Thursday, March 31, 2011

Afghanistan: The Voices Of The Living, The Voices Of The Dead.

"There is a lack of proper communication in your country about Afghanistan. They don't see all the good progresses," Fawzia Koofi, the courageous and tireless young MP from Badakhshan and deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament, told me in Kabul last year. "For me, the hope is for the younger generation. Young men are voting for women. The society is under a big transformation, and there are people who don't want to see this.

"In Canada, the people don't see this." And why is that? "The problem is that they listen to Malalai Joya."

Koofi was referring to the glamorous and globetrotting celebrity who delivered the keynote speech at the New Democratic Party's historic 2006 convention in Quebec City, when the NDP decided to become the first mainstream centre-left party in the English-speaking world to officially close its ears to the voices of the Afghan people, and to listen to reassuring rhetoric of Malalai Joya instead.

It was at its 2006 Quebec gathering that the NDP adopted its atrocious policy on Afghanistan, framed in the transparently passive-aggressive slogan: "Support The Troops, Bring 'em Home." Joya high-fived with NDP leader Jack Layton and NDP eminence Stephen Lewis, and then went on to become the most famous flatterer of the rich and war-weary white liberals who dominate the Afghanistan debates in NATO's capitals. Last year, Time Magazine chose Joya for its list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Among most Afghans, meanwhile, Joya is at best dimly remembered as someone who once gave a speech in Afghanistan, caused a scene, and then high-tailed it to Canada or someplace. In the better neighbourhoods of Toronto, Los Angeles, London and Vancouver, you can win bets by wagering that Malalai Joya is the only Afghan woman whose name anyone has ever heard. Among Afghanistan's democrats and reformers, and among women's rights leaders like Fawzia Koofi, Malalai Joya's name is rarely mentioned at all except in a tone of pity, ridicule or contempt.

On Wednesday, Yannick Scherrer came home to us from Kandahar in a coffin. His cortege made its way from CFB Trenton down the old King's Highway, now known as the Highway of Heroes, into the heart of Toronto. Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, 24, of 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment - the Van Doos - was the 155th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan so that the voices of women like Fawzia Koofi might be heard in the land.

Just for once, I reckoned, it would be nice to crank down the volume from that cacophony of privileged and self-congratulating "anti-war" voices just enough so that Yannick's heartbroken parents, at least, might hear one or two voices among those of the millions of brave Afghans who don't talk the kind of trash Joya talks, and who know something of the sorrow the Scherrers are suffering. So here's another voice.

“For these eight years, the solidarity of your soldiers, all that they have done, everyone in Afghanistan knows about the Canadian casualties," Shafiqa Habibi, an Ahmedzai Pashtun of regal bearing, told me in Kabul. Habibi is one of Afghanistan’s most beloved and prominent journalists. Her trusted voice was silenced during the Taliban tyranny, but owing to the courage of young soldiers like Yannick Scherrer, Habibi was back on the airwaves by the winter of 2001, a confident and dependable television presenter. “Canada was always our friend,” Habibi told me. "We are really sad about Canadian soldiers’ casualties in Afghanistan."

It was last weekend that Cpl. Scherrer was blown apart by an "improvised explosive device" while he was on a foot patrol near Nakhonay, southwest of Kandahar City. It was also last weekend that Malalai Joya was in comfortable company at Harvard, instructing her followers that NATO's "war criminals" and "occupation forces" should be withdrawn from Afghanistan immediately. As usual with these events, none of the smart people at Harvard appear to have asked Joya to explain how it could be that not once in the ten years since September 11 has Afghan public opinion come even close to agreeing with her preposterous demand that NATO troops simply up and quit the country.

In an instructive interruption of the mood music emanating from Joya's current tour among the rich and fashionable of the western world, the bright young Afghan intellectual Nushin Arbabzadah, a visiting scholar at UCLA's Center for India and South Asia, has taken the trouble to point out the sordid truth that Joya's well-placed admirers do not want you to know. While the rhetoric Joya employs "resonates with the leftist circles of the west who are her chief audience," back in Afghanistan, Joya is a nobody.

Joya is the mouthpiece of the clownish remnant of a 1970s-era Afghan Maoist faction (Arbabzadah does not name it, but it is the so-called Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, an outfit with more supporters among the elderly hippies of Southern California than among Afghans). That's all Joya was when she was drawn to the bosom of the NDP in 2006, and that's all she is now. "Needless to say, such nuances have been lost on the western media who presented Joya's provocations as a woman's struggle for rights and democracy," Arbabzadah writes. "After all, in the simplistic world of western politics, a young woman fighting bearded old men simply cannot be wrong."

Last year, when Malalai Joya was traversing the celebrity circuit in Canada to dole out precisely the same drivel her American audiences are lapping up this week, my good friend Babur Mawladin, president of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, issued a caution.

Babur wrote: "When individuals such as Malalai Joya demand the withdrawal of foreign troops, before peace has been achieved, they are effectively saying they want Afghanistan to be drawn back into the darkness of the Taliban time, of civil war, of bloodshed. I can only be suspicious of someone who would take such a position. Meanwhile, thousands of Afghan womens rights activists, women MPs and other progressives who actually still live in Afghanistan, unlike Malalai Joya, are giving the opposite message. They want democracy, rights for women and girls, and to be protected and supported by the world community, unlike in the past when the world turned its back on us, leading to the Taliban taking power and then to the attacks of September 11th. But their voices are not heard."

If you listen to these voices - Koofi, Habibi, Arbabzadah and Mawladin - you will know something that those with the loudest voices who claim to "support the troops" do not want you to know. You will know that for all the grave errors everyone has made since September 11, 2001, the cause of a free and sovereign Afghan republic is not lost, and the sacrifices of our soldiers and their families have not been in vain. You will know that the cause that brought Yannick Scherrer and all those other young men and women back to Canada by way of a solemn procession down the old King's Highway is a cause that is as gallant as it is just.

Monday, March 28, 2011

After Weeks Of Pipsqueaking, Obama Claims Credit for Saving Libya.

While I was listening to Barack Obama say uplifting things about the Libyan intervention on Monday I could have sworn I heard him more or less claim credit for the whole thing. So I checked Obama's speech transcript, and you know what? That's exactly what he did. No wonder Americans are so confused about what the heck is going on.

Long after Libyans were being slaughtered on the streets for having had the audacity to wave protest placards, and well after an armed uprising was in full swing, and the rebels were crying out for help, Obama was still putting bets on basketball games or something. Even after Mad Moammar had vowed to fight to the last drop of other Libyans' blood, White House spokesman P.J Crowley was telling the perplexed Washington press corps: "Again, you know, this ultimately and fundamentally an issue between, you know, the Libyan government, its leader, and the Libyan people."

Hell, even Peruvian president Alan Garcia was out of the blocks before "the leader of the free world" was. President Garcia was calling on the UN Security Council to order and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya before President Obama had even decided on whether to send Hilary Clinton off to Geneva to say mean things about Gaddafi's human rights record.

The Libyans were facing massacre. "I refused to let that happen," Obama boasted in his speech. He did? What actually happened was Obama was still asking for the Arab League's permission for America to do something after France was already meeting with the Libyan rebel leadership and preparing to recognize them as Libya's legitimate government.

And get this: "At my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass an historic Resolution that authorized a No Fly Zone to stop the regime's attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people." Like hell. Security Council resolution 1973 was proposed by Lebanon, France and Britain. The Americans came in with an assist, and nobody even knew for sure how the US was going to vote until almost the last minute.

"Wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States," Obama intoned. Really?

There are a million Bahrainis who long to be free, and they could sorely use a friend in the United States right now, but as I write this they are being shot and beaten jailed and hunted in the backstreets of Manama, right under the ships' guns of the US Fifth Fleet.

Some friend.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Heart Geordies. Mackems As Well.

A musical, sung and performed by the workers and riders of the Tyne & Wear Metro system. Brilliant.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Eye On The Unfolding Revolution.

After a few days offline, February 17 appears to be back up and running at a different URL. For Libyan freedom, democracy and regime change, here. It is long past time for the democracies participating in the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to follow the French lead and recognize the Libyan National Council as the provisional government of Libya. Just bloody well get on with it. The sham of regime-engagement must end. Now.

