well I recall being dismissed as a neoconservative war-monger for merely wishing the Butcher of Bosnia would be taken out by force before it was too late. Which put me in the "orthodox" camp, without even knowing it, and eventually in a schism, which ended up leaving me a partisan in "the most serious split within the left since the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956." Or if you prefer, simply a refusenik.

Funny old world. It's the "orthodox" among us, the refuseniks, who are most likely to be called "Islamophobic" these days.

Never forgive. Never forget:


Adam LeBor writes: I reported from Banja Luka for The Times in autumn 1992. The terror in the ancient Ottoman city was almost tangible as Serb militiamen organised the ethnic cleansing of Muslim and Catholic residents, before blowing up the city’s 16 ancient mosques. In Visegrad the river was choked with corpses of the murdered.

War criminal or statesman and peacemaker? It’s all a question of timing, it seems. So stop sulking in your cell, Radovan, and stand in the dock. Tell us who offered you what in exchange for peace and how you strung them along. . .

Monday, October 26, 2009

Child's Play.

A Canadian Forces report cites 29 incidents in which the Taliban have used children to help commit atrocities in Afghanistan's southern provinces over the past few months, eight since the beginning of October. As many as a dozen children have been killed in three recent explosions during bomb-making classes in Kandahar.

Says Major Robert Dunn: "There is one place west of Kandahar City where they shoot at us every day through a shield of children. They actually stack them up, with 8-year-olds at the front and 15-year-olds at the back."

Here's today's statement about Afghanistan's recent elections imbroglio from a Taliban spokesman, on behalf of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan: "It was all a great big fraud within a larger fraud designed to fool American, Canadian and European voters into believing democracy had flowered in Afghanistan. Cynical Afghans knew the vote would be rigged. Most Pashtun, the nation's ethnic majority, didn't vote. The "election" was an embarrassing fiasco."

Oops. That was an Eric Margolis column.

Here's the Taliban statement: "At world’s level, every one knows the elections were no more than an eyewash. The elections substantiated the well-known quotes of our leader who had said one year ago that the real decision was taken in Washington. It is never taken on the basis of the votes of the Afghans. The enemy is trying to prolong the drama which is now being in full swing. Therefore, they have decided to conduct the election once again and keep the attention of our countrymen and the public of the world diverted in order to hide their defeat at the military field."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"A Prolific, Provincial Nazi Hack."

No, not this one.

This one.

"How many scholarly stakes in the heart will we need before Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), still regarded by some as Germany's greatest 20th-century philosopher, reaches his final resting place as a prolific, provincial Nazi hack? Overrated in his prime, bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now, the pretentious old Black Forest babbler makes one wonder whether there's a university-press equivalent of wolfsbane, guaranteed to keep philosophical frauds at a distance."

Can't be said enough.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"I will continue to live with hope for that day. . ."

"I do know that the suffering of the months past, and the hardship of being away from our fathers and mothers, and the days these dear ones spend in prison without any guilt, will not be forgotten. The effect of such steadfastness will be manifest, and we will have a proud and free country for all, without prejudice against their beliefs or religions. I do believe in this, and I will continue to live with hope for that day and with hope to visit my father again."

- Ma‘man Rezaee, daughter of Saeed Rezaee, one of the seven imprisoned leaders of Iran's persecuted Baha'i religious minority.

More happily, Maziar Bihari, whose tribulations were the subject of this account from Maziar's colleague Simon Ardizzone here some weeks ago, is free. He's in London, and his wife Paola Gourley is expected to give birth to their child on Monday.

Back in Tehran, Kian Tajbakhsh has been sentenced to a 15-year jail term on charges of belonging to an email list the ayotallahs don't like, along with the trumped-up charge that he's some sort of spy. Also, Shahab Tabatabaei, head of Campaign 88 (Young supporters of Mousavi and Khatami), has been sentenced to a five-year jail term.

