Monday, November 29, 2010

Trotskyists I'd Be Happy To Have Around For Pints At My Local.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty. I'd ask them what they'd be having, I'd buy them a round, then I'd buy them another. Five reasons.

1. "Nine members, supporters and friends of the AWL are currently in Israel/Palestine on a solidarity delegation. At the time of writing (Sunday 28 November), we are in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. So far we have. . ." not handed a bag of cash to Hamas generalissimo Ismail Haniya.

2. Unlike George Galloway's neo-Trotskyist and blackshirt coterie in Canada, AWL knows a rat by its teeth and its tail: "Following his election as an MP for Respect, for example, Galloway’s voting record in Parliament in 2005 was 634th out of 645. Of the eleven with worse voting records, five were Sinn Fein MPs who refused as a principle to attend Parliament, one was the Speaker, and two were dead. By late 2009 he had voted in only 93 out of a possible 1,113 votes."

3. The AWL defends the Irish people even if they do misspell 'British': "James Connolly, the Irish socialist and trade union leader shot by the Beritish in May 1916 for his part in the Easter Rising, was convinced, early in the last century, that capitalism simply could not develop fully in Ireland. . . The whole international crisis of the last three years is portrayed vividly in the Irish story. Crazily irresponsible, greed-maddened, self-serving private citizens in control of the commanding heights of the economy, and running things for their own benefit."

4. The AWL's Sean Matgamna recognized the "new antisemitism" (a phenomenon that most of the "Left" persists in pretending is a right-wing hoax) as far back as 1988: "It was a doctrine that dared no longer speak its old name except in whispers and occasional back-alley fascist shouting; but by the ’70s it had another name which it dared to speak, indeed to shout, in a loud chorus in which participated most of the governments and states of the world, including some of the worst governments in existence. A new name: anti-Zionism." Matgamna was noticing antisemitism masquerading as "anti-Zionism" in the Irish Workers Group as far back as 1967-68.

5. For refusing to go along with the insane demand for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, AWL has been loudly traduced by the pseudo-left as "apologists for imperialism." So have I. We could share a few laughs.

There would be all sorts of amusing arguments, of course. But at least there would be a basis for a conversation.

I was privileged to grow up in a world where the revolutionaries, failed or successful (almost all of them failed and many of them martyred) were presented to Irish children, at home as well as at school, as the heroes, the virtuous ones. I had to change much in that, but I’ve never lost the conviction that standing against iniquity, fighting it irreconcilably, is necessary and right. - Sean Matgamna.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Afghanistan Exit Strategy: "None of this is working."

International Crisis Group: U.S. plans to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014 would lead to a collapse of the government in Kabul and serious security risks for the region.. . the key to fighting the insurgency and bringing about the conditions for a political settlement in Afghanistan lies in improving security, justice and governance.

“The exit strategy sounds fairly simple: try to pound the Taliban, build support by protecting civilians, lure disillusioned Taliban over to the government and create resilient security forces”, says Candace Rondeaux, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan. “The problem is that none of this is working.”

It's not that complicated. "Improving security, justice and governance" is the way to win, and there is no cheap and easy way to win. The key to improving security is to train up the competence and professionalism of the Afghan National Security Forces. Justice means justice - a judicial system governed by the rule of law and the Afghan constitution. Governance = democracy, which means fully free and fair elections, an accountable presidency and parliament, and a real civil service - not just a bribe factory run by a Popolzai patronage network.

If we deserve these things, Afghans deserve these things. What we desire for ourselves we demand for all - that's the progressive position. "Troops out" is for senile hippies and bourgeois reactionaries.

More: "It will take at least 15 years or more for the Afghan security forces to stand on their own," said Nadeem Akbar, a project officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

More: The handover of Canadian development projects to the U.S. in tandem with the cut in aid and the stinging criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Afghan corruption has filtered down to the impoverished streets of this city. The Taliban have also taken note, according to intelligence sources. Among rural villages they've spread word of the Canadian departure and attempted to turn it into a propaganda victory, something not unexpected.

UPDATE: Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity, including a Red Cross employee, could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer said on Sunday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"A propaganda war by the government against the election. . ."

Where's My Vote? Background here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Eating the Irish.

Paul Krugman: "Ireland is now in its third year of austerity, and confidence just keeps draining away. And you have to wonder what it will take for serious people to realize that punishing the populace for the bankers’ sins is worse than a crime; it’s a mistake."

Dan O'Brien: "Anger at Germany is matched by that towards the European Central Bank. Two weeks ago it pulled the trigger that led to the bailing out of Ireland. 'The ECB f--ked us,' said one official matter-of-factly yesterday."

Doug Saunders: "Government is gutted. Taxes rise; subsidies and grants vanish; social programs are pared back; state companies are sold; wages are slashed. . . the poor and middle classes pay the price for mistakes made by governments and bankers. Cue rioting and electoral defeats."

Irish Congress of Trade Unions: "If they go ahead with their plans, they will do irreparable damage and turn this country into a social and economic wasteland."

Bruno Waterfield: "The Irish government is taking precautions against an explosion of popular anger against a bail-out that means Ireland has handed over economic decision-making to the EU for the next three years."

The cause that called you may call tomorrow, In another fight for the Green again.

Popular Front: Bob Rae Is A Canadian Patriot And A Friend Of The Afghan People.

Petty partisanship is an amusing peacetime activity. But in times like these, you close ranks. In the House of Commons: We do not start talking about Afghanistan by saying that we want to do a tranche count of the electorate, that we want to see how we can cut up the electorate so we can appeal to this portion over that portion.That is not how I saw World War II. That is not how I have seen Korea. That is not how I have seen any conflict in which we were engaged as a country. . . This mission goes beyond partisanship.

John Ivison observes: We in the Press Gallery rarely report on parliamentary debates – usually for the very good reason they are so dull that if you don’t knit, you’d be advised to bring a book. But there are exceptions and Bob Rae’s speech in the House Thursday must rank as one of those. There are no Churchills in the current Canadian parliament — a politician who, according to his friend F.E. Smith “devoted the best years of his life to preparing his impromptu speeches” — but Mr. Rae has no peers when it comes to eloquence on the floor of the House.

