Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tell Me All About Your Precious Wounded Feelings.

Journalists who feel no compunction about being irritating, wrong, annoying and insulting to anyone they please should really have rather a thicker skin when an object of their axe-jobs (in this case, myself) resorts to the impudence of turning the tables just the tiniest a bit and having a bit of fun in pointing out what bores they are (in this case, Charlie Smith, editor of the Vancouver newsweekly, the Georgia Straight).

To a couple of Charlie's recent attention-getting devices at my expense, I am happy to draw attention. The first is a sprawling, inaccurate and incoherent tempter tantrum that masquerades as a review of my most recent book, headlined Terry Glavin Is Up To His Old Tricks in Come From The Shadows. Now, to be clear, when you write a book you should expect everything from praise to sophomoric calumny to nasty personal attack. You put yourself out there, it comes with the territory. So fair enough that I should now and again be allowed a laugh, I would have thought.

Now, Charlie Smith most recently, most humorlessly and predictably couldn't resist taking another shot that revives his previous insult in a smear that takes on a decidedly conspiracist tone. It appears to rely for evidence solely on an article Charlie himself wrote 13 years before. I do confess that after I saw that I couldn't resist making a bit of fun about it. My mistake. It seems I upset him.

In comments below his whatever-it-is about my upcoming March 8 talk at the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, Charlie responds with hurt feelings to my fun-poking, thus: "Terry Glavin couldn't resist taking shots at me on his site for being a friend of the 9/11 truth movement, even though I've never written a word on this subject in my life. This type of attack was fully expected when I published this post. I feel I understand why some writers have a compulsive need to slash and attack others."

Actually, I made only glancing mention of what Charlie refers to when he describes himself as "being a friend of the 9/11 truth movement" and it wasn't the sound that slashing and attacking makes. It is what laughing sounds like. Still, poor Charlie. Sorry to offend. But wait. Now that he mentions it: Never written a word on the "9/11 truth movement" in his life? Really?

I can set aside the fact that he's the editor of the Georgia Straight - that's his job - and that I stopped counting the public-relations jobs the Truthers were getting into the newspaper Charlie edits right around the time I stopped reading it (and it hasn't stopped, I see, just in recent months, here's one, and here's one, and here's another, and here's another). Oh, wait, here's an article about Truthers Charlie himself wrote since then. Maybe that doesn't count for some reason, but I don't know why I should set aside a certain news article that Charlie himself most certainly did write under the headline U.S. antifascist to warn Vancouverites about dangerous global elites.

Straight away you should notice that Charlie not only wrote in the most flattering and promotional fashion about a prominent and especially crazy Truther. You should also know that Charlie either lacked the decency or the competence or the time before deadline to let his readers in on the fact that they were reading a hagiographic promo of a certain U.S. Lieutenant.-Colonel Bob Bowman that strangely fails to mention who it was that brought Bowman to Vancouver in the first place, or why, or indeed anything at all relevant about who Bowman really is.

Bowman is perhaps the highest profile member of the "They Let It Happen" sect among 911 conspiracy theorists. Charlie's article makes no mention of the fact that Bowman was presented to him by the Vancouver 911 Truth Society, which was openly and quite unsurprisingly presenting Bowman to Vancouverites as part of the far-right 911 / Patriot Tour, and for some reason Charlie chose the term "antifascist group" to describe what is in fact a well-known far-right 911 Conspiracy outfit.

Neither would you know it from reading Charlie's article that Bowman is also an infamous religious crackpot who claims to be the real pope and lords it over his very own Holy See from some hicktown in Florida. Charlie also somehow managed to fail to tell his readers anything about Bowman's scandalous counseling of the American military class to mount a putsch against the American government, beginning with the "detention of executive branch officials."

To remind: "Terry Glavin couldn't resist taking shots at me on his site for being a friend of the 9/11 truth movement, even though I've never written a word on this subject in my life."

Not to be too hair-splitting or niggling about accuracy - and this is wholly unsolicited advice, I concede - but perhaps this would have been better: "I've never written a word on this subject in my life that was either accurate or honest enough to even allow my readers to know that despite all appearances, and they would never have guessed from my article, but the 9/11 truth movement was exactly what I was writing about."

Just a suggestion is all. Perhaps it's a bit wordy. This is not to "slash and attack" anyone, least of all any fellow writers, humourless or otherwise. It is rather intended as a small contribution to civic hygiene.

It is a gesture of solidarity with all those of my fellow writers, especially writers of books - and come to think of it with any number of people I could count - who know the feeling, when nasty insinuations and abuses of all stripe are catapulted in one's direction out of the pages of newspapers and magazines, that one is expected to just sit there and shut up and take it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Afghanistan: The Writing Life And All That.

I've been busy these past few days sorting out the latest developments in Afghanistan's unraveling. See: Koran riots are about more than religious zealotry and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: The Vampire Returns. So I'm using this an excuse to get to a roundup of recent reviews and notices of my book, Come From the Shadows.

In the Globe and Mail, Paula Newberg, director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and formerly special adviser to the United Nations in Afghanistan, was quite kind:

"In Glavin’s Afghanistan, things may have gone mightily awry, but not everything has gone wrong. As the state has muddled through, progress has been local and personal. The costs are high: War has contributed to increased mental illness, poverty is searing and families can find themselves divided by belief as well as deed. Glavin embraces the whole country with kindness, somewhat in awe of the courage and convictions of individuals who simply will not accept the negative assumptions that outsiders can bring to them and their country."

