Friday, December 30, 2011

About China: "Canadians need to talk about what's happening under our noses."

Ten years after Beijing insinuated itself into the World Trade Organization, Chinese corporate monopolies and crony-capitalist empires still enjoy protectionist tariffs and anti-competition laws that have rendered the whole idea of liberalized global trade a sick joke. The racket has engorged Chinese industrial barons with the booty of a sixfold increase in Chinese exports that have cost millions of North American workers their jobs and transformed what was an already fraudulent "socialism with Chinese characteristics" into an increasingly vile regime.

Fully half of China's billion citizens subsist on sub-Saharan incomes of less than $2 a day, and they're growing increasingly impatient with the corruption, oppression and persecution that has accompanied the stuffing of Beijing's foreign-reserves treasury.

But the dozens of unelected billionaires who now dominate the People's Congress that pretends to be a parliament have decided they will not put up with backchat from Chinese patriots and essayists or with "mass incidents" of the kind that broke out in Wukan and Haimen. Over the past five years, Congress deputies have doubled military spending, adding to a vast and growing security, surveillance and prisoncomplex apparatus with an annual budget that now hovers in the neighbourhood of $200 billion.

By all the evidence, this suits Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade just fine.

Well, it doesn't suit my disposition at all. The above is from my column in the Ottawa Citizen.

The situation is more dire than you might think. None other than Anthony Campbell, former head of the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat in the PCO during the 1990s, has this to say about my column: "The servility of Canada's political leaders (municipal, provincial and federal) to the obvious manipulations of Chinese strategists who flaunt world trade and financial market principles and jail democracy-promoting authors for 10-year terms is a national disgrace.Canada is not a parking lot for Chinese (or American) resources and our complicity with what Glavin rightly describes as "a rigged game" orchestrated by this "increasingly vile regime" in Beijing needs to end. Canadians need to talk about what's happening under our noses and Glavin's piece is a very good starting point."

The column is indeed just a starting point. Stay tuned. It will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. We may start with this. We'll see.

Here's an informed view of how the Year of the Dragon will unfold:

Money started to leave the country in October and Beijing's foreign reserves have been shrinking since September. . . there were 280,000 "mass incidents" last year according to one count -- but that they are also increasingly violent as the recent wave of uprisings, insurrections, rampages and bombings suggest. The Communist Party, unable to mediate social discontent, has chosen to step-up repression to levels not seen in two decades. The authorities have, for instance, blanketed the country's cities and villages with police and armed troops and stepped up monitoring of virtually all forms of communication and the media. It's no wonder that, in online surveys, "control" and "restrict" were voted the country's most popular words for 2011. . . the Chinese government could dissolve like the autocracies in Tunisia and Egypt."

Keep an eye on my pal Mark Collins at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs' Institute's 3D blog. You'll thank me later. Meantime, below is the Chinese human rights activist Ni Yulan, showing up in court after being beaten by police. The trial began with Ni lying on a cot in the courtroom, relying on an oxygen machine. She faces charges of "picking quarrels and making trouble."

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Lights Are On The Dunes, Comrade.

If there were a lament to be sung at his leaving, it would have to be somehow happy and unrepentant. The only one I know that might work is the Song of Mweenish. The concluding stanza: And as I go west by Inse Ghainimh, let the flag be on the mast. Oh, do not bury me in Leitir Calaidh, for it's not where my people are, But bring me west to Muínis, to the place where I will be mourned aloud; The lights will be on the dunes, and I will not be lonely there.

Christopher Hitchens was not lonely when death came to him and he is being mourned aloud and well. "No ululations, no wailing, no shooting in the air, no tossing of the coffin on the shoulders of a mob, no hoarse and brutal cries for revenge and suicide and murder," as he once put it, in a lecture in memory of his friend, the murdered Daniel Pearl. "No, we won't have that." Instead, an astonishing chorus of tributes is being offered up.

I've lent my voice here, in the Ottawa Citizen. I've tried to be cheery, noticing that Hitchens appeared to delight in the calumny the American liberal nomenklatura piled on him in the weeks and months after September 11. It was too early in the day for me to notice the shallow bitterness and churlishness in those same voices in the hours after his death. But I won't pay that any mind now, except to point of that all the Hitchens' critics I've come across today rely on the lowest tone, and all depend on deliberate distortion or outright lie. That should tell you something.