All well and good, and still it is necessary to point out that Ottawa has nonetheless taken its eye off the only thing that will really matter in the end, which also happens to be the most important contribution that Canada is uniquely situated to make in Afghanistan - ensuring and enforcing the democratic legitimacy of the Afghan government: Afghan authorities arrested nine private citizens and are seeking the arrest of four election officials on allegations of fraud in September's parliamentary vote, a top prosecutor said, deepening Afghanistan's political uncertainty at a crucial juncture in the fight against the Taliban. This is not a good sign.

Where is Grant Kippen when we need him? As Ottawa retools its non-military Afghan engagement, Grant's prophetic words should be front and centre. The former head of Afghanistan's Elections Complaints Commission and a fellow member of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, Grant noted: "It is vital that all parts of the country are given the opportunity to participate equally in the elections process; that candidates are provided with an equal opportunity to campaign for office; and that no stakeholder group can claim that they were not provided with the opportunity to participate. Only if these standards are met will the 2009 and 2010 elections mark a credible milestone in Afghanistan’s democratic transition."

Like most other countries, in the Afghan struggle for democracy, Canada has been letting down the side quite badly lately. Will we pay attention now?

Odds and sods: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, hurt feelings in the Ottawa press corps. . .

Conservative MP Jim Abbott, November 25: "Canadian media coverage of Afghanistan for 10 years has been the equivalent of covering news in Canada and Canadian events by having three reporters driving around in a Vancouver police cruiser on Vancouver's east side. What would that coverage tell Canadians about Canadians' aspiration or the beauty of our land or our potential?"

Myself, April 15: "The way Canadians see Afghanistan is the way Afghans would see Canada if they had three or four reporters here who spent pretty well all their time in the back of a police wagon cruising Vancouver's downtown east side. That's not what Canada is about."

Welcome to the Popular Front, Comrade Abbott.

As for you Don Martin, stop being such a whiner. "The trouble with his view is that MPs, ministers and Governor Generals rarely experience the true grit of this mission. . ." The trouble with Martin's view is that he is getting pissy and deliberately missing Abbott's point, which is that any given time there are rarely more than three or four Canadian reporters in Afghanistan and as likely as not they'll all be embedded with the Canadian Forces in Kandahar, and not embedded with the Afghan people.

Martin doesn't help his case by bringing the memory of the Calgary Herald's Michelle Lang into it, either. Michelle had enormous respect for Canadian soldiers but she wanted to write stories about the Afghan people, outside the wire. It was in her memory that the Calgary Herald ran a baker's dozen of my essays from "outside the wire" (here's just one), which is a news media euphemism for the entire, heartbreaking, splendid and terrific country we call "Afghanistan." Some more stories about that country and its people would be a good place for Canada's journalists to begin to make amends for the distorted picture they've given Canadians about that country.

To be comfortably embedded in the Ottawa press gallery and to bitch about politicians who can dish it out as well as take it is churlishness, not journalism. More journalism about Afghanistan, please. That's the point Abbott was making.

It can be done. It's not that hard. It's not even all that dangerous. A young comrade from the Ubyssey, the student newspaper at the University of British Columbia, committed several acts of useful journalism from Afghanistan, "outside the wire," all by himself, here. Updated: A Walk to the Flower Street Cafe.

Solidarity And The Duty To Confront Fascism.

With Bernie Farber, Canadian Jewish Congress CEO, in today's Ottawa Citizen: "The cross-country tour of the disgraced former British MP George Galloway provides us both with an excellent opportunity for just such a confrontation."

Meanwhile, the sponsors and funders of Galloway's Press TV engage in a failed sleight of hand to cover the tracks of the Iranian Nazis and Hitler Fans Forum.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Lies Of George Galloway (And The News Media's Habit Of Trafficking In Them).

Read pretty well any newspaper in this country and you would be hard pressed to believe anything but the following completely upside-down version of the ongoing national George Galloway pantomime:

Canada banned the "colourful" Galloway from Canada last year, but Galloway took the goverment to court and won, and that's why he's now on his triumphant "Free Palestine, Free Afghanistan, Free Speech" tour across our country.

Galloway and his pro-fascist supporters (the swastika-emblazoned handbill on the right is from the Canadian section of Syria's fascist party, from one of Galloway's previous, un-noticed Canadian engagements) will tell you that they are "anti-war" and "progressive," too. But those lies I've already dispensed with, so here's some more civic hygiene for you.

Canada's newspapers often refer to Galloway as simply a "former British MP," and sometimes as a former British MP who was expelled from the Labour Party for his "opposition to the war in Iraq." In fact, Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003 when he was found guilty on party charges that he "incited Arabs to fight British troops, he incited British troops to defy orders. . . he threatened to stand against Labour [and] he backed an 'anti-war' candidate" against the Labour government. This isn't "opposition to the war." It's supporting the war from the other side.

After Galloway cobbled together his own "Respect Party" from a disgraced and rotten British far-left groupuscule in coalition with Britain's Islamist far-right, he took his seat in the House of Commons as a Respect MP by defeating the progressive Labour MP Oona King (whose downfall was by no means unrelated to the fact she was born of a Black father and a Jewish mother) in the constituency of Bethnall Green and Bow. Galloway was later suspended from the House of Commons for 18 days after Parliamentary anti-sleaze watchdogs found him guilty of not disclosing his links with Saddam Hussein's regime and "strong circumstantial evidence" that he'd connived with Iraq's Baathist dictatorship to rip off the UN's Iraqi oil-for-food program.

That's your "maverick" former British MP for you. But it's the big lie about Justice Mosley's September 27 Federal Court of Canada ruling on the Galloway case that you should know about. Very few journalists are liars, I should first note, but most are too overworked to get the story right, some are just lazy, and a few are simply content to keep repeating rubbish rather than have you know they've been screwing up this story all along. Here's how the lie circulates.

CTV News: Galloway "was denied entry into the country over his alleged [?] financial support of the Palestinian group Hamas." Here's the Calgary Herald: "The antiwar activist, who was barred from Canada . . . was refused entry by the Canada Border Services Agency in 2009 because he reportedly [?] donated money to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, but the decision was recently overturned." Here's a Montreal Gazette report that has Galloway "thanking federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for the 'ridiculous ban' Canada imposed on him last year, based on Galloway's alleged [?] support for terrorism," which goes on to tell us that the ruling was "quashed by a Federal Court judge." It goes on and on like this. It's all rubbish.