Author, historian and retired Canadian army colonel John Boileau, in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: "Come from the Shadows is a book that will disturb both proponents and opponents of the United Nations-approved, NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. Proponents (aka the "right") will regard it as confirmation that Canada was wrong to pull out of combat operations last year, while opponents (aka the "left") will undoubtedly flinch at the skewering that author Terry Glavin inflicts upon them. All of which is a bit strange, as Glavin is self-admittedly very much a traditional 'lefty'."

That's more than fair, too.

In the Literary Review of Canada, another retired colonel, Mike Capstick, reviewed my book alongside Chris Alexander's fine The Long Way Back, as did Newberg in the Globe. Mike knows me (we've been in touch for years, and in Afghanistan he helped me get my head around a couple of thorny questions I was chasing down) and he's worked with Alexander. I don't think he's quite right to say I'm "highly critical" of the news media, although that would be an easy thing to be, and I don't credit all progress solely to the Afghan people.

But what I find interesting about Capstick's review is that he reckons I bang on a bit too much about the moral squalor that settled like vapors over much of the liberal-left in the matter of the Afghan struggle. He says it's "well worth reading," but: "Clearly intended to place the anti-war movement on the wrong side of history, these tend to make the story about us, as opposed to the Afghans who will either prosper or suffer because of our intervention."

Well, actually, yes. I set out to write a book that was as much about "us" as "them," and I draw those distinctions differently, much the way Peter Ryley does, in a review that is a gorgeous essay on its own. As Ryley puts it: "Yet there is more to it than this. As I read on, I became more and more convinced that the struggle for a democratic Afghanistan is also our struggle."

At the moment, Ryley is teaching part-time in Manchester and working on what will undoubtedly be a terrific book on a little-explored corner of anarchist history. He divides his time between the UK and Greece, from where he sends me the occasional cruel report about how delightfully warm and sunny it is there.

Anyway, unlike Capstick, Ryley would have wanted me to bang on a bit more than I did, but with greater thought and precision. Ryley's view - and I must admit he is quite right - is that I hold that the self-proclaimed "anti-war" movement is "a breach with earlier socialist and social democratic discourses," and that "the left abandoned class organisation in favour of 'counterculture'." Ryley cleaves to what is perhaps a slightly more nuanced view, but certainly a longer view, one that sees "all the currents of apologism, relativism, anti-Semitism and frank admiration for tyrannies as things that have always existed within the left."

Peter also wants to rehabilitate the idea of "counterculture," and makes a solid case for just that. On the main question, the only one that really matters, here's Ryley: "Think of how the poor, for example, are to come from the shadows in any European country, how other than by listening to their voices are they to escape the stigma of the word 'scrounger' or the more respectable condescension bestowed by the concept of 'dependency culture', think of how they too can build their own communities, organise and, when necessary, protest. Yes, Afghanistan is our struggle too."

Ryley gets it. So does another comrade, the Iranian-American journalist Sohrab Ahmari, co-editor with Nasser Weddady of of a marvelous and moving anthology that will be out in May, Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks Out from North Africa to Iran, an advance copy of which I have just got my hands on. Trust me. You will want to get your hands on a copy too.

In World Affairs Journal, Ahmari's review of my book is, like Ryley's, a fine and thoughtful essay in its own right, Afghanistan Now: The People Do Not Want To Go Back.

"The country that we are rushing to abandon, Glavin argues in his powerful new book of first-person reportage from Afghanistan, is an 'Absurdistan' of our own construction— 'an apparatus sustained only by the suspension of disbelief, a contrivance wholly impervious to the objective realities of the world in which Afghanistan actually exists.' To be sure, Afghanistan is a land devastated by more than three decades of conflict and civil strife and driven to unimaginable cruelty and backwardness by the obscurantist zeal of the Talibs. But, as Glavin shows, that’s only part of the story. There is another Afghanistan, a 'womb of empires,' where, under the protection of NATO forces and thanks to the tireless efforts of countless Afghans, a vibrant and once tolerant civilization is being reborn."

Tashakor, Sohrab'jan. Hambastegi.

Finally, I was surprised by the warm reception the Words Without Borders audience gave me on Saltspring Island this weekend. Nobody called me a warmonger, not even once. It was grand. I joined Murray Brewster (The Savage War) and Ann Jones (Kabul in Winter) for a discussion moderated hosted by Kevin Patterson.

My old chum Paul Burke put me up and it was lovely catching up with him and Anna, and I had a couple of great sessions with Jonathon Chilvers and Sally Armstrong. Sally should have been on the panel. She's more familiar with the Afghan struggle than any of the "experts" we usually hear from, owing to her long, continuing and intimate familiarity with Afghanistan and her splendid and groundbreaking first-hand reportage from the country, where she was risking her life to bring stories to us from the women there, long before 9-11.

Plus I got to catch up with my buddy sister hero of the people Lauryn Oates, who's just now packing her bags to head back to her beloved Afghan sisters. And get this: she turned a mere 30, if you don't mind, the day before she headed over to Saltspring. And this will be her 30th trip to Afghanistan.