But Hitchens relished his enemies, which made him all the more galling. A couple of things I had to say:

When the wildly popular demagogue and so-called “anti-war” figure George Galloway called Hitchens “a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay,” Hitchens noted the insult, “some of which was unfair.” In the weeks following September 11, reporting from Pakistan’s borderlands while American bombers were raining guided missiles down on Taliban strongholds, Hitchens learned that at least two American F-16 pilots were women, and that he could barely contain the urge to proceed immediately to the Taliban embassy with the news: "It's your worst nightmare, you bastards. She's pissed,she's packing, and she's headed for you.”

I didn't want to draw George Orwell into it too deeply, settling for the case that Orwell's hopes that political writing might be made an art are fulfilled in Hitchens' work, but there's serendipity involved that bears some mention.

I happen to be spending most of my time these days wrapping up the lecture course I've been teaching at the University of Victoria, Orwell and Everything After. The one textbook for the course was Hitchens' Why Orwell Matters.

One of my guest lecturers this fall was Sohrab Ahmari, who writes a moving tribute to Hitchens today in Huffington Post, explaining how he came to be hooked on Hitch: "Here was an Anglo-American journalist drinking Persian moonshine and trading verses from the 11th-century poet Omar Khayyam with his local fixer - all while walking the streets of Neyshabur!"

Another guest lecturer I brought in (also by Skype; technology is our friend) was Michael Weiss, and here's his warm and funny tribute in today's Telegraph, Friendship was Hitch's only real ideology. Mike also wins hands down for best lede of all the tributes and obituaries I've come across: "Well, that’s another Christmas he’ll have enjoyed ruining."

This is funny: Back in the day, Conrad Black considered Hitchens' work "the demented ravings of an unspeakable poseur." This one, from our pal Fred Litwin, is quite sweet, a good point he makes about the necessity of rehabilitating the virtues of male companionship. But funniest is this remembrance from David Frum:

. . .A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews. “You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club. No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”

. . . He especially liked gallows humor. When the nurses asked him, in that insinuatingly cheerful way they have, how he was feeling, he’d answer, “I seem to have a little touch of cancer.” If he was late to emerge from his living room to see you because of the exhaustion and nausea of chemotherapy, he’d excuse himself with, “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I was brushing my hair”– of which of course there were only a few wisps left. . .

From Chris Buckley I was surprised to learn - I shouldn't have been - that the Hitch took pains to attend the funeral mass of Buckley's father, the indomitable conservative mastermind William F., and at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, no less, and also belted out “He Who Would Valiant Be” with the best of them. He did however duck out for a smoke when Kissinger took the lectern.

The lovely tribute from the Iranian-American poet Roya Hakakian that I mentioned in passing in my Ottawa Citizen piece can be read in full here. I would have cited more of it but for space, and there was lot more I would like to have covered but for space, and time. There's never enough time. But I have some space here. So here goes the home stretch.

In 2007, during a question and answer session following his address to a 2007 Freedom From Religion Foundation conference, a self-proclaimed atheist and Marxist upbraided Hitchens for his argument for “the need to stand up and fight this Muslim jihad.” That jihad was “the response to US and European imperialism,” the questioner insisted. The response that poured out of Hitchens was a withering, crushing and unscripted rebuke.

“Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. There you have it," he began. "You see how far the termites have spread and how long and well they’ve dined.” Nearly five minutes later, Hitchens concluded with what can be considered a succinct précis of his personal rebellions against the intellectual slovenliness of the Anglo-American liberal-left intelligentsia: “You surrender in your own name. Leave me out of it. I’m going to fight these people and every other theocrat all the way.”

Hitchens' summary serves as a kind of manifesto of the principles that had come to animate his life and work, and stands as a testament to the moral clarity that distinguished him from that shabby thing that had come to thrive in all the places where the the "left" used to be:

“For free expression, for women’s rights, for self-determination of small peoples, for the right of Iraqis to federate and have their own show, for the right of the Lebanese not to be bullied by Hezbollah and to have a multicultural democracy, yes, I’ll fight for this, and I think the 82nd Airborne Division is brave to be fighting for it too. And I think you should be ashamed, sneering at people who guard you while you sleep. Thanks.”

No. Thank you, Christopher. Your life's work lives on. Marg Bar Diktator. Death to Tyrants the World Round.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Domo Arigato, Kyoto, and Sayonara.