On to Damascus: To keep up with events in the rapidly escalating Syrian revolution, the Damascus Bureau is the place to go. It's the home of the constantly-updated Syrian Revolution Digest, run by the Syrian patriot and liberal democrat Ammar Abdulhamid, now living in exile in America.

There's no more time for yesbuttery, whataboutery or butwhatiffishness. Every police state is different, and each requires different responses from the world's democracies. But in each case, the principle is the same. Wherever there are democrats rising up against tyrants, whether in peaceful protests or armed struggle, we should side with them. They must be our first "interlocutors," not the regimes that oppress them.

We have to stop wasting time and energy asking ourselves stupid questions about the propriety of regime change, about whether a tyrant's cruelties meet the threshold for the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, and about whether the fictional "Muslim world" will be upset if "we" intervene in "their" affairs. Whether it is Iran, Libya, Syria, or Yemen, our first questions must be: Who are our comrades? What do they want from us? How can we get it to them? The rest is noise.

I no longer have any patience for the question: "What are we supposed to do?" The answer is not complicated, no matter what the overfed and disgraced western foreign-policy establishment says. The answer is simple: We do everything we can. That is all that is required of us. That is all anyone is asking of us. That is the only thing we have ever needed to do.

Just do it. Marg Bar Diktator.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"We Will Steal What We Can, In The Struggle To Be Free."

The peculiarity of what passes for a Canadian "left" is helpfully exposed by such crises and opportunities as are now posed by the ongoing effort to bring down the savage billionnaire and slave-owner Moammar Gaddafi. Where a "progressive" standpoint should be there is instead a masquerade. It is a sham, and what it is intended to conceal is a comfortable and isolationist parochialism, modulated according to fashion between adolescence and senility.

On the Libya question, predictably, the limited bandwith ranges from yesbuttery to whataboutery to an outright butwhatifisshness that is indistinguishable from paleoconservative reaction. It is causing Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star to sound more like the Yankee dingbat Pat Buchanan with every passing hour. Its drooling anti-imperialism is merely an anti-Americanism that is, parodoxically and hilariously, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American zombie-left.

Because it's Friday and I've got a lot of work to do before the day's done, I thought I'd just present a handful of contrasting analyses and perspectives from the still-living left. A range of perspectives is readily at hand.

By way of the always-reliable American progressive journalist Marc Cooper, here's the key question, posed Lebanese-British Marxist Gilbert Achcar, whose point of view is not to my tastes (nor to Marc's) but nevermind: "Can anyone claiming to belong to the left just ignore a popular movement’s plea for protection, even by means of imperialist bandit-cops, when the type of protection requested is not one through which control over their country could be exerted? Certainly not, by my understanding of the left." In a similar vein, here's Clive Bradley over at Workers' Liberty: "To oppose – that is, demonstrate against, and make a serious effort to prevent – the limited military action against Qaddafi, is to tell the rebels in Benghazi “you’re on your own.” What socialist would want to send out such a message? Only one not deserving the name."

Another sensible socialist articulation of the necessity of solidarity with the Libyan rebels is put forth by the Worker-communist Party of Iran - but then I would say that, wouldn't I? I've long been an admirer of the WPI's Maryam Namazie, the National Secular Society's 2005 "secularist of the year" award winner and vice-president of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association. So with that grain of salt out of the way, here's the WPI: "The military attack on Libya took place at a time when the Gaddafi regime, aided by its army and armed mercenaries, and having attacked the revolutionary people and forces in a number of the liberated cities and recaptured those cities, was about to attack Benghazi, i.e. the main stronghold of the revolutionary people. The military attack by the Western powers stopped further advances by the Gaddafi army and in particular averted a massacring of the people of Benghazi."

Over at MuslimsDebate there is a more forceful enumeration of the reasons for an internationalist intervention, set out by Khaled Muttawa, aptly titled For Those Who Do Not Support Helping the Libyan People in Their Hour of Need.

If it's a thorough overview of the broader historical context of "humanitarian intervention" you might want, you could do no better than take the time to put up your feet and read our pal Roland Dodds' inquiries into the subject, here.

For a look-see at the implications of the realist-grotesque pipsqueaking advocated by so much of the "left" and adopted by the German government in order to ingratiate itself with Russian oiligarchs - there's a neologism for you - MEP Daniel ("Danny the Red") Cohn-Bendit weighs in on the side of former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer: "Everyone has seen pictures of the Warsaw ghetto. Everyone knows what happens when an army takes over a city. That's why all parties in France, including on the left, were in favor of a military intervention in Libya. In Germany, that didn't happen." Fischer, the former German Green Party leader, asks the relevant question and answers it: "What use is vocal multilateralism, what use are German leaders’ lofty speeches about international law being exercised by the Security Council, if Germany refuses to endorse a resolution for the protection of Libya’s citizens from a brutal regime employing all means at its disposal in its fight for survival? Nothing. Empty talk. And that will not be forgotten in the region, in the UN, or among Germany’s friends."

Our own Eva Sajoo raises a critically important point about the disastrous folly of the conventional approach adopted by the western powers in their misapprehensions of the so-called "Arab world," a folly so fatally exposed by the bravery of hundreds of thousands of frightfully poor and oppressed Arabs in recent weeks, as it applies to Afghanistan: "We offer the Afghan people the same choice that marked our policies in Egypt and across the Middle East: better a corrupt, authoritarian system than rule by Islamic extremists. The spectre of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and their acolytes taking over was the greater evil that allowed us to toss any semblance of political ethics out the window." This is proper analysis. Further: "Nothing serves to deter the rise of a progressive civic Islam across the Muslim world as much as our stubborn insistence that the only available choices are between theocracy and autocracy. Tell that to the women in Afghanistan who have braved the depredations of both, and now risk paying the price of our misapprehension."

There remains much hope that the "Arab Spring" will blossom in Palestine in spite of the Hamas nightsticks that have cracked heads as tens of thousands of young Palestinians have turned to "Facebook demonstrations" in recent days. It is most heartening to see that the Israeli -Palestinian One Voice movement (again I confess my bias, having been a One Voice supporter for some while) has declared its full solidarity with the Palestinian protestors.

Predictably siding with the young Palestinians' tormentors by doing Hamas the favour of the propaganda of futile gestures, the Canadian "anti-war" masquerade is preparing for a sea cruise this summer. But hey, make a donation, get a free t-shirt.

If it's within a quieter and more visceral meaning of solidarity in which you prefer to situate yourself, I'd be happy to settle for that with you. I would be glad enough if wherever I might be, people would remember we're woven in a tapestry; we steal what we can, with the courage to be free. I've found where I belong, among the poorest company. It's why I don't let it get me down. And so sings Drever McCusker Woomble:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Remembering Her.

"I find it shameful that in obedience to the stupid, vile, dishonest and for them extremely advantageous fashion of political correctness, the usual opportunists (or really, the usual parasites) exploit the word 'peace,' that in the name of the word 'peace,' by now more debauched than the words 'love' or 'humanity,' they absolve one side alone of its hate and its beastiality. That in the name of 'pacifism' (read 'conformism') delegated to the singing crickets and buffoons who used to lick Pol Pot's feet, they incite people who are confused or ingenuous or intimidated, trick them, corrupt them, carry them back a half-century to the time of the yellow star on the coat. These charlatans who care as much about the Palestinians as I care about the charlatans. That is, not at all. I find it shameful."

Oriana. Part 1:

Part 2:

Libya And All The Lively And Fascinating Backchat.

The Rabble site, where NDP "foreign policy" is conceived, midwifed and nurtured, weighs in with Gaddafist propaganda, Vietnam analogies, "blowback," shadowy neo-cons, "the Muslim Street," favorable references to the lurid and antisemitic website Counterpunch. . . the lot.

Margaret Wente, who everybody says is "right wing," is now indistinguishable from an NDP agony aunt at tea-time. Here, she asks all the usual rhetorical questions that you're supposed to ask when you're trying to change the subject. And here, Cath Carlson answers them all, except this one: How can I possibly believe that Canada is doing the right thing in Libya when there are no CF-18 pilots mowing my lawn right now? Hypocrites!

Meanwhile, a war-mongering Yankee downed-pilot imperialist infidel Zionist crusader is mobbed by Libyans: "I hugged him and said don't be scared, we are your friends," said Younis Amruni, 27, as locals formed a queue to shake the hand of the airman and thank him for his role in the Libyan uprising.