Galloway was not barred, banned or refused entry into Canada, and the courts did not overturn or quash any such non-exist government ban, bar, refusal or ruling. Here is what Judge Mosley actually wrote (read the whole thing yourself if you like):

"The respondents [i.e. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney et. al.] submit that whether they approve of Mr. Galloway’s political beliefs or not is legally irrelevant because his admissibility was legitimately evaluated on the basis of his own actions and in accordance with the relevant legislation. They say there is no evidence of bad faith, bias or a breach of fairness in the performance of their public duties. Moreover, they submit, no legally reviewable decision to exclude Mr. Galloway was in fact made.

"I agree with the respondents that as a matter of law this application must be dismissed. As a result of the respondents’ actions, Mr. Galloway may have been found to be inadmissible to Canada had he actually presented himself for examination to an officer at an airport or a border crossing. That did not happen. A preliminary assessment prepared by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), at the request of the respondents’ political staff, concluded that Mr. Galloway was inadmissible. The steps taken by the respondents’ departments to implement that assessment were never completed. Mr. Galloway made the decision not to attempt to enter Canada because he might be detained. Thus, the respondents’ intentions and actions did not result in a reviewable decision to exclude him."

As Galloway's kaffiyeh-clad secretarial pool persists in pointing out, the judge also wrote: "It is clear that the efforts to keep Mr. Galloway out of the country had more to do with antipathy to his political views than with any real concern that he had engaged in terrorism or was a member of a terrorist organization."

But the judge had already declared the government's "intentions" did not result in a reviewable decision (i.e. a "ban") and the judge also agreed with the government's lawyers that the government's antipathy [eminently justifed, by any anti-fascist standard] was "irrelevant" to the matter at hand. Further, the judge noted that his own opinion about the government's antipathy was "not intended in any way to convey approval of Mr. Galloway’s political views or disapproval of the respondents’ opinions."

Galloway lost. His lawyers' application was "dismissed." And yet Galloway and his fan base have consistently and successfully misrepresented the court decision as a victory and a legal disapproval of the government's "antipathy" to Galloway's politics, when Judge Mosley himself made plain that his decision should not be construed that way at all, and besides, the government's antipathy was "irrelevant." But the news media has taken up the lie, as though facts only complicate a story and the job of a journalist is merely to serve as a stenographer for every jackbooted windbag that convenes a press conference. Well sorry, but this isn't good enough. Again, to be clear: There was no ban, bar, or refusal that Galloway suffered, and no court decision overruled or quashed any such thing. Galloway lost.

There will still be useful idiots who fancy themselves to be of the "Left" who will dismiss an accounting of these facts as merely some mean "smear" of the so-called anti-war movement. They will content themselves with their own narcissistic delusion that it's just an "anti-war" movement they support, blissfully ignoring the fact that whatever you want to call the thing it has already smeared itself sufficiently with its own lies and with the fascist filth that George Galloway exists in order to keep in circulation. They may as well enjoy it while they can, too, because one day - or as my Iranian comrades say, Inshallah - there will be a reckoning.

Galloway's job as a propagandist for the Khomeinist propaganda agency Press TV makes him what trade unionists call a "scab." His work for that employer is a direct function of the Iranian regime's theft of hundreds of honest Iranian journalists' jobs, their firing, the shuttering of their newspapers, their jailing, their persecution, and their torture. Just one of Press TV's recent crimes was to serve as the official recorder of the forced confession tortured out of Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari who spent 118 days in a Tehran jail for the offence of covering last year's massive Iranian protests over the dictatorship's fraudulent presidential election. You can set aside all of Galloway's propaganda services to Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iraqi Baathists, the Taliban and the Syrian Baathists - his bosses' boy services to Press TV alone condemn him as a scab and a dirty little blackshirt.

Back in the day, the Left used to know how to deal with scabs and fascists. But supporting Galloway is defending free speech, you insist? No. It's actively aiding and abetting in the Khomeinist suppression of free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and every other fundamental human right that Galloway's spoiled rich-kid fan club demands for itself and only itself. The "anti-war" movement is all about reactionary rich-kid politics, masquerading in a troops-out and "anti-imperialist" lexicon, that would deny all these same rights and freedoms to the people of Iran, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Only this week, Britain's Ofcom regulatory agency handed down this ruling against Galloway's Khomeinist Press TV: "The broadcaster failed to engage or debate with any point of view that was contrary to the view presented by George Galloway. Rather, Ofcom is of the view that George Galloway, in particular, used the alternative opinions made by the viewers, which were contrary to his own, only as vehicles to punctuate what could be classed as a form of ongoing political polemic, delivered by the presenter directly to camera and unchallenged."

That's Galloway's notion of "free speech" for you. He is a true and loyal servant and mouthpiece for the Iranian police state. He is a demagogue and a hypocrite, and it's long past time for Canadians to grow some spine, stand up to him, and stand up to the campus-bully "anti-war" trash who serve as his butlers, security guards, coachmen, apologists and publicity agents.

ADDENDUM: Congratulations to environmentalist David Suzuki, the Green Party of Canada and NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert for exposing the "Stopwar" fiction that they are endorsers of Galloway's completely creepy Vancouver venue-arrangers. Jonathon Narvey deserves credit for committing an act of real journalism in bringing this to light, and for documenting the way Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has chosen the coward's course by persisting in the fraud that this is all about "free speech."

This is not about free speech. It never was.

Marg Bar Diktator.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Read The Sunday Observer Or Else, You Soppy Tart.

Via Comrade Cohen. Related hilarity: Do Not Believe The New York Times, Says Karzai.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Canada In Palestine, George Galloway In Canada, Fascists On Campus.

It would probably come as a surprise to most people to learn that Canada deserves credit for being one of the world's leading financial contributors to the cause of Palestinian freedom and a functioning Palestinian state. You'd never know it from reading the newspapers or all the posters on campus, but the sinister Zionist bogeyman otherwise known as Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to have arranged for more money and aid to find its way to the oppressed and downtrodden people of Gaza than all the George Galloway fundraisers, "Viva Palestina" crusades and Gaza Flotilla spectacles combined, by several orders of magnitude.