Stay safe, kiddo. You're never far from my thoughts.

Left Gatekeeper To The Ziocon False Flag Hegemony - That's Me.

I see Charlie Smith, the Vancouver 911-Truthers' best friend and editor of a once-great weekly, is insinuating something about my role in yet another conspiracy theory, which I can't quite figure out. I think it involves taxes.

I find this particularly amusing because I've just arrived home from Saltspring Island, where I sat on a panel last night to talk about my latest book ("Come From the Shadows") and hear what my co-panelists Murray ("The Savage War") Brewster and Ann ("Kabul In Winter") Jones had to say about theirs - at a weekend literary festival organized by what Charlie might take to be a spy nest of New Democrats, including formerly rising NDP star Michael Byers.

In the coming days I will be flying to Terrace and Prince Rupert to give some talks, hosted by the Academic Workers Union and other suspiciously leftish-sounding entities, and to meet with some local tribal chiefs. I expect this will make me a secret agent for The Fourth World. I will also be speaking at an event at the University of Victoria, with Green Party leader Elizabeth May, organized by the UVic Greens.

But before Charlie accuses me of taking bribes from Al Gore or being on Leonardo DiCaprio's eco-payroll he might wait until I get the opportunity to talk to the Sisters of St. Anne (I got my fingers crossed on that one). Then he can more usefully smear me as being a paid agent of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is also on the side of the child pornographers, and a double agent for the Bildebergers.

All this is to say I have nothing better to do with my time than purposely confuse and confound the exceedingly powerful cultural force known as Charlie Smith, and to try to throw him off my trail so as carry out the edicts of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Balleyvourney in the ancient, chapter-and-verse obligation to subvert the NEB hearings into the Enbridge pipeline in order to turn the Alberta oilsands into a giant Beamish distillery while everyone was looking the other way. The fools, the fools!Link

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: Return Of The Vampire.

Now playing at a National Post Full Comment page near you:

My column on the shadowy and overlooked forces at work behind the latest bloodcurdling eruptions of what we're all expected to believe are the offended religious sensibilities of those inscrutable Afghans is in today's Ottawa Citizen. I relied mainly on some key observations the legendary Afghan spy chief Amrullah Saleh shared with me during a telephone conversation in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The thing I stuck to most closely in the column was the way the script that's playing out in this past week's riots is an almost play-by-play reenactment of last April's berserking, which everyone was also expected to apprehend as eruptions of the offended religious sensibilities of those inscrutable Afghans, but which was also no such thing. For an elaboration of what was really going on last April, you can look it up in an essay I wrote for Dissent while the ashes in Mazar were still smouldering.

In my column, there is mention of the psychopathic mass-murderer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency also gets honourable mention, and I am not hesitant to reiterate here that no adequate remedy for the ISI may exist except to shoot everyone above the rank of major. To appreciate what follows, you'll want to know straight away that Hekmatyar is the gluttonous cannibal that heads up the original faction of Hezb-e-Islami, an offshoot of which is well represented in Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga, and even in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's cabinet, in the person of Economy Minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal.

You will also need to know that the ISI has declared that it is most pleased that the United States is setting up Mullah Omar's Taliban in a fancy district of Qatar to begin the final forced "reconciliation" of the Afghan people with the genocidal Taliban high command. The ISI is seeing to it that Omar's Haqqani wing will have Qatari office space of their own so that they won't feel left out of the bargain.

And here's Hekmatyar's mouthpiece, immiediately prior to the koran riots: “If any groups are ignored in the peace talks, it would change to resistance force against the government and could be a major threat to Afghanistan,” Mr Baheer said. “Destabilizing Afghanistan is not a difficult task, it’s too easy.”

In other words, nice filthy little disgrace of a capitulation you've got going here, it would be a shame if anything happened to it, we want our piece. And with the right people in the right places, "destabilizing Afghanistan" is a very easy thing to do indeed.

I now introduce Afghan analyst Abdul Ali Faiq, who these days works in London with the European Campaign for Human Rights in Afghanistan. Abdul has closely tracked the trajectory of this past week's protests and their locales, and he's also closely monitored the local buzz and the factional polemics in Dari/Farsi and Pashto media. His findings stand in sharp contradiction to the story that most westerners are hearing about what's going on. But they are perfectly consistent with Amrullah Saleh's assessment.

The whole thing's got Hekmatyar's signatures all over it.

"What happened at Baghram, this is not a concern for the 29 million people of Afghanistan," Faiq told me. Some soldiers mistakenly burned a koran, it was a sad and regrettable mistake, even President Barack Obama is falling all over himself issuing groveling apologies. Most Afghans have their minds on other things. "They say, why should we care?"

One of Faiq's key findings is that even in the Tajik and Hazara areas of the north - Kabul, Parwan, and so on - and in the Persian west - Herat, for instance - the specific locales of the violence and the slogans being shouted are associated with ethnic pockets of Pashtuns, but more importantly, with centres of Hezb-e-Islami. "It's a manipulation of the masses," Faiq says. "It is Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami. This is a milking cow for them. They have made this drama. They made this scenario."