Within hours after the first fly-over by Canada's fighter jets concluded without a hitch, NDP leader Jack Layton was already war-weary. He wants an "exit strategy." Here's my suggestion for an exit strategy: When the Gaddafists are crushed and the Libyan revolutionaries say our work is done, we move on. Not a minute before.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Don't Mention The War": Libya And The Canadian Left.

In some ways I hope I'm wrong, and in some ways it might be a good thing, but I suspect some seriously ugly craziness will soon be coming down the turnpike in the Canadian debates about the long-overdue Libyan intervention.

True, it's amusing that so many of the sentences to be found in the complaints that Hugo Chavez, the Taliban and the Khomeinist despotism in Tehran have registered in response to last week's UN Security Council resolution are interchangeable. Nothing like a good old democratic revolution against a ruthless jackass dictator to sharpen the contradictions.

More excruciating is that those same sentences can also be made to snugly fit like component parts of the ant-interventionist declarations issued by all the usual contractors to which so many Canadians who fancy themselves to "progressive" long ago outsourced the work of doing their thinking for them. By these I mean the Canadian Peace Congress, the Mobilization Against War and Occupation, and the labour-supported national umbrella organization called the Canadian Peace Alliance. “It’s not about protecting ‘rebels’ – this is a war for oil and neo-con colonialism.” Who said that? The neo-fascist Nick Griffin of the British National Party.

It's worth pointing out how people who fake solidarity in these ways would have responded to the Spanish republican appeal for intervention during the early goings of the last century's great anti-fascist war: "They would sit back and let the Spanish Revolution be burned to the ground by the Falange forces, and they would sit there and watch, doing everything in their power to stop the 'imperialist powers' from 'hi-jacking' the Spanish Revolution. "

Come to think of it, J.S. Woodsworth, the leader of the New Democratic Party's predecessor, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, not only opposed conscription to the international brigades in Spain but couldn't even bring himself to vote in favour of Canada joining Britain in the fight against Hitler. But now I've gone and mentioned the war.

I'm not trying to be mean, but to be fair. There are not a few Canadians on the "right" who misapply the word "progressive" as an adjective to describe their adversaries on such subjects as the role of Canada's military in faraway countries. They do this either out of habit or because of illiteracy or cunning or the inclination to reduce the word to a mere term of abuse. At the same time, the leadership of the "left" in Canada lacks for neither illiteracy, cunning, bad habits nor the hurling of pejoratives. So far as I can discern, these attributes so richly abound in all those places where the "left" is expected to be in Canada that on the matter of "the Middle East," there's often little else to discuss.

But really, let's not be mean. If I am taken to be uncritical of conservatives about this it's just that I don't have any particular expectation that conservatives will show leadership when it comes to what we used to call international solidarity. It's why they're called "conservatives," so fair play to them. If I seem especially uncharitable to the "left" here it is because of certain standards. When it comes to a question so elementary as the duty to heed the appeals of brave young democrats who have risen up in arms against a mad tyrant and his mercenaries, one anticipates that a progressive left would be the least encumbered by narrowly conservative, status-quo and "realist" considerations.

It shouldn't be too much to expect that progressives in any such circumstance would be acutely mindful of what the revolutionaries were wanting, and would fight like hell to get it for them. No "progressive" position worthy of the name would counsel otherwise, least of all take the other side. This should apply whether the revolutionaries have risen up against an Islamist theocracy, a US-backed police state or a plum weird tyranny like the Libyan regime. It should apply where there is oil, and where there is no oil.

What help have the Libyan revolutionaries asked of us in their struggle against the decrepit billionaire and slave-master Moammar Gaddafi? Here's Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebel National Libyan Council: "We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one. We also want a sea embargo and we urgently need some arms and we also need humanitarian assistance and medicines to be sent to the cities besieged by Gaddafi troops.''

When France finally succeeded in leading bigshot countries like America to give the rebels what they had been forced to beg from the UN Security Council, let us not forget the joyful celebrations that erupted in the streets of Libya's rebel-held towns. Hadi Shalluf, president of the Justice and Democracy Party of Libya: "All the Libyans now, they are very, very happy even as this resolution is coming very, very late. But we are really glad and then happy. Today, just now in Benghazi where the people go outside singing, and then dancing, and are very, very happy about this resolution."

But there was little in the way of singing and dancing going on in certain sections of the Toronto Danforth, it is an understatement to say. "The UN Security Council resolution which authorizes 'all necessary measures' to protect civilians from attack is dangerously vague and opens the door to a much larger western military intervention in the country," the so-called Canadian Peace Alliance complains. This is what one might expect from some of the most conservative, narrow-minded, privileged and autocrat-fancying counterrevolutionaries to come along since the early Mussolinists. But in the days and weeks to come, how many degrees of separation will this posture mark from that of the New Democratic Party?

The NDP's timid contributions to date eerily resemble the party's failed effort to find its feet on the matter of Afghanistan in the months following September 11, 2001, which was the last time the Canadian Forces got called to duty in democracy's cause. It is in light of the uniquely ridiculous corner into which the NDP ended up painting itself on the Afghanistan question that its timorous responses to the calls of the Libyan revolutionaries may suggest a harbinger of some seriously bad craziness on the horizon.

In late 2005, right at the moment when Canada actually started to matter to the course of events in Afghanistan, the NDP first objected to Canadian soldiers being sent to Kandahar on the grounds that the Yanks were still running the show down there. When NATO took over - and indeed when Canada itself was put in charge of NATO's operations in Kandahar - that wasn't good enough either, for some reason that clearly had nothing to do with an overbearing devotion to the UN and multilateralism. When Paul Martin's Liberal government collapsed, the NDP was presented with a perfect opportunity to articulate at least something like a comprehensible, centre-left and progressive position on Canada's role in Afghanistan. Instead, the NDP chucked up an epic fail.

The NDP's demented, let's-just-run-away stance made the party the darling of every pseudo-anti-imperialist goofball and the laughing stock of every sensible and mainstream left-of-centre party in the English-speaking world. In the matter of the Libyan intervention, the NDP appears to be coming out of the gates just like it did on Afghanistan, with a non-policy of occasionally uttering expressions of dismay, trying to change the subject, or otherwise gingerly and cautiously falling in behind the other parties. Not a good sign.

Long after the Libyan rebels were pleading for cruise missiles, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar was lagging way behind, to slightly embarassing effect: “We call on the Harper government to immediately refer Gaddafi and his cronies to the International Criminal Court to be held accountable for crimes against humanity.” Apart from ignoring what the Libyan revolutionaries actually wanted, this was more than passing strange, because by then, the Harper government had already arrived at that position all by itself. And unlike Dewar, Harper had actually gotten it right, by calling on the Security Council to refer the Gaddafis to the Hague. Canada cannot simply "refer Gadhafi and his cronies" to the ICC because Libya never signed the Rome treaty.

To the extent that the Liberals have had anything to say, at least they've managed to get their basic facts right, even though they have tended slightly to cleave to the false virtue of what is wrongly described as a "cautious" approach. But I don't want to be jerk about this, so full marks to Liberal foreign affairs' critic Bob Rae, author of the very useful and spectacularly timely Exporting Democracy: The Risks and Rewards of Pursuing a Good Idea. I'm thinking particularly of Rae's contempt for Ottawa's unconcern, which led to Canada siding against France and Britain and with Obama's pipsqueaking friends when the subject of a Libyan intervention came up at the G8 last week.

The reasons why Canada should stand ready to offer ongoing, meaningful and assertive contributions of military and material solidarity to the Libyan democrats should need no enumeration for sensible Canadian socialists, social democrats, liberals or conservatives. The reasons go beyond Libya, and go beyond the implications for the interrupted Arab revolution that is now showing signs of revival and emergence in such unlikely places as Gaza and Damascus. For Canadians, the absence of principled, clearly-articulated and devoted support for the Arab uprisings will leave a hollow core in Ottawa that will inevitably get filled with all sorts of claptrap.

This is why what happens on "the left" should matter to everyone. It's because it calibrates the spectrum of grown-up conversations by settling the content at one end of mainstream debates. What happens on the left can determine the content of the loudest critiques aimed at the government side, and the Conservatives would benefit from intellectually robust critique and scrutiny. When you look back at how Canada's debates about Afghanistan ended up so paralyzed, useless, boring and stupid, it had almost everything to do with the enfeeblement of what we used to call the "left."