Between 1993 and 2007, Canada spent roughly $400 million in the West Bank and Gaza, and in 2007 Canada committed another $300 million to be spent over five years. Harper's wicked Ziocon Hegemonists have built on this Canadian tradition and have provided significant amounts of humanitarian aid (worth several millions of dollars) over the past year or so, alone, specifically to the people of Gaza. Canada is just wrapping up a $12 million, five-year project to help Gazans cope with the economic losses due to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, for instance.

Prime Minister Harper has actually gone much farther then his predecessors. Last year, Ottawa caught a great deal of flack for deciding to break with the tradition of scatter-gun aid disbursements to concentrate 80 percent of bilateral resources in 20 "countries of focus." Much of the criticism may have been deserved, but one of those countries - in fact the only "country of focus" identified in North Africa and the Middle East - is the country Ottawa calls "West Bank and Gaza," otherwise known as Palestine.

Canada's focus on Palestine is well warranted. By such benchmarks as poverty, food insecurity, chronic malnutrition in children, and infant mortality, Palestine does not present a pretty picture. Its "human development" indicators put it at 110th place out of 169 countries, a tie with South Africa, better than Pakistan, India and Nicaragua, but worse than Egypt, Jordan or Turkey.

It's a royal headache, and you'd have to sift through CIDA's voluminous "West Bank and Gaza" files to see for yourself how much Canadians are spending on aid and development in Gaza, but a cursory review reveals that among the Gaza-specific expenditures Canadians are currently supporting is a $4.1 million contribution to a UNICEF-run project for kids and an $8 million food-aid package for Gaza administered by the UN Relief and Works Agency, which appears to be on top of a $3 million food-aid contribution to Gaza through the UN and $1 million in food aid to Gaza through the Red Cross that Ottawa announced last January.

This, all by itself, should sufficiently expose the lie that Galloway's Canadian activists tell about their aims to "break the seige" on Gaza. It should give you at least a clue as to what Galloway's current Canadian tour is really all about. Despite his claims to the contrary, Galloway provides material, objective and propaganda support to Hamas, the worst tormentors of the Palestinian people. That is what his interventions in Palestine are for. It is what the various Gaza Flotilla spectacles are about, too.

The Foundation for Human Rights & Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the Turkish charity that partnered with the Cyprus-based Free Gaza Movement to launch last summer's flotilla, is openly affiliated with Hamas. It is also part of an umbrella coalition headed by Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who says suicide bombing is wrong except when it targets Israelis, and even pregnant Israeli women are fair game. The flotilla’s other big sponsor was the Perdana Global Peace Organization. Its founder and guiding light is Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad, who most recently asserted that European Jews “had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom. . . Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world.”

Galloway and the Hamas support network in Canada will tell you that 1. dealing with Hamas is necessary because 2. Hamas is the elected government in Gaza and 3. every aid agency must go through Hamas to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza's Palestinians. That's three lies right there. Here's Galloway saying these very things to the CBC's George Stroumboulopolis just last week. Galloway will sometimes slightly amend his self-exculpation by asserting that these are the reasons why he gave bags of cash to Ismail Haniya, the Prime Minister of Gaza (video here, with Galloway in his own words). This is also a lie.

The truth is that you don't have to give bags of money to Hamas to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza (there's UNRWA, the Red Cross, UNICEF, etc.), Hamas is not the elected government of Gaza, and it is not true that humanitarian agencies have to give over to Hamas in order to operate in Gaza. Ismail Haniya is not the Prime Minister of Gaza, unless you want to airbrush from history the fact that Haniya was dismissed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas more than three years ago. You will also want to ignore the fact that Hamas then led a putsch that smothered Palestinian democracy in its crade by seizing Gaza and turning it into a statelet sponsored mainly by the Khomeinist police-state run from Tehran. Ignore as well if you like this Arab World for Research and Development poll undertaken last month which shows that Hamas enjoys the support of 12.8 per cent of the people of Gaza (.pdf).

Galloway and his friends have been allowed to get away with their dissembling not just because of the idiocy of certain currents on the "Left" in this country but also because of the laziness and self-serving purposes of Canada's news media. Run blaring headlines proclaiming something as "fact" just once when it was really just Galloway's own propaganda and you're not likely to declare to your readers, 'Sorry, but this two-bit blackshirt and his friends actually hoodwinked us.' In a sadly typical and error-riddled account of a recent Galloway speech from just the other day, the reader is treated to the bowdlerism that Ottawa banned Galloway from entering Canada last year but the ruling was "overturned by a Federal court judge." That is Galloway propaganda. The opposite is true. The judge found that Galloway was not banned and that there was no ruling for him to overturn, and consequently, Galloway's lawyers had their claim dismissed.

"Liar" is a very serious word. So is "fascist," and to allow that word to be reduced to an epithet is to allow the meaning of words to be so diminished as to utterly occlude our understanding of political phenomena and to render analysis to the level of name-calling. This is exactly how the same elements of the self-professed "Left" in Canada that serve as Galloway's bag-carriers have reduced the perfectly respectable word "Zionist" to a mere pejorative, a term of abuse. I won't be resorting to that sort of thing here. To situate the politics of George Galloway and his sundry Canadian public-relations handlers and campus venue-arrangers in the fascist category, one should have evidence, and mean what one says. I mean it. Here's the evidence.

When I say Galloway provides material and objective support to Hamas, I mean the role he plays generally, but I also mean very specifically what George Galloway himself said he was doing, in his own words, when he handed Hamas those bags of cash. By "Hamas," I mean that organization known to Arabic speakers as Harakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah, which can be translated as the "Islamic Resistance Movement" in Palestine. Hamas is an organization characterized by the classic tendencies of European fascism and animated by the precise traits of contemporary Islamist fascism.

Hamas is an antisemitic, political and paramilitary movement. It is violently opposed to liberal democracy. Hamas makes reference to the classic antisemitic fiction known as the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in its very charter. Hamas suppresses dissent by violence and the threat of violence and looks forward to a "pure" future when its imagined homeland is cleansed of any religious, political or cultural challenge to its own version of a totalitarian Islamist hegemony. Hamas is the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Amin el-Husseini was slaughtering Jews and non-Islamist Arabs in Palestine in the 1930s, long before the state of Israel was born, with arms provided by the National Socialist German Workers Party, known to most of us as "the Nazis."