From my column in today's Ottawa Citizen:

“On Kyoto, I agree wholeheartedly, as would almost anyone in the scientific community, that it will have zero effect on global warming.” Those are not the words of Lord Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley and archdruid of the climate-change denial cult. That’s Andrew Weaver talking, back in 2008. Weaver is one of the world’s eminent climate scientists, author of the indispensable and clear-eyed Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, and the scourge of cranks and eccentrics who like to pretend that global warming isn’t happening.

There’s no denying that humanity’s contribution to the planet’s surfeit of greenhouse gases has rather a lot to do with the ominous and already observable weirdness affecting the world’s climate. There’s no point in pretending that the consequences of doing nothing about this will not be catastrophic. We should stop pretending about Kyoto, too.

Long before Environment Minister Peter Kent was obliged to subject himself to the degradation ceremony those apprentice raging grannies staged for the cameras in Durban last week, the Kyoto Protocol had failed even in its limited usefulness.

Kyoto could have been an instrument to force technological innovation in the world’s advanced economies in such a way as to clear a path for eventual and meaningful global reductions in greenhouse gases. But it didn’t turn out that way, and since nobody’s being especially parsimonious in the apportionment of blame for this, while we’re at it, there’s no good reason to ignore the pathological unseriousness that routinely attends to environmentalism, either. . . .

Meawhile, closely related, I see my collaboration with Maywa Montenegro, In Defense of Difference, is making the rounds again. It's based largely on some of the research that went into my 2007 book, The Sixth Extinction. I see Andrew Sullivan likes it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Afghanistan: "Graveyard of Empiricism"

I went with "Absurdistan" for the first chapter of my book, but I like Graveyard of Empiricism. I covered the same points that Javid Ahmad and Dhruva Jaishankar cover in this essay in Foreign Policy. They just scratch the surface, and it's an excellent essay. Their main observation is that the "western" understanding of Afghanistan is enfeebled because "a number of questionable assumptions about the Afghan people -- concerning their attitudes to foreigners, their history, their society, and their values - go unchallenged." As in the rubbish that a majority of Afghans are inherently hostile to the United States. As in the "graveyard of empires" nonsense.


1. "In this year's edition of the reasonably reliable Asia Foundation survey of Afghanistan -- which polled 6,348 Afghans from all 34 provinces -- an overwhelming 69 percent of Afghans polled say they are satisfied with the way democracy works in Afghanistan."

2. Forget partition. Joe Biden doesn't know what he's talking about. "A cursory look at history tells us that the partition of mixed political entities has almost always been accompanied or preceded by ethnic cleansing or immense sectarian violence: Consider India, Palestine, Bosnia, or Cyprus. Afghanistan's population is heterogeneous, and given the commitment to establishing a pluralistic and democratic state, calls for the country's de facto or de jure partition appear both irresponsible and impractical."

3. But we can't afford it! "According to the Congressional Research Service, the war in Afghanistan will cost the United States an estimated $114 billion this year, a mere 3 percent of the federal budget, and a much smaller fraction of the American economy. This appears to be a small investment relative to the importance to American foreign policy and national security of getting Afghanistan right." They might have added that most of that money never leaves American bank accounts.

4. "A plurality of Afghans (46 percent) believes that the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 35 percent who believe otherwise. What is even more encouraging, only 11 percent of Afghans have sympathy for armed opposition groups, half the proportion who expressed similar sentiments two years ago."

5. "A balanced view of Afghan public opinion, history, culture, and politics -- and, just as importantly, of the United States' ability to shape these factors in advancing its national security interests -- is crucial as Washington debates a decision that will have important regional and international implications for decades to come."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Work Of The Generals.

Dozens dead this morning in Kabul and Mazar-i Sharif. Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi claims responsibility.

NYT: Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi is a Punjabi group with a long history of cooperation with Pakistani’s intelligence service, as well as close ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is made up of Sunni extremists who believe in the extermination of Shiites, and has helped drive the rampant sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni groups in Pakistan.

Stating the obvious: "ISI-backed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi/Sipah-e-Sahaba terrorists exact revenge on Afghan Shias - The attacks on Afghanistan’s Shia Muslims mourning Imam Hussain highlight the terrifying vision of Pakistan’s foreign policy elite who favour a return to Taliban rule in Afghanistan, as per the recommendations of the USIP-Jinnah Institute report."