By the first years of the 21st century, across Canada's liberal-establishment commentariat and throughout the NDP's activist base, the "progressive" critique had become thoroughly transfixed by the frivolous transgressiveness of a cynical Chomskyan avant-garde. The shame of an earlier time's pacifist isolationism had become by then a point of pride - indeed a defining signifier of what it meant to be on the "left." There was a vacuum in the middle of the NDP, the labour movement, and the student movement. What got sucked into the centre from the margins was not just a lexicon, but a language and an entire mindset that could not describe or even comprehend the Afghan struggle except in such cartoonish terms as Third World "resistance" and American "imperialism." And that's before things started to go downhill.

Just one consequence was that the troops-out, peace-talks stance the NDP ended up adopting as its Afghanistan policy was a mirror image of what progressive, liberal, democratic and reformist Afghans recognized as the position of Afghanistan's crypto-fascists, Pashtun-chauvinists and the Afghan religious right. And hardly anybody in Canada, least of all the NDP, even noticed.

To the extent that there is even yet such a thing as a "left-wing" or a "progressive" Canadian position on this country's role in Libya specifically, and in assisting the pro-democracy Arab revolutionaries generally, there is one small thing that makes matters different from the early days of the Afghanistan debates. This time around, the pseudo-anti-imperialist camp can't so readily invent outbursts of "Islamophobia" or count on courage and comfort from the Islamist factions that have long plagued Arab Canadians. The shared pathology of "anti-Zionism" isn't a sufficiently stable basis of unity, either. All this is because even the geezers in the antiquated clubhouse known as the Arab League wants Gaddafi gone. So it will be interesting to see how things unfold. But not much else has changed.

It is more than amusing in the way one of the NDP's rising stars, last seen supporting a campaign to lose the New and change the name of the NDP to the Democratic Party to cash in on Barack Obama's already-vanished cachet, is expressing his happiness with last week's UN Security Council resolution. Michael Byers likes it because it makes the UN look good (I know, I know, but nevermind), the Arab League approves (!), it might even be as important as "the Pinochet case," and it makes Obama look good (go figure that).

Good for Byers, but it is a little bit transparent in the way he manages to bring in Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur, but deftly avoids mention Afghanistan, which would perhaps invite comparisons that would be maybe too shy-making. But I'm going to mention the war anyway. Canada's engagement in Afghanistan is also part of a UN-sanctioned multilateral effort, authorized and renewed by several Security Council resolutions, and it involves a military alliance of 43 nations that was and remains welcomed by the overwhelming majority of Afghans. This puts Byers in the role of Basil in that scene from Fawlty Towers, the one with the German tourists in the restaurant. Basil tells the wait staff: "Listen, don't mention the war! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right."

I am not intending to be mean, but really. There's a hollowness at the heart of all this, and so long as this is the case, to take the NDP seriously in any debate about Libya, if this is what we're going to get, will be to unavoidably lower the tone. Undead "anti-imperialist" zombies will continue wander at large, sucking the life out of any prospects for a proper response to the appeals of the Libyan revolutionaries, and Arab democrats will come to learn the bitter lesson that Afghanistan's democrats long ago learned: In their darkest hour, there will be no "progressives" in Canada who can be counted on to hear what they are saying, or to come to their aid. There will remain something inscrutable about the the Canadian debates that isn't worth the bother of trying to understand.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mohammed Nabbous, A Fallen Comrade: 1983-2011

More than any other single individual, Mohammed Nabbous carried the voices of the Libyan revolution to the outside world and kept us all up to date with the latest news from the front. A Gaddafist sniper killed him today. He was 28.

At the beginning of the uprising, it was Mohammed who established the seat-of-the pants Alhurra TV, using a satellite connection to get out from under the Gaddafi regime's internet shortcircuitry. His "TV station" relies on nine cameras, streaming 24 hours a day, non-stop.

"His bravery inspired others to work to give the revolution a voice, and they turned to him constantly for direction; his cell phone rang perpetually. One look could tell you he got very little sleep, if any, in the constant manic flurry of activity required to carry the revolution’s message forward. Despite this he found the time to address our needs, and thank us with deep sincerity for coming to Libya," writes the indispensible Louis Abelman. "His was a singular dedication to the revolution and a better future for his country, for which he gave his life, and we mourn him."

Mohammed was a member of the Transitional National Council, the Libyan revolutionary front that had been pleading for the world's help for a month before the UN Secuity Council finally came through on March 17. He was a leading member of the fervently pro-democracy activists who came together in the February 17th Revolution Youth Media Center.

His pregnant widow announced his death: “I want to let all of you know that Mohammed has passed away for this cause. He died for this cause and let’s hope that Libya will become free. Please pray for him. And let’s not stop doing what we are doing until this is over. What he started has got to go on. No matter what happens. . . please post videos, and move every authority you have. There is still bombing, there is still shooting, and more people are going to die. Don't let what Mo started go for nothing, people. Make it worth it.”

Remember Mohammed Nabbous. Democrat, patriot, journalist, shaheed. Inshallah, the people will win.

French Fighters In Libyan Skies: "Play La Marseillaise! Play It!"

The first interventionist shots have been fired in Libya. The honour goes to France. French military jets have begun enforcing the UN no-fly zone. French aircraft are now preventing Gaddafist forces from attacking the rebel-held city of Benghazi. Vive la France.

Let us not forget that while almost everyone else was following the American cue to mewl and whimper, France, with British backing, was in the vanguard for solidarity with the Libyan revolutionaries. Let us not forget that while France was arguing for aid to the rebels and principled internationalism, the White House was saying: "Again, you know, this ultimately and fundamentally an issue between, you know, the Libyan government, its leader, and the Libyan people."

Let us always remember who the cheese-eating surrender monkeys were this time around.

Vive la France.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Barack Obama: Yesterday's Man.

Utterly clueless at a moment of revolutionary ferment sweeping the world, stupidity is his prerogative at home. But abroad, he persists in talking to all the wrong people, for all the wrong reasons: "To draw the Afghan insurgents toward reconciliation, the administration is supporting a plan by President Hamid Karzai that would allow the Taliban to open an office in Kabul or perhaps outside Afghanistan, where contacts might be easier. Saudi Arabia was discussed as one possible site, but a more likely venue would be Turkey. The Turkish government is pondering the issue." So is the Khomeinist regime in Tehran. When it comes to selling out Afghan democrats, Obama and Ahmadinejad appear to be on the same page: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to hold Afghan peace meeting through participation of Afghan political groups."

That is not how you win peace in a democratic and sovereign Afghan republic. It is how you make America the enemy of Afghanistan's democrats, secularists, reformers, women's rights' leaders, and its young and besieged parliamentarians. Here's Ahmad Behzad, a young Herati MP:

"The consequences of talks and negotiations with the terrorist groups including the Taliban, has been devastating and damaging. First, it has encouraged the Taliban. With the proposition of this motto Taliban revived and planned to exert more pressure on the government of Afghanistan and the foreign forces to gain better and bigger privileges. That part of the society who no more had any hope for the Taliban gained hopes that this group will again emerge in the political scene. Third, the government of Afghanistan is trying to give Taliban privileges by releasing the Taliban captives who were caught in fights against the political system of Afghanistan. It has given Taliban more supremacy as they have again joined their ranks."

Nous Sommes Tous Libyens.

Canada is expected to announce that it will deploy six CF-18 fighter jets to help enforce the UN's just-approved no-fly zone over Libya, CBC News has learned. Between 100 and 200 support personnel would be involved, the sources said, adding the announcement was imminent.

Hadi Shalluf, president of the Justice and Democracy Party of Libya: "All the Libyans now, they are very, very happy even as this resolution is coming very, very late. But we are really glad and then happy. Today, just now in Benghazi where the people go outside singing, and then dancing, and are very, very happy about this resolution."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig.

Yes, I know. Saint Patrick's Day as it is celebrated is wholly an American invention, along with begorrah, leprechauns and all the rest of the stage-Irish stupidites that true taigs quietly go along with. The American way of observing what was not long ago a quiet feast day in the Irish liturgical calendar has reached even unto Dubliners, who now celebrate it in the American style, and this is not to say Dubliners are thick townie jackeens unlike us culchies who know better.