In place of the Third Reich, Hamas nowadays is sponsored mainly by the Khomeinist tyranny in Iran, a regime that displays all the usual Euro-fascist and Islamist-fascist hallmarks, and which employs Galloway as a propaganda agent in his capacity as a celebrity presenter for the regime's Press TV. Here's Galloway on his Press TV show, powdering the nose of the holocaust-denying Khomeinist thug Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

To be fair, you'd have to look long and hard to find a tyranny or a fascist dictator of the Islamist or the Baathist kind upon whose boots Galloway has not slobbered. The Taliban "are not an enemy to me," Galloway has admitted. Here he is sucking up to the clerical-fascist Hezbollah: "I glorify the leader of Hizbollah, Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah." Here he is lavishing praise upon Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." On Syria's Baathist dictatorship: "Syria is lucky to have Bashar Al-Assad as her president."

Galloway's fascist rap sheet goes on and on like this, so we can stop right about here. But before we leave Galloway's admiration of the Syrian regime entirely, his particular affection for the most outwardly and unapologetically fascist faction in Syria's ruling coalition has a specific Canadian connection. It was four years ago this month that Galloway came all the way to Canada to attend a celebration of the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Ottawa. The SSNP has its own distinctive swastika, its own Nazi-style uniforms and an anthem that's sung to the tune of Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles. These are the people George Galloway likes to party with.

If you don't get it by now and you still fancy yourself to be all progressive and leftish when you go and give Galloway the standing ovations he craves, there's no hope for you. If you read this and get it and continue to have truck or trade with Galloway and the cult he's built around himself in this country, then you are my enemy, and all I will say to you for now is: Hey, nice boots.

"Statements constituting propaganda."

The tromping of Turkish jackboots:

1. November 11 - Turkish Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin accuses the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) of violating Turkey’s 'Law on Political Parties' by letting its members speak Kurdish at a meeting. Apparently the deputy leader of the party was also heard to deliver a speech in Kurdish.

2. November 19 - Aisling Reidy of Human Rights Watch observes that the Turkish government's arbitary persecution of legal political parties by sham resort to anti-terrorism laws has resulted in charges being brought against peaceful protestors, 152 members and officials of the former Democratic Society Party and its successor the Peace and Democracy Party (which has 20 members in parliament), mayors, a prominent human rights defender, and lawyers. Across Turkey around 1,700 party members are in detention. "The arbitrary use of anti-terror laws against acts of political opposition violates human rights central to a functioning democracy - freedom of expression, association and assembly -- and undermines the rule of law."

3. November 22 - Nineteen parliamentary deputies of the Peace and Democracy Party face a combined 2,473 years in prison for 544 cases opened against them. Charges allege the deputies made statements constituting propaganda.

Not unrelated, "the solidarity of a Sunni Kurdish Socialist is a prize more worth having": How strange it is that a brave and humane social democrat is now the elected president of Iraq, attracting approximately zero sympathy from the Western liberal left.

Comparitive Analysis: The Taliban Position and the Troops-Out Position.

Setting aside the ridiculous claims the two camps make for themselves, can anyone draw any fundamental distinctions between the latest analysis offered by the self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the "Taliban") and the various and sundry pronouncements of Canada's self-proclamed "anti-war" movement (Steve Staples of Ceasefire, the Canadian Peace Alliance, etc.)?

To assist you in your inquiries, here is the Reponse of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan As Regards Lisbon Meeting. Here is what the Canadian Peace Alliance (such an amusing boast) has to say about the directly-related Canadian decision to stick around with a military troop-training project in Afghanistan. Plus a Ceasefire petition. Plus various ruminations from the towering intellectual giant Steve Staples on the subject.

Just asking is all.

Just for fun, here's the Toronto Star's Haroon Siddiqui: Afghanistan - It's Even Worse Than You Thought, and here's the Taliban's Voice of Jihad: The Americans can no longer conceal their defeat in the Kandahar operations.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Clarity and Cluelessness on Canada's New Mission in Afghanistan.

What follows is an attempt to explain how it has come to pass that the good people of India, Nigeria and Kenya appear to have a clearer view of what NATO is up to in Afghanistan than Canadians do.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in Lisbon, November 20: “What I and others told President Karzai was the support of our governments and indeed our populations depend on the government of Afghanistan’s respect for and its acting upon basic principles — respect for democracy, for the rule of law and fair elections, for human rights, for good governance and for cleaning up corruption.”

Most excellent. I couldn't be happier. But there is a problem.

In the official Canadian statement issued November 16, we were told that Canada's new mission in Afghanistan would be about "education and health; advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, including through the provision of up to 950 trainers for Afghan security forces; promoting regional diplomacy; and helping deliver humanitarian assistance." Fine. With the exception of the military training role Canada has promised, we have known this since last spring, and the Globe and Mail usefully confirmed what we knew on August 24.

Here's where the problem comes into it. It is probably as much a problem with the national news reporting on Canada's contributions in Afghanistan as it is a problem with the Harper government's often-cited inability to "explain the mission":

Today we're told "The government announced last week that it would spend $500 million annually on military training in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014 and that aid would total $100 million annually. That’s half of the $205 million spent on aid to Afghanistan last year." But last week, we were told that $500-million of $700-million allocated annually for Canada’s three-year post-combat mission will be spent on providing up to 950 military trainers and support personnel to help the NATO military alliance fulfill its training goals; and the development and aid budget for Afghanistan will be $100-million annually.

Where did the phantom $100 million a year just go? Will the new military mission cause us to lose "half of the $205 million" we spent on "development and aid" last year, which is to say roughly $100 million annually that Canada could otherwise be spending in Afghanistan on education, health, the rule of law, human rights and so on?

Last spring, CIDA's anticipated budget for Afghanistan was $100 million, $80 million and $75 million in each of the next three years. That's only $255 million, which seems to suggest that we've gained $45 million in the $300 million in aid we're now said in one version to be planning to spend over the next three years. So which is it? Have we lost $300 million in the non-military Afghanistan budget over the next three years or have we gained $45 million?

My suspicion is the discrepancy can be at least partly explained by the savings gained by shifting non-military contributions out of Kandahar, where security costs are so damn high. It is a good thing that Canada now has a more country-wide focus; the Yanks can make up the difference in Kandahar. It is a screaming disgrace that Kandahar's Afghan-Canadian Community Centre school, which has graduated more than 1,000 Kandaharis |(mostly women) with diplomas into hgh-paying jobs, now has to go grubbing around for cash from US Aid. But we've known about that scandal for months, too, even if most Canadians haven't had a clue.

