Friday, September 28, 2012

Canada’s Oil: Iran Sanctions, China, and the United States.

My analysis for JINSA, in The Sentry:
Here’s the “unmistakable message” the Canadian government is giving the United States: “You’re yesterday, China is today, and if you want to do any oil business with us then you’ll have to be prepared to do business with the Canadian subsidiaries of Beijing’s overseas acquisitions arms, which also happen to be the most notorious Iran sanctions-busters in the world.”
. . . Canada’s oil companies have been largely foreign-owned for decades, but since 2004, Beijing’s state-owned enterprises have been easily outpacing American companies in their investments in Canada’s oil sands. Petro-China, Sinopec, CNOOC and their sister corporations – all run by the Chinese Communist Party, which is adamantly opposed to U.S. led sanctions – have acquired at least $30 billion in Canadian energy-sector properties.
. . .Canadians and Americans are perfectly entitled to circulate amusing urban legends amongst themselves if that’s what it takes to make politics interesting. But if it’s a war with Iran we’d rather avoid and a nuclear-armed Khomeinist tyranny we’d prefer not to have to confront, the CNOOC-Nexen bid might present an opportunity to stop telling ourselves fairy tales and start getting serious for once about sanctions, and about Beijing.

Nesika Tillicum Chris Stevens, Memaloost Libya.

Chris Stevens was the American ambassador to Libya who was murdered in a jihadist atrocity in Benghazi September 11. Across Libya, Stevens' murder prompted thousands of the Libyans he loved  to take to the streets in anti-jihadist demonstrations, in upwellings of shame and grief. Less widely noticed is the outpouring of tributes that have been coming from across Indian country, on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. Stevens was born a child of the Chinook Tribe in Oregon.
British Columbia Grand Chief Ed John: “That someone like the late Ambassador Stevens. . . that someone of his stature and calibre comes from a small group of Indigenous people – is a tribute to his family, his people and certainly all Native Americans.” The Sto:lo leader Ernie Crey, a dear old friend of mine, got the ball rolling. “I knew about him before he was killed, because I look around for Aboriginal or Native American people that are making their way,” said Ernie. “It was a shock. I can only imagine what his family feels – they must be in terrible straights. I know what it’s like to lose family members, but nothing quite like what his family is experiencing.”
If there were ever such a thing as a blue-blooded American, it would be Chris Stevens. He was a direct descendant of the great tribal leader Concomly, the senior chief of the far-flung Chinook Confederacy who welcomed the American explorers Lewis and Clark to the Columbia River in 1805. But Chief John noted the many "cultural, linguistic and family connections" that reach well into Canada, and it's worth paying attention to that. 
The tongue that ended up being the language of the contemporary Chinook Tribe was once universally familiar to British Columbians. Yako yiem halo kliminawhit (this is a true story): North of the 49th parallel, Wawa, or Lelang, or Chinook, was a creole that emerged from a sort of inter-tribal argot that went on to be heavily relied upon throughout Canada's west coast as a trading jargon. It is said to have been the street language of Vancouver before the Great Fire of 1886. 

With French and English words grafted like branches onto a multilingual aboriginal trunk, Chinook was the name given to the "language" of the multicultural salmon cannery culture that once prevailed from the Washington-Oregon border to the mouth of the Nass River on B.C's north coast. Years ago I co-authored a book on the subject, with the poet Charles Lillard. 
The language lingers in words we still speak on the West Coast. Skookum (great), clooshe (good), klahanie (outdoors), illahie (country) - the words pop up like sensations from a linguistic phantom limb. In the same way there was something unmistakable about Chris Stevens, something about his bravery, that summons the dim memory of a great and shared thing about what we once were. Nowadays it is exceedingly difficult to put it into words. 
Yako mamook kopet. It ended, and konoway chako kwann, everywhere it was quiet. Kopet snass, halo moosum. Except for the sleepless rain. But it lingers, and it is worth remembering, if only as some small tribute to Chris Stevens, in a faraway dialect of a language that members of his proud and grieving family will understand.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Canadian Liberalism's Long Slow-Motion Suicide.