Many Afghans are legitimately aggrieved by the sacrilegious aspect of the Baghram incident. But what most Afghans are more likely to notice is that it's almost poetically emblematic of what a growing number of people across the country's political, ethnic and religious divides now cannot help but conclude: the Obama administration holds them and their sorry little country in utter contempt, and he never did mean it when he said he was going to be the president who would take Afghanistan seriously for once.

The American surrender crept up so subtly, and was couched in such syrupy lies - of course all wars end in negotiations, of course all negotiations must be Afghan-led - that it was accomplished before most Afghans had even an inkling that they were being sold out.

You think it's hard to figure out who's who around the presidential palace in Kabul? Most North Americans and Europeans couldn't tell you the first thing about who's who around the Obama White House these days. Cut the Afghans some slack here. It's taken them a while, but they've finally figured out that as far as the whole "Af-Pak" thing goes, it's all Joe Biden, all the time, and he's the dumbest American vice-president to come along since Dan Quayle.

My friend Sanjar Sohail, editor of the liberal Kabul daily Hasht-e Sohb, put it this way: "This is good for the Khomeinists, the ISI, and for Hezb-e Islami. If there was no koran burning at the Baghram base, it would have been something else, and of course Hezb-e-Islami is benefiting from it."

No serious person in Afghanistan has any doubt that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, if not living in a mansion in Rawalpindi within a short limousine ride from ISI HQ, is living in swank digs known to the ISI, somewhere, instead of spending his days at the International Criminal Court at the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity, which is where he belongs.

It should tell you something that the reason the ISI generals invented the Taliban in the first place was that they thought Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami were a bit too harsh. Hekmatyar had been the ISI's most lavishly-funded war-criminal proxy all through the 1980s. The ISI wanted something a little less bloodthirsty, so in around 1994 they replaced him and Hezb with Mullah Omar and his Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Hekmatyar's been ostensibly freelance ever since.

Hekmatyar is responsible for deliberately slaughtering roughly 50,000 Kabuli civilians during his bombardments of the city during the extermination campaign westerners still quaintly refer to as the "Afghan civil war," that hellish ISI-wrought, Khomeinist-contested and Saudi- funded interregnum between the Red Army's massacres and the Taliban despotism.

A Pashtun supremacist turned Stalinist, then drug-trafficker and drooling Islamist fanatic, Hekmatyar ran his Hezb faction in Leninist style, a habit he picked up from his days as a student at Kabul University, where he’d been jailed for two years for his part the murder of a Maoist rival. Hekmatyar is an equal-opportunity butcher. He was the gangster the ISI spent most of its American money on during the anti-Soviet jihad (although they say he never won a battle against the Soviets and that all his victims were Afghans) and was also the Saudis’ anointed proxy for a while, and has also been a frequent guest of Khomeinist Iran.

Hekmatyar rushed to Osama bin Laden's aid after September 11. He brags about having helped Al Qaida forces escape through the Tora Bora mountains into Pakistan, and he brought Al Qaida fugitives back with him to Iran, where he wore out his welcome after a year or so. Dozens of the more deadly attacks carelessly attributed to the Taliban in recent years were Hekmatyar jobs. His Hezb gangsters have even carried off some spectacular whacks of Talib columns, just to prove they can do it. It was a Hekmatyar rocket that came close to killing Karzai at a military parade in Kabul in 2008.

We are supposed to believe the ISI doesn't know his whereabouts, and we are supposed to believe the Americans will scruple about cutting Hekmatyar in on Obama's new reconciliation and power-sharing action in Qatar. Believe what you like, but believe this: the vampire's back in town.

Shoot Everyone Above The Rank Of Major.

In today's Ottawa Citizen: The ongoing riots in Afghanistan were an opportunity waiting for a pretext, just like last April's riots. So, take the opportunity, my dear American comrades. In the matter of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, shoot everyone above the rank of major. Do that, and instead of having gangs of lumpen rioters throwing stones at your soldiers, you will have millions of ordinary Afghans laying flowers at their feet.

And while you're about it, do something about this:

Ever since Barack Obama was elected in 2008, everything the White House has done has had a smell about it that can easily be mistaken for the reek of sabotage and capitulation. You might not even be mistaken to detect, for every bloody gain won by a brave American soldier, some subtle but discernibly creepy move the Obama White House has made.

A smiling nod to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as he shows up at the edge of the “peace talks” arena, the blotting out of the words “democracy” and “victory” from the president’s speeches, the State Department’s purchase of swank digs for Mullah Omar’s power-sharing delegates in Qatar — every single move, to be perfectly fair, stinks of a post-facto Democratic party self-exculpation on the whole “war” thing.

You shouldn’t have to be a forsaken Afghan democrat to imagine what it must feel like to have every last shred of your dignity stripped from you and to have your silly faith in America’s goodwill burned like some old and moth-gnawed Koran in a Baghram ash pit.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Those Are Some Great New Friends We Got.

I'm beginning to like our older friends more and more every day. From my column in tomorrow's Ottawa Citizen (online today):

There’s no hiding it now.

With U.S. President Barack Obama pulling out all the stops this week to convince Israel to hold its fire and give multilateral sanctions time to bring Iran’s Khomeinist regime to heel, Canada’s sanctions law is a complete shambles. It was designed that way, and if we don’t fix things fast the Americans are going to do it for us.