Mac Urata of the International Trade Union Confederation just sent around an email with the sad news that six leaders of the Haft Tapeh suger refinery workers' union have been sentenced to six-month jail terms for demanding unpaid back wages and forming an independent trade union. Meanwhile, jailed bus drivers' union leader Mansour Osanloo is reported to be suffering from kidney and eyesight conditions, and terrible pains in his back and legs, and although a medical examiner has found that he is not fit to withstand imprisonment, brother Osanloo remains in Evin prison. Reports that he is being subjected to torture continue to leak out.

Marg Bar Diktator. Death to tyrants the world round.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grant Kippen Comes Through, The Rule Of Law Prevails. Afghans Return To Polls Nov. 7.

While scores of greasy diplomats, would-be power brokers and other such backroom characters have been slinking in and out of the presidential palace in Kabul in recent weeks, a quiet Canadian has been doing his job as the head of Afghanistan's Election Complaints Commission. The result of the commission's work is today's news that Afghan law has been upheld, the Afghan constitution has prevailed, and the Afghan people will be returning to the polls November 7.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that Grant Kippen's name was about to go down in the annals of Afghan history. This has now happened, although you can bet that everyone from John Kerry to Peter Galbraith will be claiming credit that is rightfully due to Kippen and his Afghan colleagues. While everyone else has been throwing hissy fits, setting their hair on fire or otherwise trying to meddle their way to some pact that would please the Afghan elites - ditch the recount, engineer some deal between Karzai and Abdullah, impose a caretaker government, anything - the Election Complaints Commission has kept its eyes on the prize and kept the Afghan electorate first and foremost in its deliberations.

If all these slippery characters who usually appear in the press as unnamed "western diplomats" had gotten their way, there wouldn't have been an election in the first place.

It is commonplace to read the ECC described as an "internationally-appointed" body, but this is misleading, at best. The ECC is a function of Afghan law. Three of its five commissioners are appointed by the UN, according to Afghan law. All but a handful of its staff of about 300 are Afghans.

The Afghan people are winning, slow and steady. As always, what is less certain is whether they can count on their avowed friends, and these days, with such shifty characters as Joe Biden to contend with, you can't blame Afghans for worrying. The latest meme making the rounds - it has now outpaced "blood and treasure" - is whether Americans can count on securing a "reliable partner" in Kabul. The more important question, one that's being largely ignored, is whether the Afghan people have a reliable partner in the White House.

Wazhma Frogh is sick of it: "Afghans understand the need for international assistance, both for the country's development and for the strengthening of its military. This is especially evident now that the insurgency and the violence are less their own creation than an unwanted gift from the other side of the border with Pakistan. We see some of NATO's allies rapidly losing interest in Afghanistan, even though they admit that if the country is left to the insurgents, the consequence will be many more incidents like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They are being persuaded by a propaganda war on the part of insurgents who seem to have convinced much of the world that they are winning the war. But in fact the enemy will win only if the international community allows itself to be influenced by this propaganda campaign."

It isn't helping that Afghanistan is threatening to become merely an American project, with everyone else just expected to go along with whatever the White House decides. The Europeans are already beginning to doubt whether Barack Obama even counts the Taliban among his enemies.

If this isn't an international effort, it's doomed. As Anne Applebaum sensibly observes: "NATO has been in charge of that coalition since 2003. Yet to read the British press, one would think the British are there almost alone, fighting a war in which they have no national interest. The same is true in France and in the Netherlands. The American press hardly notes the participation of other countries, even though some—Britain and Canada—have borne casualties at a higher rate than the United States relative to the size of their contingents on the ground. There is almost no sense anywhere that this is an international operation, or that there are international goals at stake, or that the soldiers on the ground represent anything other than their own national flags and national armed forces: Most of the European critics of the Afghan war want to know why their boys are fighting 'for the Americans,' not for NATO."

In this way, the "European critics" are right. If it's just about fighting for the Yanks, then to hell with it. It doesn't matter if the new American president is a nice man. What matters is whether this is still an international project. If it's about fighting for the Afghan people, and working for the Afghan people, then grand, all in.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Petites Annonces: Andrew's Americanface, American Junkie & the Devlin's Bench Miners.