Yes, it sanctions binge drinking and debauching. It is a come-all-ye to donnybrook. It is all tura-bloody-luras and bedads and hooliganism. It is the low means by which the Boston Irish established themselves as white people and emerged from the slums to take the very presidency of Amerikay in the person of JFK (peace be upon him). It is a panoply of vaguely racist stereotype and caricature. It is an orgy of shamroguery and paddywhackery. It is the one day of the year when the Americans who claim to be Irish actually outnumber the Americans who claim to be Cherokees. It is as embarrassing as Bono, Michael Flatley, and the apparitions at Knock.

It is an absolute shenanigan, but for all that it is cause for celebration. To be an auld miseryguts about it is to deny people a bit of enjoyment and indulge in the bitter vice of taking ourselves too damn seriously. "I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually," said Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and maybe so. But there is also the craic of it. So let's lighten up. Nevermind the bollocks.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gaddafi Forces Close In On Last Rebel Stronghold

"Gadhafi has his airplanes and they are bombing cities about 50 or 100 kilometers from here. To tell you, as a supporter of Obama, I’m totally, as most of the Libyan people are, disappointed. And here is a simple equation; it is not really complicated – Gadhafi will go sooner or later, and I think the Libyan people will remember who their friends are [and] who stood by them in their hour of need.” The Libyan people should be counted on to remember who their enemies were and who abandoned them in their hour of need, too.

The "realists" who betrayed the Libyan people didn't even get honorable mention for their cowardice: Gaddafi has announced that Germany, Russia and China would now be rewarded with business deals and oil contracts. Nice job, pipsqueaks. "Not in your name" indeed. Remember Benghazi.

"Yes We Can," translated:

Monday, March 14, 2011


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Springtime For The Stupid: Khomeinist Scab George Galloway Returns To Canada.

The thing to remember about stupid people is that there's no point in trying to explain anything to them. They won't understand a thing you're saying. This is why they're called "stupid people." As a political phenomenon, stupid people are usually dealt with by ordinary people in liberal democracies quite effectively, by making them objects of public ridicule. The problem is that this sometimes accrues to stupid people a kind of celebrity status that any fool can quickly convert into political capital. Things can get out of hand, as the Italians have discovered. You wake up one morning and you find that your veteran national-affairs journalists have been reduced to reporting the details of "bunga bunga" orgies.

The next thing you know, police budgets are being eroded by criminal investigations into the backgrounds of buxom young women prancing around the prime minister's residence in kinky Carabinieri uniforms and saucy nurses' outfits. Then the judiciary is reduced to solemn inquiries to determine whether the public treasury has been in any way invoiced for the 74-year-old prime minister's rent-free harem of 14 showgirls that he keeps in a pensione around the corner from his villa, and whether the fees they charge for their erotic performances have been billed to the exective branch of the government. Pretty soon everybody's going all nostalgic for the days when Mussolini was running things. This is not exactly a good sign for the prospects of a liberal democracy.

That's the other thing about stupid people. They're often quite charming, but they tend to lower the tone. There's no point in trying to just shut them up because it never works, and besides it would be wrong because stupid people are entitled to the rights of free speech. Thus it is in America, the birthplace of the 1st Amendment, that the political problem of stupid people has been lately addressed by lowering the threshold of polite speech to make way for a peculiar pop-culture entertainment phenomenon called the Glenn Beck Show.

This was a uniquely American stroke of genius in the way it affirmed the stupid political identity politics of the great American melting pot. Glenn Beck provides vast numbers of stupid people who fancy themselves to be "progressive" with a simulacrum of evidence that they're not the stupid ones after all, while at the same time offering stupid people who attribute their stupidity to being "conservative" a dazzling current-affairs show that makes him look so stupid he actually makes his fans look almost smart. But lately the Glenn Beck project has begun to bore Americans to tears, and it's also outlived its usefulness to the Republican Party.

We do things differently in Canada. While the American way often exposes the limits of the free market, Canada accomodates stupid people in almost the opposite way. It's a tribute to Canadian establishment's distinct multicultural celebration of the identity politics of stupid people that much greater success is evident in the game's Canadian rules. Canada plays it like a vast affirmative-action program for stupid people that is often so subsidized by our best universities and by our biggest public sector unions that you'd think resources were limitless.

For some long while in Canada, a deafening bedlam has been emanating from stupid people whose politics are the most grotesquely tyrant-friendly, the most noticeably accommodating of antisemites (anti-Zionist variety), the most valuable to misogynists and to the extreme religious right (Islamic variety), the most vehemently opposed to Canada's solidarity with the Afghan anti-fascist struggle, and the most reactionary. The way we accomodate stupid people of this sort - because this is Canada, after all - is to encourage them to make themselves presentable as fashionably progressive, avant-garde and "left-wing."

This works splendidly because it makes this particular variety of stupid people feel good about themselves and they don't even notice what is happening (see above - they won't understand a thing you're saying, etc.). Conservatives are content to go along with the pantomime because it makes their left-wing adversaries look so stupid, which is fair play, I suppose. But it is a racket.

This brings us to the disgraced former British MP George Galloway, the greasiest spokesman for the Khomeinist tyranny in the English-speaking world, celebrity presenter for the Khomeinist propaganda arm Press TV, admirer of Saddam Hussein, bagman for Hamas, darling of the Arab autocrats' business press and shameless brown-noser to Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. Tonight, Galloway will be speaking in Toronto, at the Trinity - St. Paul's Centre. He will be discussing what Canada can do "to support the Arab peoples' struggle for liberation," if you please.

To recap: George Galloway has earned a lifetime's profit from slobbering on the very boots in which the world's warmongering Arab tyrants now stand quaking. In Britain, Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party on charges that he incited Arabs to fight British troops, although to be fair he is probably best remembered for dressing up in red tights on a reality television show and drinking milk from the cupped hands of Rula Lenska, an aging celebrity whose celebrity derives from having once been a young celebrity. In Canada, Galloway is heralded as an "anti-war" celebrity and a "progressive," and now he has been invited to visit Canada yet again, this time to present himself as a friend to the risen masses of Arabs and Iranians at whose bravery and suffering he has done nothing but sneer.

It's not clear who Galloway's Canadian hosts are this time around. Not long ago Galloway's Canadian venues were being organized by Syria's unambiguously fascist party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which is part of Al-Assad's ruling junta. But it could be Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, Artists Against War, or the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition. You want to make some sense out of that?

Dal Street, a proper British socialist, puts it this way: "Outside of a residual Stalinist mindset, it makes no sense at all. And from a socialist perspective it is simply repugnant." Fair enough. You don't have to be a socialist to find all this repugnant, but if you still think what is happening here is in any way "progressive" in any recognizeable sense of that gravely-diminished term, then you should probably just sit back, tune in Glenn Beck, and let him explain it to you.

Just relax. You won't feel a thing.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Americans: Singes Mangeurs De Fromage (Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys).

How soon we have forgotten all the fun the Yanks had at the expense of the French, the maitre d'Axis Des Weasels. And this time around nobody is asking for anything even remotely like an Iraq-scale invasion, or an Afghanistan-like reconstruction and counterinsurgency effort. Nobody is asking for a rerun of the Punic Wars, or even American "boots on the ground," or shock, or awe, or blood, or treasure. Still the Handsome President cringes, even as the French say allons-y.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebel National Libyan Council: "We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one. We also want a sea embargo and we urgently need some arms and we also need humanitarian assistance and medicines to be sent to the cities besieged by Gaddafi troops.'' Like the French and the British and the Libyan rebels, the Arab League supports a no-fly zone. The Arab Gulf States back a no-fly zone. Even the reactionary old Organization of the Islamic Congress wants a no-fly zone. So what's the hold-up?

Leon Wieseltier puts it succinctly: "Barack Obama’s policy toward the Libyan struggle for freedom is no longer a muddle. It is now a disgrace." Obama is acting like the world needs his permission before it sides with the Libyan freedom struggle even as he insists that America needs the permission of Russia and China at the UN Security Council to pull its weight on the Libyan front. American air-power and military weight still exceed the rest of the world's combined, and America's heft at the Security Council, hard-earned in earlier times, is now just as necessary to freedom's advance. This is the Arabs' greatest misfortune. Just at that historic moment when so much of the world is again poised at the exilharating and terrifying advent of emancipation's possibilities, America is exceptionally and unambiguously an impediment, an obstacle, and a barricade.