. . . Now that Ottawa has welcomed Tehran’s most generous benefactors and the world’s most notorious Iran sanctions-busters into the heart of Alberta’s oilpatch, that moment may arrive sooner than anyone expected.

And so on.

Meanwhile, I've got an analysis of the deadly koran-burn hullabaloo in Afghanistan, coming up in Saturday's Citizen. This week's tumults are a too-eerie replay of last year's madness. My Saturday piece is informed mainly by a telephone conversation late last night with the legendary Afghan spy chief Amrullah Saleh, someone I have never known to be wrong about anything that matters.

For what its worth, my take will leave the impression that the Obama White House isn't grossly incompetent on te Af-Pak front after all, but rather treacherous and sinister (and not the same 'old friends' I was referring to in the headline up there). Not that my opinion should count for much anyway but if I am wrong about that, then for starters, Joe Biden is the dumbest vice-president since Dan Quayle. I don't come out and say that in the Ottawa Citizen essay Saturday so I thought I'd just say it here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times is dead. She and French photographer Remi Ochlik were slaughtered in Homs today along with 80 Syrians, whose names I do not know.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

They Thought They Were So Bloody Clever.

To know anything about the extreme peril Canada has been drawn into lately you need to roll back the tape to September, 2009. That was the beginning of a sort of experiment that certain cabinet ministers (who have since decamped to more lucrative sinecures) thought it would be amusing to run on the Investment Canada Act, by amendment and quiet regulation: Hey, let's see what happens if we try to turn Canada into one of those postmodernist dystopias where nothing is objective, everything is a social construction, and national security is whatever Dear Leader says.

Well, I hope you're pleased with yourselves now, because the Khomeinists' lifeline to nukes is now Canada's 'lifeline to economic prosperity' in China.

Experiment Result Number 1: A rapid succession of weirdly generous and way-above-market offers for key Alberta oilsands properties has now established a wholly unearned and privileged place in Canada's energy sector for the acquisitions arms of that vast military-industrial complex known as the Government of the People's Republic of China, I've already set it out the grisly details here.

Experiment Result Number 2: I set it out in my column in today's Ottawa Citizen (which has been picked up by today's National Post with an even better headline - 'Canada's Iran Sanctions Stop at the Alberta Oilpatch'): Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now inches away from fatally undermining Canada’s own sanctions against the Khomeinist regime in Tehran after throwing Alberta’s oilsands wide open to Beijing-owned corporations running multi-billion-dollar joint ventures in Iran’s energy sector. As in Petro-China, as in CNOOC, and mostly, as in the Enbridge pipeline financier and Syncrude veto-holder Sinopec.

Former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler weighs in, as does Israeili President Shimon Peres's guy in Canada Arie Raif, the slightly more Bibi-Netanyahu-friendly CIJA board headed by Shimon Fogel (who is a damn good man) and Sheryl Saperia of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, who pointed me to the relevant bits in the law.

Now that Professor Einstein and Doctor Pavlov have moved on, it fell to Industry Minister Christian Paradis February 9 to misspeak, or misinform, or misguide the House of Commons. His Parliamentary Secretary, Edmonton MP Mike Lake, was left to try and pick up the pieces in the House this past Wednesday, which just made things worse. All set out here. Mr. Lake ended up looking like one of those Parliament Hill types who are always obsessively fiddling with their Blackberries. He left Minister Paradis looking like a fire chief who hadn't read the bit in his job description about seeing to it that people's houses don't burn down.

The upshot is this. In Alberta, where they used to scream about Ottawa nationalizing the oilpatch with that Maoist nightmare Petro-Canada, now it's Petro-China instead and it's Beijing that's doing the nationalizing. Bloody money corrupts everything it touches, and the container-loads of cash suddenly circulating in this country come from the same cold-eyed autocrats who were ordering live rounds to be fired into crowds of unarmed Tibetan monks while they were making kissy face with Prime Minister Harper, in China, only last week.

Canada's own version of Dear Leader now gets to decide what the words "national security" mean, what a threat to national security is, what the word "threat" means and whether national security is even involved in any of this at all. When it comes to protecting Canada's national interests in the matter of multi-billion-dollar takeover strategies run out of the politburo in Beijing, the Dear Leader with the foreign money portfolio in the current politburo configuration in Ottawa is Christian Paradis.

The Bill C-30 ruckus is a sideshow, as the wise Robert Fulford has effortlessly made plain. Comrade Minister Paradis is the guy who now gets to make stuff up as he goes along by the shiny seat of his own committee-going pants, unburdened of annoying legal “definitions,” or "objective criteria," or indeed any irritating obligations at all regarding "transparency." After all, in the words of the Investment Canada Act regulations that Cabinet does not want you to notice, that would “limit the government’s flexibility.”

And after all, who would want a “Criminal Code” with all its nuisance definitions encumbering the “flexibility” of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews or the RCMP? If the hoi-polloi insist on having foreign-power takeovers subjected to national security reviews conducted according to "concrete, objective and transparent criteria,” the next thing you know the proles will be demanding open courtrooms, fair trials, rules of evidence and habeas corpus.