Ottawa Citizen Op-ed blog:
My essay in today's Ottawa Citizen, an extended-play version of my usual column, reflects upon the kuffar timidity of liberalism’s spoiled Canadian beneficiaries, the abandonment of Canadian Muslims to Khomeinist-patrolled identity ghettos and the very specific reasons why it's all so strangely unmentionable in polite company. For starters.
By the tone I took I expect I've betrayed my low opinion of Justin Trudeau. I admit it, I don't much fancy him or the mock-liberalism he personifies. That isn't to say I have some axe to grind with the Liberals, as I'll explain.
But first, another thing I may not have made clear enough. It isn't the original Canadian conception of multiculturalism that gets up my nose, and it certainly isn't the function it was intended to serve, which, in a cruel irony, was the emancipation of Canadians from their perpetual identity crises once and for all. It's "actually-existing" multiculturalism I was on about, and the influences of the social sciences and humanities departments would have caused it to go haywire even if we hadn't entrenched the idea in Canada's constitution.
The occasion of last weekend's weirdness in Toronto wasn't the first time that I've been struck by melancholia, or nostalgia, about what a fine thing it would be if Canada had a liberal party. The notion came to me several times while I was reading the British journalist Nick Cohen's sharply lively You Can’t Read This Book. 
It's a delineation of all the new legal, digital and speech-code ramparts that have lately sprung up to reinforce the battlements around God, money and the state. Cohen makes a convincing case that the great emancipation of the Internet Age is mostly an illusion. The recent bedlamming that settled on a 14-minute Youtube video as its pretext, the violently illiberal demands that have ensued and the scramble to apologize and censor as a response, all seem to prove the soundness of that particular aspect of Cohen's observation.
Do buy Nick's book. It will do you good. While I'm at it, read Nick regularly. He's top drawer, as they used to say. Really. Just read his latest: God, Guns, Welfare - Conspiracy Theories about Working-Class Americans.    
Anyway, it was when I noticed the Canadian parallels to the ways the British and European elites have betrayed liberalism’s bedrock principles, as Cohen makes painfully clear, that the idea first occurred to me that Canada would very much benefit from a federal liberal party and that the Liberal Party of Canada might give it a go. It would do the Grits some good, besides, to spend some time wondering about their own complicity in Canadian liberalism’s routs and humiliations.
Mind you, it would not be easy work. The party would have to begin by confronting its own sordid and long-standing complicities with the moneybags tyranny in Beijing, if only because Beijing's ill-gotten capital is weighing Canada's galleon down to the gunwhales at the moment with the Conservatives happily at the helm. The Liberal Party would also have to abandon all saccharine whingeing about big tents, purge its ranks from top to bottom and ruthlessly patrol its precincts against the mock-liberal bigots who prefer to soothe and infantilize Muslims by making the excuse for Islamist crackpottery that pretends it’s somehow all “our” fault. 
The party would have to do all of that and much more besides if it hoped to make any use of itself at all  to liberalism’s bold cause. It does seems unlikely, I know, and that's another reason why I'm not holding my breath. It's not just because the party of Wilfrid Laurier appears to be rushing headlong to anoint, as its new leader, the Honourable Member for Zoolander. 
Honest, I don't mean to single out the Liberal Party. There are quite a few stand-up gadgies in the party and some of them are MPs for whom I have some sincere respect, and even affection, in one or two cases.
I could have gone after the Conservative Party too, if only to note in passing that its capacity to defend liberalism from the specific threats I was on about is encumbered not just by its name (they're not called Conservatives for nothing and they're not called Progressive Conservatives anymore). The rank and file remains susceptible to a species of bigotry that holds Muslims to be incorrigibly rage-prone and congenitally ill-disposed to democracy. There. I've said it. Happy now? Now I will ruin things by noting in passing that they're doing a much better job defending liberal principles these days than I'd have imagined.   
I didn't bother examining the New Democrats' suitability to defend liberalism, but it wasn't to go easy on them. to be fair, the NDP just doesn't have much of a track record in defending liberal principles because that was always somebody else’s job. It should say enough that in the influential Toronto sections of the NDP’s activist base, the Khomeinist Zafar Bangash (my Citizen piece makes clear I don't much fancy him either) will be most familiar as that nice man from the Toronto Stop the War Coalition who makes all those delightfully rousing speeches about the wicked American imperialists.
The Liberal Party of Canada, though, does still call itself the Liberal Party of Canada.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Islamist barbarism's "gigantic and intimidating lurch forward."

Sometimes when I'm between columns I just have to post something on the op-ed page. In today's Ottawa Citizen I point to a few things that I am willing to accept for the heck of it as all just one big damn astonishing coincidence. But only up to a point:
This isn’t about a “clash of civilizations.” We should all know by now that the struggle for the final extinction of slavery is an existential contest between civilization and barbarism. There is no “Muslim threat” to civilization. The threat comes from those of civilization’s most privileged beneficiaries. It comes most lethally from those among us who would apologize and pander to the ruling-class barbarians in black turbans and in medal-bedecked uniforms who already hold the citizens of the “Muslim world” hostage.