To be fair, it is not as though Obama is without company. Among those who would appear to concur with him are Moammar Gaddafi, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Hugo Chavez, the usual dead planets in the twin-sun solar system of Yankee paleoconservatives and bourgeois-leftish Californian "anti-imperialists," the British Workers Revolutionary Party, and the chairman of the anti-interventionist African Union, that genocidal, testicle-eating multi-billionaire and slave-master of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang. Still, one has to concede that unlike his predecessor the current American president is splendidly photogenic. Oh look, here's a new portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama, posing with President Obiang and his missus Constancia Mangue, at the White House:

See how handsome he is?

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day 100: Marg Bar Diktator, No Compromise, No Negotiations

The emancipation of women is the most important freedom struggle in human history.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

"So farewell to Nova Scotia's charms, for it's early in the morning. . ."

And when I'm far away on the briny ocean tossed, will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?

- "Farewell to Nova Scotia," old folk song, author unknown.

Not much can be said about how history will record the moment last week when the HMCS Charlottetown slipped its lines and set out from Halifax Harbour, bound for the waters off Libya. But historians will surely note that for all the rough certainties at the time, the Charlottetown nevertheless sailed off into uncharted waters, and the ship's crew did not know what new world they might encounter beyond the horizon. None of them even knew when they'd be coming home.

It is a tribute to the pluck of the frigate Charlottetown that it is sailing headlong into the unknown world that the Great Arab revolution of 2010 has set in train. It is a monument to something I can't quite put my finger on that while the entire world order was being up-ended - and as Keith Beardsley puts it, while people are dying in Libya for the right to be able to question their government - there was all manner of "in and out" warts to be worried and what have you in Ottawa last week, but only two questions to the government benches were about Libya.

It is wallop of a testimony to the whimpering incoherence of our time that even the venerable Washington Post has given its editorial-page pulpit to that landlubbing jackass Michael Scheuer, archdeacon of the Old World's isolationist gasbags, to explain things to us. To no one's surprise, Scheuer took the opportunity to thump his craw and bellow that what lies dead ahead for everybody involved is that ship-eating kraken, Al Qaida.

This is indeed an age of discovery and wonder, and the wheat separates from the chaff before our very eyes. As the novelist Salman Rushdie told an Emory University audience just the other day, this could well be "the moment at which the Islamic world moves beyond Islamism." Rushdie should need no introduction in these affairs but it's worth mentioning that he is best known for staring down a Khomeinist death-sentence fatwa while much of the Old World quaked and capitulated in its fear, and that Rushdie was right and the cowards were proved wrong. "The west talks a great deal about freedom. Here are people trying to get their freedom," Rushdie said of the Arab uprisings. "They're getting it for themselves, and I really hope we can support them."

Rushdie's point is that whatever storms lies ahead of us - and there will be gales, and there will be Islamist pirates to contend with - the sinking hulks of the Muslim Brotherhood's savage old ideologues, not least the grandpappies of Hamas and Al Qaida, are most noticeable in the flotsam in the wake of the young rebel Arab fleets. The old jihadists are weeping and gnashing their teeth now that the very Arabs they claim to champion have so thoroughly exposed them as losers, failures, and yesterday's men. Confront the Islamists, Rushdie exhorts, but do not fear the "fanatical bogeyman" of yesterday's world.

Yet it is exactly that bogeyman that looms on Michael Scheuer's fanciful horizons, and nobody speaks for the old flat-earth school of foreign policy quite like Scheuer does. But nevermind what I say about Scheuer. What he says for himself is that the Iraqi gargoyle Saddam Hussein and the Egyptian vampire Hosni Mubarak were "Israel's two anti-Islamist shields," and their exits are losses to be lamented. As more tyrants fall, the result will be "a more open, religion-friendly environment for speech, assembly and press freedoms" and this, we are to believe, is a bad thing. Why? Because it will be easier for media-savvy Islamist geezers to "proselytize, publish and foment without immediate threat of arrest and incarceration."

Notice that it is the very state of affairs that midwifed Egyptian jihadist crackpottery in the first place that Scheuer summons to our nostalgia, and thus, it is in strange times like these that the scum rises so quickly to the barrel-top. If free speech scares you, ban it; if you are scared by what people say, jail them; if this doesn't work, blame Zionist sorcerers, which is what Scheuer has been doing for some while now, sounding for all the world like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as he does so. How do the Israeli wizards go about their mysterious alchemy? Why, by such means as establishing the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. to guilt-trip and insinuate their way into the highest command centres of American imperialist shenanigans. It is "the most successful covert action program in the history of man," Scheuer says.

I would have thought that particular honour should go to Daniel the Liberator (peace be upon him) O'Connell for having outmanouvered Baron Vesey Fitzgerald in the County Clare byelections of 1828, but let's put that aside. Let's also put aside even the most transparently zenga-zenga aspects of Scheuer's wild claims, because there is something underlying the auto-satirical spectacle he is making of himself that is especially totemic of the demented, flat-earth-believing world the Charlottetown has put to its stern.

Have a look at the short plank Scheuer is happily taking a long walk upon without even so much as the point of a sword at his backside. It is a thing he himself has hewn and and mitred and fastened to the gunwhales. He fashioned it out of the very authority he claims in order to speak on these subjects in the first place. And what is it made of? Scheuer, a University of Manitoba 1986 alumnus, was the chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999.

Now, imagine having that as an entry on your cirriculum vitae. To have been merely in the room at any point during the most tragic and embarassing American intelligence failure since Pearl Harbour is a thing to wave around under our noses as cause to be taken seriously in these matters? As the CIA's Office of Inspector-General would later put it in a retrospective evaluation, most of the brainiacs in the Bin Laden unit "did not have the operational experience, expertise and training necessary to accomplish their mission in an effective manner." If you can think of a wilder understatement than that, off the top of your head, then you are a better person than I am. This is not to say the boys of the Bin Laden unit were layabouts. They were such rum lads that they were known inside the CIA as "the Manson family."

How does Scheuer reflect on his own labours in hunting Bin Laden? In his telling of the tale he sounds like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, and you can't blame me for stretching the maritime metaphors this time. It's how Fouad Ajami, in the New York Times, describes what he hears when he listens to Scheuer: “Aye, aye! they were mine — my irons, cried Ahab, exultantly. . . . Aye, I see — wanted to part it; free the fast fish — an old trick — I know him.”

If you still think we should all be sniveling on the dock and sneering at the mad crew of the Charlottetown as they go sailing off the edge of the known world, be assured that you are not alone. If you think the NATO countries should smarten up and do exactly what Scheuer says, you will have many interesting friends. In 2007, Osama Bin Laden signed up as a volunteer publicity agent for Scheuer's book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism, and he harangued us to buy up everything by Noam Chomsky while we were down at the bookstore getting a copy.

Scheuer's hoarse-throated sea terrors have not gone unrewarded, mind you. He's one of the most beloved pundits of the "anti-war" crowd. Oh look, here's another one of his pundittos now: "Barack Obama, Interventionist and Ultimate Jihadi Hero." That's as crazy as Barack Obama, Communist and Ultimate Kenyan Muslim, or Barack Obama, Christian Crusader and Ultimate Infidel. And Obama's just not that important anymore, anyway. This is not especially pleasant, but it's true.

Now one knows where this is all going, not in Egypt, Yemen, or Bahrain, but in times like these, fortune favours the brave. Even now there are courageous young Gazans defying Hamas goons, stepping out into the cool and the dark. There are students and oil-refinery workers and doctors joining Libya's "free army," in droves: On to Tripoli, on to Tripoli. It would be very nice if the rebels could count on the freedom-loving west for just a bit of help. At the very least, it would be nice if the windbags of the "west" who are always carrying on about their precious freedom would show these people just the tiniest bit of respect, since they're actually fighting and dying for that freedom.

And now there are Canadians aboard the HMCS Charlottetown making their way to Libya. Nobody knows what it will end up meaning. But when the sextants don't work and the chronometers are busted you sail by dead reckoning and you get on with it, and the rest of us should hope that that the voyage of the HMCS Charlottetown proves sufficiently uneventful that even such little things will be remembered as an amusing footnote to the frigate's departure the other day. Wellwishers on shore were perplexed that the ship had set off to whistles and hurrahs, but a short while later it turned around into the Bedford Basin and appeared to tarry there some long while.