And thus it came to pass that for starters, the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA), the statute that is supposed to enforce Canada's sanctions against the nuke-wanting ayatollahs in Tehran, was end-run, up-ended, and rendered moot. It is why, when Foreign Minister John Baird can rightly claim that Canada's Iran sanctions under SEMA are the toughest in the world, Irwin Cotler is forced to observe: “But we are now in a situation where we are not even taking our own sanctions seriously.”

That's just where it starts. There will be more here soon.

Elswhere, I see Andrew Nikiforuk at The Tyee has put together a disturbing and quite thorough profile of the ghastly global juggernaut Sinopec that Prime Minister Harper has so foolishly drawn to his bosom: The Sinopec File. I was once a Tyee columnist, and while I rarely have cause to look in on what they're up to over there, when I do I look for Andy. Today, his stuff is tremendous.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's Political Correctness Gone Mad I Tell You.

Far be it from me to say that Industry Minister Christian Paradis misled the House of Commons last week. Perhaps we might say he misinformed the House, by mistake, because he is himself misinformed about what’s in his own job description. Last night in the House, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, Mike Lake, shed further light on this preposterous state of affairs. And it's just like I've been saying.

I set out the facts in the Ottawa Citizen today as a sort of prelude to my column, which will appear in Saturday's editions. Saturday's column will give you some idea about the repercussions of a kind of experiment Ottawa began in September, 2009, in the matter of how to deal with oilsands acquisitions and the takeover of Canada's economic assets, by, say, the grueseome acquisitions arms of the vast military-industrial complex known as the Government of the People's Republic of China.

Ottawa's experiment was basically this: Gee, I wonder how much we could get away with if we tried to run Canada like one of those postmodernist dystopias where "national security” is whatever Dear Leader says it is? That's what today's piece is about. It's about how Dear Leader gets to decide these things all by himself, and how Dear Leader (in this case Christian Paradis, who either doesn't know what's in his job description or isn't telling) was unburdened of annoying legal “definitions” and criteria in making his decisions, because that would “limit the government’s flexibility.”

I mean, be serious. The next thing you’ll want is a “Criminal Code” with bothersome definitions encumbering the “flexibility” of the Attorney-General of Canada and the Public Safety Minister and CSIS and the RCMP. Then you'll want foreign-power takeovers subjected to national security reviews conducted according to "concrete, objective and transparent criteria.” Before you're finished you'll be demanding courtrooms and then fair trials and rules of evidence and habeas corpus. It’s political correctness gone mad I tell you.

Another teaser about Saturday's column. It builds on this. It's specifically about this. It's about how the clever little experiment the Einsteins and the Pavlovs around the federal cabinet took to the Investment Canada Act is now fatally undermining the Special Economic Measures Act - which is the statute that enforces Canada's sanctions against the nuke-wanting ayatollahs in Tehran.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poor Old Peter.

Environment Minister Peter Kent, that is. Talk about getting blindsided. . .

"Canada is looking to responsible investments by companies from around the world. They will be subject to the rules and the regulations of investment and of proper corporate behaviour, and with regards to the environment, of conforming with environmental regulations."

Here's what they didn't tell you, Peter: 1. No rules. 2. No regulations. 3. No laws.

Just Beijing laws, as enforced in Alberta. Sinopec's engineering arm is claiming sovereign immunity in the Alberta courts after a rampage of "proper corporate behaviour" that includes two dead Chinese workers, the theft of wages from their 150 Chinese co-workers, and 53 health and safety violations on an oilsands construction site near Fort Mac, then shipping their wage slaves back to China.

The Canadian workers on the jobsite raised nearly $100,000 out of their own pockets for the dead workers' widows. A union rep smuggled the money into China, where he learned about Sinopec's theft of the 150 workers' pay packets, and that's where the story just begins.

I'll have more when I've pieced it together. For now, a little bit of sympathy for Peter Kent, okay? He clearly doesn't have the faintest idea what's going on these days, and he's not alone in the federal cabinet, and it's the same all through the government benches. I predict a riot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cloaks & Daggers From Beijing To Tehran, Washington To Ottawa And Even Unto Kitimat.

(Monday's Ottawa Citizen version of this blog post here & National Post version here)

My column in Saturday's Ottawa Citizen offers just a glimpse into the perilous territory where Ottawa’s clever China enthusiasts have led us lately. The column starts out with the unsettling tale of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., of the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen, in the Chinese province of Guangdong. It's pretty well all straight reportage. Here's some of the backstory.

The column goes into how it is that in the United States, the State Department has just begun an investigation into charges that Huawei has broken the 2010 U.S. Comprehensive Iran Sanctions law. In Canada, Huawei's clients include Telus, Bell Canada, Wind Mobile and Sasktel. In Iran, Huawei’s partners in Zaeim Electronic Industries count the Khomeinist regime’s defence ministry and the Iranian secret police on their client list, along with the fanatical and violently pro-regime Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

I've always thought it was odd that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is considered a terrorist entity in the U.S., but not in Canada. Very odd. But to be even clearer than I had space to make it in today's column, I'm an agnostic on the whole question about whether Huawei is a conduit for Chinese spies or whether anyone in the company has violated American sanctions laws on Iran. If I wasn't clear enough, my heart goes out particularly to Huawei's 400-plus Canadian workers who've had to put up with suspicions about the telecom giant's global operations. In India not long ago there were even nasty allegations that Huawei technology was finding its way into the hands of the Taliban.