That Canadians have been left clueless about Afghanistan is not new, either, but this week's dailies do happen to present us with some shining illustrations of the reason this is so.

Exhibit A: Crackpot Gerald Caplan, whose last contribution to the Globe and Mail (yes, the venerable Globe) was to offer Prime Minister Harper advice on the Israel-Palestine imbroglio in the form of a reading list which included a book by the lunatic 911-Truther Michael Keefer. Today, Caplan is obliged to rely on the usual racist caricature of the Afghan people ("Just about every male except babies and toddlers has a gun and can use it") and the conspiracy theory of a "Harper-Rae Coalition" to conclude: "We can do nothing about it. Foreigners have no constructive role to play. It’s time they all got out."

Exhibit B: Two days ago, reported in The National Post: "A narrow majority of Canadians support keeping upwards of 1,000 troops in Afghanistan until 2014 to train Afghan forces, says a new Ipsos-Reid poll that also shows the decision is most popular with westerners and men."

What is at the root of this disorientation? The best explanation I know about is revealed in an ambitious 20-country opinion poll conducted under the auspices of the University of Maryland's World Public Opinion initiative, which shows global opinion similarly split, with the following insight: "Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to leave, 76 percent say that NATO forces should leave. Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to stay, 83 percent say NATO forces should stay."

I don't have any polling data to prove it, but I would bet a dollar to a dime that most Canadians believe the lie that most Afghans want NATO forces to leave their country. The primary function of Canada's so-called "anti-war" activists is to make you to believe that lie, and Canada's punditocracy has encouraged you to believe it.

I would also bet a dollar to a dime that if most Canadians knew the truth, which is that the overwhelming majority of Afghans have consistently supported and continue to support NATO's efforts in their country, Canadian support for a robust Afghan mission would be overwhelmingly favorable, and we'd be closer to the relative sophistication of Indians, Kenyans and Nigerians. And then we could move the Canadian debates out of the weeds, to questions that really matter.

Here's just one question we should be debating: How can Canadians best put their backs into the cause Prime Minister Harper articulated in Lisbon - the cause of Afghan democracy, the rule of law and fair elections, human rights, and good governance?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bob Rae, Mensch: 'Partisan Gamesmanship And All That.'

I swiped the following, the whole thing, from Bob Rae's website. For all you from-aways, Bob's the Foreign Affairs Critic for Canada's Liberal Party. He is a Canadian patriot and a friend of the Afghan people.


The notion that all is fair in politics and war, and that every situation is only about tactics, partisan advantage and endless games of gotcha, seems to have seized the imagination of some commentators about the decision to allow military trainers to stay behind the wire in Afghanistan.

“Liberals played for suckers” seems to sum up this view.

I guess if you think politics is all about holding a wet finger to the wind that would be true. But it’s worth remembering that the most popular politician in the western world in 1938 was Neville Chamberlain, whose placating of public opinion was best summarised when he told the world it wasn’t worth getting all worked up about an argument in a small far away country about which people knew very little.Justify Full

No doubt there might be short term partisan advantage in playing to the gallery about its fatigue with the Afghanistan engagement. It is a difficult, frustrating, costly, and painful military and political conflict. It is hard to see a road to success, and hard as well to see much progress in the life and condition of the people. “Troops out now” would win much applause.

We went into Afghanistan with our NATO partners, with the full approval of the United Nations. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, ravaged by 30 years of civil war. Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have found a haven in the south of the country and the north of Pakistan.

Of course all issues are about politics. But some issues can transcend partisanship. In every other country in the NATO alliance there is multipartisan support for efforts in Afghanistan, a willingness to discuss options, in a climate of public candour.

Why should Canada be any different ? Our political culture is now all about trench warfare. Everything is supposed to seen through a partisan lens, and everything played to short term advantage. Anyone who asks “what’s best for Afghanistan ?”, or “what’s best for Canada, our role as a reliable member of NATO and the UN ?” is portrayed as some kind of poor sap who doesn’t “get” politics.

It’s called doing what you think is right, talking to the public about it, and worrying less about who gets credit. There’s something almost pathological about the state of our politics, to say nothing of political commentary, if we can’t have that kind of conversation.

There should continue to be a debate about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and how to deal with the range of failed and fragile states that are emerging across the world. But enough with the nonsense about who played the partisan game better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

'If Ye Break Faith With Us Who Die, We Shall Not Sleep.'

The two-year paralysis that so utterly enfeebled Canada in the matter of this country's post-2011 re-dedication to Afghanistan is now officially over. Ottawa has come out of its coma, and now rejoins the company of the grown-ups in the 43-member International Security Assistance Force. With today's announcement, we take our place once again as a leader in the international cause of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic.

For two full years, in spite of the pleadings of the Conservative government, the House of Commons refused to show any leadership at all on the question of Canada's post-2011 role in Afghanistan. It is an irony of the most spectacular kind that when 11th-hour statesmanship was revealed to be finally breaking the impasse last week, the main thing the pundits instructed us to do was to join them in their harrumphing and trousers-wetting about Stephen Harper's supposed contempt for the House of Commons.

We should recall that for two full years the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan refused to discharge its duties, in contempt of the Parliament by which its duties were assigned. Instead, it turned itself into a lurid chamber for the most foul (and groundless) "torture" allegations against members of the Canadian Forces. It had become like some kind of celebrity television show where the contestants were challenged to find ways to put the name of a cabinet minister in the same sentence with the words "war criminal."

It's finally over.

The Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee spent much of the past year running a national campaign to try and help break the Parliamentary paralysis with a new vision for Canada's role in Afghanistan. Our work took us back and forth from Kabul, Ottawa, Toronto, Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Ottawa again. Hundreds of Afghans and Canadians (especially Afghan-Canadians) were directly involved in the effort. Among them were Canadian soldiers and the parents of dead soldiers, Canadian and Afghan journalists, Afghan MPs, women's rights activists, academics, diplomats, Afghan Opposition leaders and not a few cookie-baking United Church women.

I would like to think we made some small contribution to keeping the debate alive at least, but no matter. All credit goes to Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, House Special Committee on Afghanistan leader Laurie Hawn, Pamela Wallin and Romeo Dellaire of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, and not a few other Parliamentarians from all parties who would probably prefer that their names be left unmentioned for the moment. Did I mention Bob Rae? Oh yes, I see I did. I'll mention him again: Bob Rae.