It turned out that the ship was "degaussing," which is a word that doesn't show up in the newspapers very often. Degaussing offsets the effects of increased magnetic-field intensity around steel-hulled ships. It's a procedure pioneered during the Second World War by the Royal Canadian Navy's own Sir Charles Frederick Goodeve, OBE. Goodeve's degaussing method handily foiled the German magnetic mines that were sinking so many merchant and military ships back in those days. The mines were triggered to explode at a certain "gauss," a unit of magnetic measurement the Germans were using, hence degaussing. Goodeve's innovation kept the shipping lanes open, and the shipping lanes kept Britain alive and fighting, and that's how the good guys won the war. Funny old world.

We should hope and pray that one of the only things that will be worth remembering about the Charlottetown's departure was that curious business about magnetic fields and steel hulls. The ship is now about mid-point in the Atlantic, headed east. There is a crew of roughly 240 men and women aboard.

Long life to them all.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A Moment As Important As The Fall Of Communism?

For anyone still so possessed by Muzzie-fright as to assert that the Arab uprisings are an Islamist resurgence in disguise (which is to do Ahmadinejad's propaganda for him in the bargain), listen to what Salman Rushdie says about that. Then take a long hard look in the mirror. The longer the "west" cowers in its delusions and the coziness of neutrality, the longer we put off our moral duty to side with the revolutionaries, then the greater the advantage to the Islamists in their ceaseless efforts to hijack the revolution.

Give your damn heads a shake. Marg Bar Diktator.

"The west talks a great deal about freedom. Here are people trying to get their freedom. They're not being given it by American tanks. They're getting it themselves."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

From Libya to Palestine: Why Is 'The West' So Surprised?

As the Arab revolution has rolled out from Tunisia to Bahrain and the very real prospect of a failed-state humanitarian catastrophe looms from Tripoli to Sana'a, the rest of us are hectored and harried to just sit there, do what we're told, and don't even think about doing anything that some Islamist crackpot might want to call an imperialist military intervention.

"Thousands of Libyans will die if America and NATO enter Libya," we are admonished. Who said that? It could have been German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. It could have been the so-called Canadian Peace Alliance, or the alliance's mentors in the Khomeinist tyranny in Tehran, or the usual American "troops out" retreads. That is what they all say, after all, but in this case it isn't even Charlie Sheen. It is what Moammar Gaddafi says, and for good measure he's tossing in the familiar spectre of Islamist terrorism as the thing we should worry about the most about the Arab uprisings.

Is it too much to ask that we might actually listen to what the Arab revolutionaries themselves are saying? What do the Libyan rebels want from us? What do they want for themselves?

Libyan protest leader Murad Warfally of the University of Benghazi: "We want a no fly zone or more blood will be spilled on Libyan soil. The Libyan people want freedom of speech - we want to live like people in America or in Europe, to be normal and have a normal life. We want to be able to sleep in our beds without fear of being arrested by Gaddafi's secret police." Nouri al-Mismari, former head of the Libyan protocol department: "We're looking forward to neutralising Gaddafi's air force."

In the city of Benghazi, rebel spokesman Abdel Hafiz Khoga pleads: "We call on the international community to carry out pinpointed airstrikes on the mercenaries." For now, the Libyan resistance fighters want only airstrikes and a "no-fly zone" to protect them from Gaddafi's forces, says Abdul Hafiz Gogha, of Libya's governing council, and lucky we are for that. In Misurata, a city besieged by Gaddafi and his militias, the rebels there also want our help: "A no-fly zone would limit his movements, his ability to move mercenaries from south to north and to recruit mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa," said a Libyan rebel spokesman who goes by the nom-de-guerre Saadoun. "Providing military equipment and arms to our free army in the east will help the free army march to Tripoli. And we want surgical military strikes to target his militia and make this end swiftly and quickly and not to shed any more innocent Libyan blood."

Is that not clear enough? No massive invasion is necessary, so everyone can just calm down now. It is true that if the agony-pokery and astrological consultations in the NATO capitals carry on much longer, a huge humanitarian intervention may be the only option left. If you expect the Arab League states to properly take charge, you'd be banking on the Arab police states to come to the aid of the rebels who want them overthrown. You'd be an even bigger chump to heed the Arab League's western apologists and its weapons suppliers.

What to do now, exactly? It is not so difficult to find answers to that question. We only need to make up our own minds, abjure neutrality, and tell the rebels: It's your revolution, tell us what you need, we'll help in every way we can. And then prove that we mean what we say. The far more disturbing question is why the Arab revolutionaries' demands tend to be relegated to the back pages even now, and more importantly, why the "west" has been deaf to their voices all along. This is where Palestine comes into it.

As I write this, the totalitarian Hamas regime is resorting to the same brutal tactics against Palestinians in its Gaza police-statelet that its Khomeinist sponsors have been deploying against Iranian democrats in Tehran. On Monday, Hamas thugs broke up a demonstration in Gaza City, arrested a protest organizer, and confiscated footage from a German TV crew. The embryonic Gazan uprising has had its activists tossed into prisons and its telephones and computers seized. In the Gaza Strip, Ahmad Arrar, one of the main organisers, said he had been arrested by Hamas security forces for 12 hours on Tuesday in an failed attempt to stop the protests: "The revolution in Egypt and Tunisia gave us hope that if the people need to change something, they can."

Among their jumble of grievances, the youth activists complain of oppression. Abu Helal notes that the youths who had used Facebook to call for protests in solidarity with the Arab revolutions are summoned for questioning; his organization had been treated harshly by the security forces in Gaza, where it is currently banned, as well as in the West Bank.

Our friend Khaled Abu Toameh, the eminently reliable Palestinian journalist, reports that over the past 48 hours, Hamas goons have broken up several demonstrations. One of the key demands of the young Palestinians' self-described "Facebook Revolution" calls for a reunification of Palestine, which has been severed by the internicene warfare between the Islamist Hamas in Gaza and the authoritarian Fatah bosses in the West Bank. Some among the emerging Palestinian leadership want all the politicans to resign. Some want them to reconcile so Palestine might at least be united again. Others want to protest Israel's occupation of the West Bank, which is the kind of demonstration the faction bosses will at least allow.

As for the young dissidents' bottom line, 22-year-old activist Hasan Farahat describes it this way: "Everybody is sick of the situation. We want work, we want the right to speak freely. We want freedom." If you don't hear "regime change" in that demand, then you are deaf. Most noticably, the "Honour Revolution" wants Hamas the hell and gone from Gaza. "It is the revolution of the mosques, the churches, the factories, the universities, the schools, the unemployed and the internet cafes." I didn't hear any "Death to the Jews" wailing in that, did you?

The main reason we have we been so deaf to these voices is that we haven't been able to hear them. It's not just because pro-democracy Arab and Iranian voices are denied the advantages of a free press. It's the din and cacophony that has had us all obediently transfixed by the transgressions of Israel, which is one small country with roughly 80 human rights organizations and 7.4 million Jewish, Arab, Baha'i, Christian and atheist citizens. Israelis live a besieged and troubled but democratic life of equal rights and the rule of law in an open society. Its sins are subjected to the weirdest microscopic inspections and magnifed all over the world, constantly. All along, 350 million people have been detained inside the prison-farm nightmare that surrounds Israel, but if you dare draw attention to their sufferings you will be sneered at for your suspicious bias in favour of Israel, or more likely, you'll be dismissed as a Zionist neoconservative warmonger.

For years, the voices of the real Arab revolutionaries - the actually-existing Arabs who are at last rattling the padlocks off the doors of one autocratic prison after another - have been drowned out by the brass section at the dictator-dominated, Israel-bashing UN Human Rights Council. They've been silenced by the percussion section in the halls of the Middle East wing of Human Rights Watch. The noise that drowns them out is unrelenting, and it will resound across Canadian university campuses all next week in the same mind-numbing gibberish from the same dreary old cranks for yet another annual Israel Apartheid Week: "Interrogating Apartheid: Campus as a Site of Resistance."