But getting investigated is one thing, and getting busted is another. This brings us to the Beijing money behind the proposed $6.5 billion Enbridge pipeline from Alberta's oilsands to awaiting supertankers at Kitimat. That money brings us to Sinopec, also known as the China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, and if there are suspicions Ottawa would like to clear up a good place to start would be to let everybody in on where all of Enbridge's up-front pipeline cash is coming from. We're not allowed to know. Seriously. Try asking Enbridge some time.

Another thing that has never been clearly explained is why Ottawa thinks Sinopec is suddenly Canada’s lifeline to economic prosperity in China. I can't find anyone who knows anything about the oilsands who thinks so. Inconveniently, Sinopec is also the Khomenist regime's lifeline to a nuclear bomb. I can't find anyone in the oil industry or anywhere else who doesn't think so.

I report in my column that Sinopec is the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, directly and through its subsidiary Unipec, and also via its main Iranian oil buyer, Zhuhai Zhenrong. I merely report that only last month the State Department busted Zhuhai Zhenrong under the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions law. Zhuhai Zhenrong immediately went looking for greener pastures. One of the first places it started looking was Alberta's oilpatch. Howdy, neighbour.

But there's a whole lot more to this. For starters: Sinopec Engineering Inc. is deeply integrated within Iran's energy infrastructure, in oilfield operations, refineries, and gas plants. So is, just for instance, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The IRGC has lately been scrambling like crazy to cover its ownership and control over huge Iranian energy-sector enterprises and construction monoliths like Oriental Oil Kish, Sahel Consultant Engineering, and Khatam al-Anbia.

Let's give our heads a shake for a moment, shall we? No matter what the Americans want, and no matter what Beijing might say, Beijing has been crystal clear that it is opposing sanctions. And besides, Chinese oil giants aren't going to give any backchat to President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad when he instructs them that the price of doing business in Iran's energy sector includes the costs of circuitous arrangements with Revolutionary Guardsmen who show up to meetings in business suits. And more besides, that's exactly the way business is done back in Beijing anway.

When Communist Party bigshot Su Shulin was appointed Sinopec chairman, it wasn't considered a blot on his record that he'd amassed troops to mobilize against the thousands of Daqing Oilfield workers he'd stiffed out of backpay in 2002, or that he'd seen to it that western journalists were kept away during the whole thing. Last year, the party reassigned Comrade Su to take a firm hand in the riot-prone province of Fujian. He's governor there now.

The politburo only recently reassigned Zhou Yongkang from his job as president of China National Petroleum to the top command post of Minister of Public Security, where he immediately set about the work of ramping up internet censorship. Just this week, Comrade Yongkang is busy shooting Tibetans.

It should go without saying that you need to give your head another really big shake if you have actually bought into the new party line in Canada that Beijing's state-owned and party-commanded entities are uninterested in politics and will behave according to strictly "commercial" motives. As if there is a difference in those upper echelons anyway. It is a foundational operating principle at the very core of the thing that still calls itself the Chinese Communist Party that no distinctions are to be tolerated between commerce and politics.

Washington reckons that if Beijing-owned conglomerates like Sinopec and Zhuhai Zhenrong and their various subsidiaries and intermediaries and trading arms and clients are allowed to banjax the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran, then it will mean war, maybe as soon as April. The last big play before war would be a Euro-American oil embargo. The one thing that would cost Sinopec even more dearly than effective sanctions is an oil embargo.

So far, it hasn't mattered much that Tehran is losing oil customers every day, because Sinopec has been happily picking up the slack (thanks, friend). The business wires have been buzzing with reports about the ways Beijing has been signing contracts and making big spot-buys for Saudi oil to put the big squeeze on Iran, hoping the ayatollahs will cave in and cough up major discounts. We are meant to find all this just fascinating. And it is, truth be told. It also doesn't change a thing.

Canada talks tough on sanctions, and so to handle any impudent questions about Sinopec and Enbridge, a deft spin is required. Here's the latest: Wouldn't you rather have China buy Canadian oil than Iranian oil? It's a dodge that is crafted to take your eye off the fact that life simply doesn't work that way. Canadian oil doesn't compete with Iranian oil for China's affections. Oil markets don't work like that, and neither do the laws of logic or physics or economics. If Canada surrendered every last drop of its vast bitumen resources to China for free, Beijing will still want Iranian oil. It wouldn't change a thing.

Here's a question that changes the subject back to what we were talking about. If Canada is suddenly happy to sit down with the degenerate thugs in command of the Chinese Communist Party to conclude trade pacts that are enforceable here in Canada, why should Canada scruple about doing a little business with the degenerate thugs in command of Tehran's Party of God?

The other thing about the "Wouldn't you rather have China buy Canadian oil?" question is that the pro-Beijing lobby in Canada has formally allowed it as a "legitimate" question we might ask. Well, how too generous of them. Try asking how the hell one of Beijing's overseas energy-acquisition syndicates ended up with a deciding-vote seat at the board table of Canada's oilsands giant Syncrude. Try asking why the Investment Canada Act was amended in 2009 to make that kind of move not just perfectly legal but beyond the bounds of a proper regulatory review.