My old chum Andrew Struthers has a lot on the go today, and not just because he's putting in his first day as a temporary office-mate with me and my pal Aaron Hill while he finds new digs. Today is the beginning of Andrew's Americanface project, a feature-length film which began unspooling at the Tyee this morning and will continue daily through its 64 parts until it's done. I've seen a good bit of it in rough and raw form over the past few months and I can tell you it is brilliant, weird, sublime and hilarious.

Visitors to this weblodge may remember Andrew from his 20-million-viewer smash Spiders on Drugs, and also his book The Green Shadow, which was the third title in my Transmontanus Series with New Star Books.

Speaking of books. . .

Tom Hansen, my student/comrade in the Writing Department at the University of British Columbia, was kind enough to get Emergency Press in New York to rush me a copy of his memoir American Junkie, and it just arrived this morning. I helped Tom wrestle the story to the ground as a special project & thesis over a couple of years in my capacity as his teacher. After all, what's the damn point of "teaching" a writer if the result isn't a book or something, yes? And what's a point of living a life like Tom's unless you're going to write it down? From the blurbage:

"It’s a story that takes us from the promise of a young life to the prison of a mattress, from budding musician to broken down junkie, drowning in syringes and cigarette butts, shooting heroin into wounds the size of softballs, and ultimately, a ride to a hospital for a six-month stay and a painful self-discovery that cuts down to the bone. Through it all he never really loses his step, never lets go of his smarts, and always projects quintessential American reason, humor, and hope to make a story not only about drugs, but a compelling study of vulnerability and toughness."

No saccharine redemption involved, either, which is to say Oprah Will Not Like This Book. Which is to say, it's too good for that sort of imprimatur.

And speaking of the arts, have a look at this gorgeous photograph taken by my buddy Bill Horne, and you will understand what I mean when I say I Support The Devlin's Bench Gold Miners:

Further explications here. The lad on the right is Dave Jorgenson, and Rob Dakau's is on the left.

Thanks, lads. I stand with you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

All That We Say Is Ours: A Review

Full version here.

. . .Whether it was [Ian] Gill’s intention or not, All That We Say Is Ours helpfully undermines the simplistic and familiar version of these events, set within the thematic conventions of colonialism and resistance, with First Nations taking a stand against the dominant Euro-Canadian culture, and indigenous patriots rising up against the oppressive Canadian settler-state. Gill goes along with all that, but he also reveals a more important story of collaboration and cooperation among and between the Haida and their non-native allies. Indeed, it is a story in which the Haida came late to play the leading role, on their own islands.

By the 1970s, the B.C. government and the forest industry were intent upon the complete liquidation of the towering old-growth forests for which the Haida archipelago was so famous. By 1985, in news footage broadcast around the world, 72 people—most noticeably little old Haida women in button blankets—were arrested at a dramatic logging-road blockade on Lyell Island that lasted several weeks. It was a pivotal event in a thorough transformation of the way most Canadians see aboriginal people and the forests around them.

Now, almost half the Haida homeland is protected in one way or another. There’s Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in the South Moresby region, Naikoon Provincial Park, the Duu Guusd Tribal Park (which the B.C. government prefers to call the Duu Guusd “designated area”), and so on.

It’s true that little of this would have been possible had the Haida not forced the legal issue of their unrelinquished rights and title (they’re still waiting for their main land-title case to be adjudicated). But it’s also true that there would be no title at stake had the Crown concluded a treaty with the Haida in the first place, and it is no accident that it was the tribal leaders of Southern Vancouver Island who happened to sign the only treaties west of the Rocky Mountains. Those agreements secured to them the protection of British guns against slave-taking Haida marauders.