Here's LeJ's handiwork in Quetta last year: Dozens dead in suicide bomb attack.

We already know which side the "U.S. Institute for Peace" is on. But as I said last week, it's long past time for the NATO countries to put the question directly to President Barack Obama: Whose side are you on?

UPDATE: Pakistan's interior minister, the corrupt thug and business tycoon Rehman Malik, has expressed gratitude to the Taliban for not slaughtering Pakistani Shias during this year's Muharram observances, and the gruesome American congressman Dennis Kucinich advises that America should slobber on the Pakistani generals' boots. Referring to the November 26 shootout on the Mohmand-Kunar frontier that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead, Kucinich said: “We need to apologise to the people of Pakistan."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Banned In Pakistan.

The Pakistani ISI and its parliamentary lapdogs are responsible for tens of thousands of Afghan and ISAF/NATO deaths over the past decade. Everybody knows now. But the depths of duplicity, mendacity and barbarism to which the Pakistani elites have stooped, and the enthusiasm with which they have devoted themselves to the care and feeding of some of the world's most savage and lumpen jihadi gangsters, are not so well known.

As of last Wednesday, the BBC World News has been blocked by Pakistan's cable channels as a "protest" against this two-part BBC documentary, Secret Pakistan. Watch this, and you will see what the Pakistani establishment does not want the people of Pakistan to know. The people of the "west" need to know these things, too, no less.

Part One: Double Cross.

Part Two: Backlash.

Friday, December 02, 2011

This Town's Hockey Team is Called The Smoke Eaters.

Trail, British Columbia, is a smelter town. This is how they ski:

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

The Obama Administration's Foreign Policy: Inconsistent, Incompetent, Mendacious.

Our friend Sohrab Ahmari, writing in World Affairs Journal:

The birth pangs of Arab democracy thus risk the perverse and paradoxical effect of strengthening Iranian totalitarianism and making ideological and political containment of the Islamic Republic more of an uphill battle than it was prior to the self-immolation of a desperate Tunisian fruit vendor. To point this out is not to suggest that the US should continue risking the moral and strategic hazards associated with propping up Arab dictators. That strategy has borne rotten fruit for far too long. On the contrary, the turbulent era ahead calls for principled, prolonged American engagement in the region. Economic aid and top-down engagement with emerging elites will only go so far. What is needed and desperately lacking in American policy toward the Mideast is a consistent vision of and commitment to a democratic future for the region. In the coming months and years, American policymakers must actively identify and reward liberal voices, while simultaneously undermining and marginalizing Islamist ones.

Obama’s record on this count has been woefully inadequate thus far. Eager to put the Bush freedom agenda to rest in favor of a more “respectful” approach to the world’s least free region, the administration has repeatedly made it clear that the US has little interest in promoting liberalism in the Middle East. The abandonment of Iran’s embattled dissidents in 2009 was merely the most visible symptom of this orientation. Since then, as the desire for individual freedom and popular dignity has lit up the entire region, the administration’s response to each successive Arab revolt has revealed its failure to learn the lesson of the previous one. The routine has become comically familiar: first, an assurance that the regime in question, friend or foe, is stable; next, a half-hearted call for “reform” and a denunciation of generalized “violence”; and finally, once the dictator has fallen, an insistence that the administration had supported the popular will all along and had played an invisible but significant role in its success. (Even in Libya, where NATO acted to prevent genocide, the leader of the free world insisted that the US play a secondary role and barely bothered to articulate the moral dimension of the mission). . .

There are surprisingly few places in Sohrab's magisterial essay where the words "Middle East" could not be replaced by the "Afghanistan" or "Central Asia" and still be perfectly accurate. Meanwhile, here's the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee's recommendations for a Canadian contribution at the upcoming Bonn conference.

The White House is still whimpering about Pakistan's decision to stay away from Bonn and issung preposterous claims about how Pakistan is still America's best buddy. In Islamabad, meanwhile, the creepy prime minister, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, has ordered Pakistani troops to take the safety off their guns whenever they notice Americans approaching the frontier, and he's further refusing to allow Pakistani officials to participate in the probe into last weekend's border gong show (in Washington they're still calling the incident a mere "bump in the road" if you can believe it).