The new deal isn't quite what the Solidarity Committee suggested for a Canadian military re-dedication, but that wasn't our main concern or our area of expertise, and the result is close enough anyway. Apart from the trainers - here's another irony for you - almost the entire package unveiled today was known to most of us since last spring, and was reported in the Globe and Mail August 24. The general outline, at least, was there all along.

Canadians should not be impressed to know that two of the four "key areas" of Canada's new mission still fall into the vaguely-defined "humanitarian assistance" and disingenuously-described "promoting regional diplomacy" categories. Anyone can chuck UN gruel bags from the back of a truck. "Regional diplomacy" is usually a euphemism for sinister triangulations between Riyadh, Islamabad and Tehran that threaten to sacrifice Afghan sovereignty on the altar of an Anglo-American exit-strategy. This is not good.

It is right and proper that Canada's first "key area" of post-2011 engagement refers to investments in education and health. But it is worrisome in the extreme that Canada's new 950-trainer contribution has been merely tacked on to what was first articulated as a priority for "advancing the rule of law and human rights." This is the thing that should be galvanizing our attention now. One purpose cannot be put at the expense of the other. It is not clear whether the "training role" will be funded at least partly by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

It is more than just a good thing that Canada's military will continue to put its broad shoulders to the wheel of building up the capacity, competence and professionalism of the Afghan National Security Forces. But we must not allow this to come at the cost of the covenant that has been written in the blood of so many Canadian soldiers already. This is the solemn covenant that binds Canada to the Afghan people. It is the heart of the whole bloody, grisly matter.

Let someone else distribute UN gruel bags. If Canada is to have a role in "regional diplomacy" it should be to ensure that Afghanistan's regional tormentors are kept at bay and that their Islamist-fascist proxies in Afghanistan are not empowered by any exit-strategy reconciliation deal. A post-2011 Canadian "legacy" must neither dishonour the Canadian dead nor betray the living Afghans we have beckoned out into the light after 30 years of barbarism and oppression.

The deal the Canadian government made with the Canadian people and the Afghan people was and remains the cause of peace, order, and good government, the mutual security of Afghans and Canadians, the emancipation of Afghan women and the defence of a sovereign Afghan republic. The sacrifice our soldiers and their families have made since 2005 was specifically intended to defend and to nourish the embryonic institutions of Afghan democracy. We must not take our eyes off that prize now - not for one minute.

That labour has only now begun. We should put our backs into it.

UPDATE: As I was saying. . .The Afghan government and the international community must prioritise the rule of law, which should be the primary pillar of a successful counter-insurgency strategy. “At the highest level of the judiciary, the Supreme Court has emerged as both bully pulpit for Islamists and proxy ballot box for President Karzai, supporting him with little regard for the constitution”.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Theatre Of The Absurd: Are These Liberal MPs "Terrorist" Supporters?

I can't decide whether to laugh or spit. The baying of the hounds begins.

The CBC has revealed nothing particularly new here: "Five Liberal members of Parliament say they did nothing wrong when they accepted an invitation from an Iranian opposition group on Canada's terrorist list." I say the same - they did nothing wrong. As was quite proper, MPs Raymonde Folco, Carolyn Bennet, Rob Oliphant, Andrew Telegdi and Tom Wappel filed with the federal ethics commissioner the details their 2008 and 2009 visits to France at the invitation of Mojahedin e Khalq, also known as the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran. That is the big "news."

In June this year, I myself happily accepted an invitation to attend the same annual gathering of the National Council of the Resistance in Iran, the umbrella group that includes the People's Mojahedin -which is in fact a decidedly non-terrorist group, no matter what Canada's ridiculous, broken and unenforceable "anti-terrorist" laws have to say about the subject. I made the trip under my own steam, as if that should matter. I reported about it here.

In Paris I was proud to be in the company of the MPs Oliphant, Folco, Yasmin Ratansi and Pablo Rodriguez, human rights activist David Matas, former MP and current Burnaby - New Westminster Conservative candidate Paul Forseth, and former Alberta MP David Kilgour (who served as the emcee for the 2009 Paris gathering, attended by about 90,000 Iranians from around the world). Kilgour is as principled and committed a democrat as you will meet in a day's walk.

It can't be repeated often enough: The NCRI/PMOI is not a terrorist group. It doesn't matter what you or I think of their politics. The NCRI/PMOI has been given a clean bill of health by several European investigations and court decisions. The only reason the "terrorist" slander is legally applied to the PMOI in Canada is because the Americans do it. The only reason the Americans do it is to because Bill Clinton wanted to make kissy-face with the Iranian mullahs back in the day, and the mullahs wanted the Mojahedin listed by the Yanks. No wonder: The Mojahedin are Tehran's Worst Nightmare.

The result, whatever one thinks of the PMOI's politics or its past, is that the constitutional rights of all Canadians to freely associate with a major Iranian democratic front is arbitrarily circumscribed, usurped and trampled upon. It is all the rage these days to pronounce oneself a champion of free speech, but the inextricably-related freedom of association? Not so much.

Even as these Liberal MPs are being unfairly tarnished with the "terrorist" brush, we have the clerical-fascist Iranian regime's most effective propaganda agent, George Galloway, who is also the most eager fundraiser in the "west" for the unambiguously terrorist organization Hamas, applying bikini wax to his ugly face for another round of speaking engagements in Canada. What should you expect? Expect more lies.

That is what it has come to. The NCRI/PMOI is effectively criminalized in Canada, and brave Canadian parliamentarians who take the time to stand in solidarity with the Iranian resistance are publicly traduced, while agents of the Iranian police state - a regime that jails and murders trade unionists, womens rights' activists, and even hip-hop enthusiasts, if you don't mind - are allowed to operate openly in Canada and to come and go as they damn well please.

I'm getting tired of pointing this out: Here we have the red-fascist demagogue George Galloway doing what he does best, opening a new propaganda campaign for Islamist fascism aimed at the west’s liberal intelligentsia. Here we have one of Galloway’s most slavish admirers in the Canadian establishment media, doing Galloway’s propaganda for him. The clear evidence against Galloway hasn’t made a jot of difference. He’ll be warmly embraced. As he is here. Do you really need more?