That isn’t a story you will read in All That We Say Is Ours, but it isn’t necessary. To get at the origins of the struggle that has occupied Guujaaw’s life, you need go no further back in space and time than the polyglot community of flute-players, artists, draft dodgers and mushroom pickers who had settled down in the pothead shacks of Delkatla Slough back in the early 1970s. . .

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Enhorabuena, Compañera Sanchez. Venceremos. Freedom Will Come.

The Cuban writer and dissenter Yoani Sanchez, whose brave work I have long admired, has won the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for her web log Generacion Y. The prize is the oldest international award in journalism. It is given by Columbia University.

Yoani has been prohibited from traveling to New York to collect her honour. Unbowed, today Yoani writes from Havana: "I am already thousands of kilometers from here, in this virtual world that they cannot understand nor fence in."

In Egypt, there is Wael Abbas. He has won several international press and human rights awards, which have given him notoriety sufficient to deter authorities from taking the worst measures against him, but he has still been detained, searched, and harassed.

In Iran, there was Omidreza Mirsayafi, but on March 18, the 29-year-old blogger died in Tehran’s Evin prison. There are thousands of Omidrezas in Iran. There are thousands more in Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and all over this virtual world that they cannot understand nor fence in.

"In practice, I’m a civic ghost, a non-being, someone unable to show the sharp eye of the doorkeeper even the slightest proof of being in the official mechanisms." - Yoani Sanchez.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Baader-Meinhof Complex

"You want to really, really taunt the grown-ups? Then say, when you have finished calling them Nazis, that their little Israeli friends are really Nazis, too. This always guarantees a hurt reaction and a lot of press."

UPDATE: J. Carter Wood, writing from environs abaft the Rhine, notes that the trailer may leave the impression of a film "heavy on retro-glamour and action and light on historical context, psychological complexity and moral judgement," but when he got around to seeing it, he was "pleased to discover a far better film" than he'd expected.

Wood points us to Andrew Hammel, who takes a properly dim view of the RAF and its legacy: "Having spent some time researching the group for a project, I came away feeling nothing but vague contempt, and complete mystification at the attention it still receives. Active RAF members fell, as near as I can tell, into two general groups: ruthless monomaniacs or deluded dupes. What united both camps was their second-rateness and insufferable pomposity. Their "manifestos" are dull and turgid; their personalities one-dimensional and unappealing. Once they began their RAF careers -- at the very latest -- most RAF cadres morphed into Godzillas of screechy self-righteous bitterness. Some former members, such as Horst Mahler, have gone downhill from there."

By that, he is referring to Mahler's attempt to rehabilitate himself by openly declaring allegiances and sentiments of the Nazi, Jew-hating variety.

Hammel also draw attention to Paul Hockenos' excellent Boston Review essay, "Left Behind: Romanticizing Germany's Urban Guerillas."

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Headline You Should Have Read: "Sima Samar Wins Nobel Peace Prize."

While everyone's wheezing about Obama's unlikely win, P.J. Tobia reports from Kabul that "the big story is about the nominee who didn’t win the prize. That would be Dr. Sima Samar, an incredibly courageous Afghan woman who has risked her life for much of the past decade, treating women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The nominee the prize committee passed on is the chair of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission:

Now 50 years old, she graduated from a Kabul medical school in the middle of the Soviet invasion. She was forced to flee Kabul for a more central part of Afghanistan, where, though barely into her training she began attempting to treat patients against a background of extreme poverty, war, and harassment by the Taliban, who have virtually criminalised the delivery of reproductive health services to women and girls. In an article for the New England Journal of Medicine she describes having “to walk or travel on horseback or by donkey for three or four hours in each direction” to get to a patient, often finding that she had died before she got there. In her long, but ultimately triumphant career, she has been forced to smuggle birth control supplies under her clothing; she has endured death threats and been jailed; her hospitals have been bombed and looted by Taliban, and her medical director jailed for a year without charges; she was appointed to the Karzai government’s legislature then forced to resign when she was made comments that were critical of sharia law in an interview with foreign journalist.