Here's what Khaled Abu Toameh told me about all that when we got together last spring in Jerusalem: "Instead of organizing Israel Apartheid Week, they should be helping with human rights under Hamas, women's rights under Hamas." But in Canada, "resistance" has come to mean slavishly carrying on with the conventional narrative. Now, from Gaza to Oman, a real resistance valiantly faces machine guns and truncheons in defiance of the conventional narrative. "Yes, I still get threatened," Toameh told me. "I would be much more afraid to show my face in Ramallah if I was lying, but most of the threats I get these days are from North American campuses. Americans, Canadians, some self-hating Jews, university professors. This is what you get for refusing to go along with the narrative."

So what has the brave Canadian "resistance" been up to in aid of the Arabs and Lebanese and Iranians who suffer under Hamas, Hezbollah, the secret police of the Arab League states, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards? It has been raising money for a Hamas public-relations gambit in the form of a sea-cruise, scrounging money from student unions and bullying doubters.

What was the so-called Canadian resistance up to last year while the Iranian resistance organizers were risking imprisonment, torture and execution as they prepared for anti-regime demonstrations? It was organizing a Canadian speaking tour for the Khomeinist regime's greasiest English-speaking propagandist, George Galloway, celebrity presenter for the Tehran regime's Press TV propaganda arm. What is Galloway's Press TV now force-feeding the Iranian people in the form of "coverage" of the Libyan uprising? Israel is suppling Gaddafi with guns, money and 50,000 mercenaries so far, at $2,000 a day per mercenary. The lie has gone viral in western "anti-war" circles, as you would expect.

A couple of weeks ago in Tel Aviv, Khaled Abu Toameh was awarded the 2011 Abramowitz Prize for Media Criticism by Israel Media Watch. In his acceptance speech, Toameh called on the international community and western donors to pressure the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to allow a free press and to stop harassing journalists. "A growing number of my Arab colleagues no longer see themselves as foot soldiers serving the revolution or presidents or kings or governments,” he said. “I’m happy to see that the Arabs who have taken to the streets of Cairo, Tunis, and other Arab capitals are not only demanding regime change, many are also demanding a free media, one that does not serve as a mouthpiece for dictators and ruling parties."

If you'd rather be a chump, hurry along obediently to your nearest Israeli Apartheid Week event. Don't forget your kaffiyeh, you'll catch a cold. There's a good little narcissist. The apologists for Arab tyranny will provide lunch, and there might even be a movie. But if you want to do something for the revolution, this is what Toameh says the Palestinians need:

"Most of all, they need to hear - and see - from America and Europe that they are willing to support and help to put in place institutions of democracy - above all, freedom of speech without which no other freedoms are possible, as well as rule of law, open education, freedom of the press, equal justice under law, transparency in banking, property rights, and other freedoms of the west - and not just set in motion a shallow process that will only set in motion an even more oppressive form of government down the road."

See? No massive invasion is necessary. They're not even asking for air strikes.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Is It Time To Bomb Libya?

The always-reliable Michael Petrou at Macleans has a look-see into the sensible answers to that question. He comes up with a few, and the sensible consensus seems to be: We don't need to send in "boots on the ground." Let's just be sure we make it clear to the Libyan rebels: It's your country, you're in charge, we're on your side; let us know what you need, when you need it.

The nature and extent of outside military support should turn on whether the rebels are winning or losing and what they say they need. The main thing they need to hear is: We're standing by. The western democracies have to mean what they say and be prepared to prove it. Mainly, Petrou makes clear, we have to make up our own minds, abjure neutrality, and recognize that there is a "profound moral dimension" to what's happening in the Arab revolts.

Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brooking Institution’s Doha Center, explains that as long as the good guys are winning in Libya - and so far, they are - "we don’t need to get ahead of ourselves and talk about more drastic military action.” But there may come a point: “If push comes to shove, and we’re talking about tens of thousands killed a week or two from now, if there’s no quick conclusion to this, then I think we have to consider a different set of policy options and take more decisive military action. And that’s when we can start to talk about some sort of military intervention.”

I'm not sure exactly how you calculate which specific military mechanisms and policy options get triggered by measuring the height in metres of vast piles of corpses, I confess. But Hamid makes a good point. As I've said, we don't need to replay the Battle of Thermopylae here. Just one little drone would do. A handful of firecracker packs would be good to have close to hand as well.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that rebel leaders are calling for international military intervention now that it's evident that "people power alone may not be enough" to shift the hated Gaddafis. The February 17 Movement in Eastern Libya is hoping for a no-fly zone, strategic airstrikes and weapons drops. In Misurata, a spokesman for newly formed committees set up to run the town said "residents want foreign help to withstand an offensive by Gadhafi's militias." Gaddafi loyalists have retaken Gharyan, a town overlooking Tripoli, and Gaddafi loyalists that have surrounded Zawiyah almost took it last night. Both sides are armed with tanks and anti-aircraft guns. Nobody's asking for ground troops. The rebels are expected to come to a decision about outside help tomorrow.

Da Juze Is Behind My Problemz Sheeple!

I see the celebrity Aussie ponce Julian Assange is blaming the Giùdaigh (that's how to say Juze in bogman's backchat) for his woes, which will come as no surprise in this quarter. Agus I see the Chosen Ones are once again bravely taking it on the chin for moy payple, this time in the matter of the Olympics logo. Such grand days these are. On top of toppling tyrants, vindication and schaudenfraude by the barrel, and true friends the world round.

The Khomeinist despotism that runs Iran is threatening to boycott the Olympics after having noticed something suspicious and then laping in their staggers to the conclusion that the symbols spell out the word Zion, which is "racist." As any fule nose - hell as even a pikey such as myself noticed right smartly - the Olympics symbol cleverly occludes the word Fian (warrior in Gaeilge to you). But the Learned Elders of Their Crowd have kept shtum, bless their hearts. Go raibh maith agaibh!

In related news, Hugo The Boss has let his man-crush on Big Mo get the better of him. A wag by the name of Al Jazeera (some class of Protestant?) points out: "He may see himself as a leader of the global 'Left' - but what left is he claiming to lead? The enemy-of-my-enemy 'Left', of hollow, mud-slinging slogans, in support of anything or anyone who claims to oppose imperialism in all its forms in this Yankee-dominated world, no matter how monstrous his policies? Or a principled 'Left' based on respecting the values entrenched in the universal declaration of human rights, democracy and most importantly, the 'Left' which places it’s support squarely on the part of the people tormented, rather than their tormentor?"

Gude wan Al. Fair play to you. Go maire tu. As well I see Hugo may want to go halfers with Mo on the fees of a good law firm. But in even more intimately related news, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has wisely sidestepped the cunning subliminal-advertising trap that tricked Gaddafi into explaining that the Libyan rebels are all 17-year-olds high on hallucinogens because Al Qaida (another Protestant?) spiked their Nescafe (best product placement ever!). So President Ali's gone with a familiar jingle from the Walt-Mearsheimer agency instead.

But my warmest regards go not to my comrades among Da Juze but to their courageous collaborationists among Da Muzzies. The brave, spirited, democratic uprisings that have pitted unarmed Arab and Iranian protesters against the filthiest police states on earth have all been staged so as to cause everyone's notice to be distracted from the armies of the night that rose up in the Great Irish Rebellion of 2011. Because "Paddy likes to know what the story is," my pal Padraig Reidy explains how Fianna Fáil, the auld páirtí poblachtánach, was overthrown. It even took Jorry Oddums bay suppraze like.

The newly-elected Sinn Fein TDs from Norniron are bewildered to discover that the Sowtuviron is a mostly functioning republic and not the "backward, famine-riddled, priest-ridden, dung-heap of in-bred muck savages" they were expecting. Just as so many jackasses in the so-called 'western world' have lately discovered to their dismay and surprise that Arabs are not an undifferentiated mass of jackboot-liking Koran botherers who blame Zionist sorcery for every missed bus and power outage, the Shinners arriving at Leinster House are having the scales fall from their eyes. It turns out that the Irish Republic is not "a quagmire of unrealised nationalist aspirations governed by an elite of fat, Protestant farmers who rule over the Catholic masses like medieval barons" after all.

For your further amusement you can take this "Who's Line Is It Anyway" quiz at the Grauniad and see whether you can correctly attribute 10 quotes to either Charlie Sheen or Moammar Gaddafi. I got a perfect score. It was mostly luck.

Marg Bar Diktator.