A good primer on the legal issues involved in the Galloway fiasco is presented here, courtesy of the Osgoode Hall Law School: "George Galloway Was Never 'Barred' From Canada For His Politics": "
The definition of 'terrorism' provided in s. 83.01 of the Criminal Code provides that the offence requires a mental element." It is not sufficient that the accused knowingly participated in or contributed to a terrorist group. It must also be shown that the accused "intended to aid or facilitate its terrorist activity.”

Thus, plausible deniability is offered as a legal defence to every nutcase who might want to send a huge bag of cash to Al Qaida: 'Gee, I thought they would just use the money to produce public-service announcements about Islamophobia.' Thus, even a greasy little blackshirt and Hamas bagman like Galloway can slip in and out of Canada, untroubled by the law. A "mental element" indeed.

To make matters even more absurd, Canada's anti-terrorism laws make no distinction between clearly anti-democratic acts of terror aimed at civilians and legitimate acts of revolutionary violence (or even self-defence) aimed against police-states. There is a difference.

Fix the law.

In Paris with the NCRI/Mojahedin: Obscure American celebrity John Bolton with Canadian Liberal MP Rob Oliphant:

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Canucks in Afghanistan Post-2011: 'Journalism' conceals what it purports to reveal.

OTTAWA—Canadian troops could remain “behind the wire” in Afghanistan involved in training local troops after their combat mission ends next summer, the Star has learned.

If that's the case then Canada's fattest newspaper, the Toronto Star, has just admitted without the slightest trace of embarassment or irony that it has only now "learned" what perhaps millions of Canadians have known for months - that Canadian troops "could remain" in Afghanistan in some sort of training role after July, 2011.

Defence Minister Peter Mackay has conceded this possibility more than once. The Opposition Liberals have explicity urged Prime Minister Harper to consider a training role for Canadian troops. The Conservatives on the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence have suggested a post-2011 training role for our soldiers. Not a few members of the Conservative cabinet and caucus have indicated their warmth to the idea. The House Special Committee on Afghanistan - even its New Democratic Party members -has expressed its willingness to consider a proposal along those very lines.

The Toronto Star's Bruce Campion-Smith is a fine reporter, but his awkward resort to the antique journalistic convention "the Star has learned" reveals two things. First, the steam-whistle construction of that sentence would have been useful only if the Star had "learned" that everything we already thought we knew about this was wrong, when in fact the opposite is the case - this should tell you that the "news" is actually happening elsewhere. Second, the newsworthiness of what Campion-Smith has learned is fatally occluded by his necessary source-protection resort to the euphemism "senior government official." It's there that the newsworthiness of this story, such as it is, truly lies.

In sum, it looks like the PMO's reptilian strategy of being deliberately (and disgracefully) obtuse on the matter of Canada's post-2011 role in Afghanistan may be at last shedding its tail or laying an egg or eating its young or something. Whatever is happening, you won't learn much from the Toronto Star article, and if there is anything faintly newsworthy in its content you don't come to it until the 11th paragraph.

After we are told that the Star's "source" has referred to Canada's decision to pull its combat troops as "non-negotiable" (it would be only newsworthy if the source had said the opposite), we learn: "That's a message Prime Minister Stephen Harper intends to deliver in several weeks in Lisbon, Portugal, when he meets with fellow NATO leaders." Thus, even the buried substance of the story has a whole dog-bites-man quality to it. If Harper were intending to say anything other than that in Lisbon, then we would have had the potential for a news story here.

But something newsworthy does appear to be happening. You can tell because CTV News is running with a similarly weird dispatch, except in CTV's case the first sentence is directly contradicted by the third sentence of its own report. First we're told that "some" Canadian soldiers will move to Kabul to train Afghan troops, and then we're told no "final" decision has been taken, and indeed troop-training is only one of three options under consideration by cabinet.

Where's the news in that? The news is that the PMO appears to have finally allowed the federal cabinet to actually talk about it. In the sleepy-hollow atmosphere of Ottawa, this is actually bombshell stuff. Norman Spector wants to reduce it all to a case of the Prime Minister "flip-flopping." It is nothing of the kind. Prime Minister Harper has committed no flip from which to flop. He has kept shtum, like some sort of pensive emir, and he's been allowed to get away with it. For more than a year.

You can bet that the "news" that Canada might have soldiers in Afghanistan post-2011 will incite all the usual hysterics among the troops-out faction. Their loudest windbags will be upset that Harper, their quietest but most influential fellow traveler, appears now to be allowing his officials to leave the hoi-polloi with the impression that he might not object to the sort of scheme that Parliament would obviously endorse, if he'd succumbed to the whim to allow Parliament to consider the matter in the first place.

Either that, or the prime minister's handlers have simply decided that it's better to have the punditocracy blathering on about what all this "news" might mean than having attention too closely paid to just how outrageously Ottawa has been screwing over Canada's veterans and wounded soldiers.

Or maybe it's simply a case of journos attending this conference and trying to get some sort of response to such comments as were heard from the Yankee Senator John McCain: "We try to point out to the Canadian government and people that we appreciate all the sacrifices that have been made enormously, but we also would hope that they would consider leaving trainers there."

You can keep your appreciation, Senator. Canadian soldiers have not been fighting and dying in the dust of Afghanistan so that they might be better appreciated by the King of Amerikay. We weren't there to please his less-glamorous predecessor, and we shouldn't be expected to stay in Afghanistan to make Barack Obama happy, either. Yes, he is very different than the geezer who sat on the throne before him. He's got a nice Jewish first name and an Irish last name. So what?

Which brings us to the question: What have our soldiers been fighting and dying for, anyway? What is a fitting post-2011 Canadian tribute to their sacrifice and suffering? How can we more deeply entrench the institutions of peace, order and good government among our brave Afghan allies all over their country, in all the democratic spaces opened up by Canadian soldiers these past four years down in the ditches of Kandahar?

There is no debate worth having except that one, and it doesn't matter if the exit-strategy-obsessed Americans or our own troops-out prime minister might worry about the result. It should be a robust, open and public debate. It should be led by Parliament, not followed by Parliament.

Some proper journalism would help it along, too.

UPDATE: Here is some proper journalism. Not much new, though, except for evidence that little Denmark is braver than Canada.