That's not what Gilani's calling it. Listen to this clown: “These dastardly attacks in the dead of night cannot but be construed as a grave infringement of Pakistan’s territorial frontiers by NATO/ISAF and definitely compel us to re-visit our National Security paradigm. These attacks also have serious implications for regional peace and security. Under no circumstances, will we allow Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to be jeopardized by ill-considered and rash actions such as the attacks on our territory by NATO/ISAF. Our patriotic people and valiant armed forces will spare no sacrifice in the defence of their motherland. Instructions have been issued to all units of the Pakistan armed forces to respond, with full force, to any act of aggression and infringement of Pakistan’s territorial frontiers.”

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Pakistani Pantomime.

. . .Pakistan’s distemper is supposed to be about last weekend’s shootout between NATO helicopters and what turned out to be a Pakistani border post on the Kunar-Mohmand frontier. Afghan military sources say the Pakistanis shot first. Pakistani generals say it was an unprovoked American attack on Pakistan’s unblemished honour and integrity. In any event, 24 Pakistani soldiers ended up dead, and we’re supposed to believe that it’s because everyone’s so sensitive that Pakistan is shutting its border crossings to NATO supply convoys, banning the BBC from Pakistani airwaves, setting American flags on fire and snubbing the Bonn summit.

Don’t believe a word of it.

That's from my column in today's Ottawa Citizen.

What I find most astonishing about the coverage of this latest volcanic eruption of umbrage spewing out of the Pakistani elites and their legions of lumpen chauvinist effigy-burners is the nearly complete absence of context. You'd think that the New York Times and the Washington Post were being run by State Department advertising-agency contractors or something. The straight facts would be nice. And even the tiniest bit of background would expose Pakistan's shouted proclamations of wounded feeling for the play-acting that's really going on here.

An offence to Pakistani sovereignty? Please.

Let's set aside for the moment the crushing weight of unimpeachable evidence that the Pakistani military leadership is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the Quetta Shura, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e Taiba and the rest of those bloodthirsty terror networks. Set aside the fact that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) was only recently caught red-handed in its planning and communications role in the recent attacks on the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul. Never mind for the moment the testimony of US Commander Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff: "The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Internal Services Intelligence agency."

How soon we have forgotten - only two months ago the Pakistanis fired 340 rockets into villages in the Afghan province of Kunar, only a short hike from last weekend's ruckus. The barrage lasted several days, killed a child and forced hundreds of Afghan farmers to flee the area. Here's what Kunar governor Fazilullah Wahidy had to say at the time: “The shells were fired directly from Pakistani military posts and garrisons on that side of the border.” Got that? The shells were fired directly from Pakistani military posts and garrisons.

Only four months ago, after reports that dozens of Afghans had been killed by rockets fired from Pakistani border posts, there was a modest demonstration in the streets of Kabul to protest the incidents. The protesters carried banners with slogans such as: “We condemn the invasion on our soil” and slamming Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

Only seven months ago, at least 12 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed in a "border clash" involving Pakistani forces firing from the Waziristan side of the frontier. A couple of months before that, in Khost, an Afghan border police officer reported: “At around 11 am today, Pakistani troops in Waziristan started firing heavy and light weapons towards police posts in Gurbuz district. Our soldiers returned fire. Their attack was completely unprovoked and without reason."

After last weekend's incident, Americans are nevertheless being treated to the grotesquely humiliating spectacle of their own leaders sucking up to Pakistani generals and offering condolences and begging the best-dressed and most dedicated tormentors of Afghanistan to keep playing along. Are American voters really that stupid? Afghan sure aren't.

“Pakistan shows its two-face policy all the time. In the open they are saying that they want prosperity in Afghanistan, but they are also sending people to destroy Afghanistan,” says Younas Fakor, an independent political analyst in Kabul.

Here's Kabuli journalist and analyst Abbas Daiyar for the last word on the subject:

The ‘peace plan’ suggested by Pakistani military for the endgame in Afghanistan is simply not acceptable for Afghans and the international community. They want a big share in power for Haqqanis and Quetta Shura saying militants represent Pashtuns. Pakistan’s main objective is full withdrawal of US troops. They are against the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership agreement that allows presence of US troops long beyond 2014. Pakistani military has its reasons. They fear US military intervention from Afghanistan against their nuclear capabilities. It’s time for both countries to stop lies and deceit and decide they are allies or not.