Ask questions like that and they'll call you a Sinophobe. Getting quarantined in this way is not as bad as getting hauled up on an unanswerable subversion warrant in Beijing for writing a poem that might offend President Hu Jintao (come to think of it, you can end up in prison in Iran for writing the same sort of poem), but the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada is counting on that kind of disgusting innuendo to work just as efficiently in shutting people up here in Canada.

Everybody wants to play Junior Geostrategist these days. Well, count me out. I will not be told to apologize for preferring to side with the Chinese people and against their tormentors in Beijing, or preferring that things should not go so far as an oil embargo that would cause the Iranian people immeasurably greater suffering than they're already expected to put up with. I'd rather sanctions worked so we could skip the whole thing. I'd also rather my Israeli friends and my Iranian friends were not expecting the skies to grow dark with missiles any day now.

I'd really very much rather that Canadians who want to have conversations amongst themselves about what the hell is happening in Ottawa these days were not suddenly finding themselves bullied and quarantined by filthy insinuations about Sinophobia or subjected to insane allegations that they must be taking bribes from somebody named Al Gore.

It's gotten just like a Hockey Night in Canada play by play. There's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird jetting off to Tel Aviv to renew Canada's claim to be Israel's best friend in the world - which isn't even high-sticking, by the way, because it's sad but true. Here's Prime Minister Stephen Harper jetting off to Beijing to take tea with President Hu Jintao, who will have to step out of the parlour for a moment to declare war on Tibetan monks. There goes President Obama into the Oval Office on a Sunday to sign his new head-breaking executive order on sanctions: you can do business with the United States or you can do business with Iran. Your call.

All that within 72 hours. It's a fast-paced game, and to be allowed within cheering distance of the Prime Minister's office you must first loudly observe how clever they must be in there, doing whatever it is they do behind those doors, the way they have been so canny as to apply their new parliamentary majority so quickly to bring us back up from the minors. How exciting it is to be playing in the big leagues. Even the Prime Minister's most ardent fans can't tell the players without a program anymore, and nobody even knows whose damn team we're on.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

"We're sitting ducks."

Here's a question Ottawa doesn't want anybody asking: Just what legally constitutes a foreign activity in Canada that is detrimental to this country's national security interests? If you ask around Ottawa these days, nobody knows quite what to say anymore. It's been that way since September, 2009. And that's why Beijing now gets to decide where our oil goes.

My account of how we ended up in this odd predicament is in today's Ottawa Citizen. Defenceless: Canada has no idea what foreign activity is detrimental to its national security interests, much less how to stop it.

Coming soon, if circumstances allow: How an under-the-radar transaction at a little-known oil company on Georgia Street in Vancouver gave Beijing control over Syria's Oudeh, Tishrine and Sheik Mansour oildfields, and the privileged and profitable place it now occupies as the financier of Bashar al-Assad's merciless and unceasing slaughter of the Syrian people. Directly related, today: Russia, China, veto UN resolution telling Assad to quit. Gee. Big surprise.

Funny thing about vetos. They can be bought real cheap. While everybody's jaws were dropping when Beijing's Sinopec paid $4.6 billion for a mere nine per cent stake in Canada's oilsands giant Syncrude in April, 2010, the deal was in fact a back-alley bargain, because it came with a veto.

The minority Syncrude stake gave Sinopec a veto over whether the jobs and investment benefits of upgrading and refining Syncrude's vast bitumen resources would be kept in Canada and put to the purpose of meeting Canada's oil needs, or shipped offshore, to Being's benefit. Right after the Syncrude deal, Sinopec revealed that it was partnering on Enbridge Inc.'s proposed $6 billion, 1,000-kilometre bitumen tube from Alberta to saltwater at Kitimat. Gee. Big surprise.

What does Canada say about the Chinese-Russian blockade at the UN Security Council? “Today's failure by the UN Security Council to effectively deal with the crisis in Syria is yet another free pass for the illegitimate Assad regime and those backing it," says Foreign Minister John Baird. And who are "those backing" the regime? Most notably Sinopec's SIPC-Syria, that's who.

"History will judge those whose obstruction serves only to prolong this senseless violence," said Baird. Quite right, minister. One day there will be a reckoning, and inshallah that day will be very soon. Syria's revolutionary councils will not soon forget who was content to prolong the sufferings of the Syrian people, and who it was that was happy to give out free passes to those who backed the regime.

On CBC's The House program today, Evan Solomon has economist Robyn Allen walk listeners through the very same developments, in the same order, that I have been setting out in the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post over the past three weeks (it is gratifying to see how many other people are now taking up these questions). Then Solomon talks to Industry Minister Joe Oliver, who has been saddled by the federal cabinet with the unenviable task of trying to defend the transparently indefensible. Joe is not a wicked man and I take no pleasure in knowing that if he was reading the Ottawa Citizen at breakfast this morning the experience will not have left him with a sunny disposition. It certainly won't make his job any easier from here on in.

Last week on CBC's As It Happens I was asked a number of questions about these rapid-succession oilpatch and cabinet committee manoeuvres and I did my best to answer them. I still have far more questions than answers. But it doesn't matter what I think. After everything that's happened, the terrible question to which Canadians have not even begun to formulate an answer, nine minutes in: Who's your daddy?