I spoke with Dr. Samar a while ago. This is what she had to say to Canadians tormented by questions about whether our soldiers should be in her country: "Finish the job you started. It's not just for protecting Afghanistan, or protecting Canadians. It is about the protection of humanity. This is a human responsibility. It isn't possible to escape this kind of responsibility."

A responsibility one cannot escape, but a responsibility the White House, nevertheless, isn't sure it should shoulder.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Taimse im chodladh

Saturday, October 03, 2009

“Remember them all. . . their faces, their names.”

Anti-fascist hero Marek Edelman is dead.

Ben Cohen reports: For Edelman himself, the struggle against totalitarian rule did not end with the defeat of the Nazis. After the war, with Poland under a communist regime, he established himself as a cardiologist in Lodz. In 1968, when the communist regime embarked on a campaign of antisemitic persecution officially dressed as “anti-Zionism,” Edelman’s wife and son fled the purges for Paris. Edelman could not abandon Poland though: he stayed put. In the 1980s, he became an activist with the Solidarity movement and was imprisoned when the regime of General Jaruzelski imposed martial law.

Remember them all.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

To My Victoria Compañeros: Monday, October 5, St. Aidan's United, 7 PM: Be There.

Monday October 5th, 7 p.m., ST. AIDAN’S UNITED CHURCH, 3703 St Aidan’s Street (Richmond & Cedar Hill X Road):

Education for Afghan Women & Girls: An evening with Jamila Akbarzai, Qudsia Karimi, Marjan Nazer & my pal Lauryn Oates (and maybe even Mohammed Ishaq Faizi, if he can get his visa sorted out in time).

The evening event is co-sponsored by Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, St. Aidan’s, and the Canadian Federation of University Women (Victoria).

Jamila: During the Mujahadeen wars, Jamila fled Kabul University for Peshawar, where she worked for the International Rescue Committee (some of you may remember the IRC workers murdered by the Taliban last year - Shirley Case of Williams Lake, Nicole Dial of Trinidad, Jackie Kirk of Montreal and Mohammad Aimal of Kabul). Jamila is the founder and director of the NGO Afghan Women’s Welfare Department. In 2002, Jamila participated in the Loya Jirga that cobbled together the first post-Taliban interim Government of Afghanistan.

Marjan: Afghan-born UBC student. From a refugee family (Canada via Pakistan), a Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan activist, this past summer Marjan volunteered at the Omid-e-Mirmun Orphanage in Kabul, where I spent some time last fall.

Qudsia: Afghan-born, refugee, raised in Iran (prohibited from attending university there, because she is Afghan), studied in Malaysia before coming to Canada in 2005, where she now heads up the UBC student group of the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee.

Lauryn: Just returned from her 15th sojourn in Afghanistan, Lauryn managed CIDA's Women's Rights in Afghanistan Fund from 2000-2006 and has directed numerous women's rights and "peacebuilding" projects in the Middle East and Central Asia at the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. Too many awards and accolades to mention. Plus she's my co-founder at the Solidarity Committee. Here's a wee story about her from today's Times Colonist. (Update: See How Afghanistan's 'rape law' got passed, Globe and Mail).

Still hoping that Ishaq will be able to leave Kabul in time to make the event. He's a great guy. Young human rights lawyer, law teacher, bundle of energy, came from a dirt-poor family of seven kids, raised by his widowed ma. His focus is on the prosecution of domestic violence, handles contentious divorce cases, has made many enemies and earned several death threats from the Taliban. Author of two books on criminal and civil law, a leading player in the first National Report on Domestic Violence Against Women. Also, with Lauryn, a driving force behind the establishment of a library in his home district of Dara. Last we heard, he'd been in a car accident on the way back from Islamabad, where he was trying to get past an extraordinary bureaucratic jerking-around about his visa.

I do hope to see everybody Monday night. Tell your friends! Do please circulate this. October 5th, 7 p.m., ST. AIDAN’S UNITED CHURCH, 3703 St Aidan’s Street (Richmond & Cedar Hill X Road).