In unwitting connivance with the usual rabble of otherwise marginal bigots and conspiracy-traffickers, it is that caste of well-appointed capitulation-mongers who go around in the bellbottoms of liberality, multiculturalism, diplomatic engagement and interfaith dialogue that most fatally hastens civilization’s betrayal. They do so in their ceaseless and cowardly commitments to serve the interests of fairness by having all of us held hostage to the terror of offending the powerful, equally and everywhere. It’s what they’ve always done. It’s what’s they are there for. It’s their job.

Maybe I'm just channeling my inner Bolshevik again but really, when will the Obama administration learn that you can't appease fascists, they'll move into every crevice you allow, and for every square inch of space you willingly vacate they'll reciprocate by taking it and conjuring new demands that you vacate more and again and again:

The OIC had been forcing its will in these matters at the UN every year since 1999, when it  secured majority enlistment from the UN’s mock human-rights chamber, and since 2006 the OIC had managed to push annual blasphemy law resolutions through the UN General Assembly. Last year, the Obama White House combined with Pakistan to formally and jointly monkey with the OIC’s resolution so as to turn it into an edict that purports to be about fighting “intolerance” based on “religion or belief,” as though this would be some sort of improvement.

It was not an improvement, it is now more than fair to say. While the U.S.-Pakistan consensus targets only speech that involves the “incitement to imminent violence,” the current round of manufactured-outrage tumults and OIC boss Erdoğan’s candour about his intention to push the envelope again next week should be enough for even the most casual observer to see that the most retrograde of totalitarian impulses are not satiated after all.

That is why Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be back at the UN next week with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's plans to push the envelope even further. Erdoğan, remember, is coincidentally presiding over a country with more journalists in prison than even China or Iran. He vows to renew the OIC's call for the UN to adopt “international legal regulations against attacks on what people deem sacred, on religion.” And no, it won't stop there.

Meanwhile, our friends carry on the struggle in Libya, where tens of thousands of citizens have now risen in protest to demand an end to armed reactionary factions. Four Libyans have died while  storming the headquarters of the jihadist Ansar al-Sharia, widely understood to have been behind the September 11 atrocity at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

La lutta continua. If you can't lend a hand then at least get the hell out of the way.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Paul Heinbecker and his Friends in Low Places.

When he was composing a lengthy letter of protest to the Ottawa Citizen last week, Paul Heinbecker, a career Foreign Affairs bureaucrat who served for a time as Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York, could not have known at the time that he was writing in a prose genre that is exceedingly rare: the magnificently self-incriminating act of accidental auto-caricature. 
It’s in today’s paper. It will be worth it to read every word. 
Heinbecker seems to have set out partly to lecture me for having been impudently inattentive to the precious feelings of certain of his important friends in my column last week, and partly to publicly despair of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent, long-overdue decision to close down the Khomeinist spy-and-bully operation otherwise known as the Canadian Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ottawa. 
This presents me with the opportunity to disclose certain immediately relevant indecencies that do not exactly add value to what you could call the Heinbecker brand. As it happens, Heinbecker’s own fingerprints are all over the old-boy diplomatic quackery that his complaint to the Ottawa Citizen, unluckily for him, cannot so easily conceal. 
What follows should also go some way to explain Heinbecker’s determination to muddle the subject of Iran and the bomb with a diverting consideration of puerile clichés - diplomats are Canada’s eyes and ears in treacherous faraway places, embassies are good things, hold your friends close and your enemies closer, and so on. 
For Heinbecker’s own views about the Khomeinist menace and its rush to the threshold of nuclear-bomb capability we can turn to his candid and hitherto overlooked remarks at a reception hosted by the organizers of a human rights conference at the University of Winnipeg on February 24, 2007.
Heinbecker offered the opinion that for western governments to carry on about the Khomeinist nuclear threat is to be guilty of “double standards” because Israel’s nuclear program rarely even gets a look-in (as if those two things were even remotely comparable).
Heinbecker then referred approvingly to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s assertion of Iran’s right to develop a nuclear program, calling it “fundamentally and logically sound.” 
It seems unlikely that Ottawa would not have quickly recalled Heinbecker from New York if he’d said anything like that during his 2000-2004 UN ambassador posting.
What comes next requires a bit of recapping. 
In my column I poked fun at the hapless New Democratic Party foreign affairs file-holder Paul Dewar for criticizing Prime Minister Harper’s Iran decision on the grounds that it would be a way better idea if Canada instead reached out and offered the Khomeinists a regimen of therapy in “robust diplomacy.” Even NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was caused to wince uncomfortably about that, in public.
I happened to find it all darkly amusing, because Dewar had just returned to Ottawa from his own aromatherapeutic escapade in “robust diplomacy” at a global nuclear disarmament conference in the sad Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan. He’d ended up allowing the state-controlled media to portray him as an enthusiastic backer of the deranged bid by Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era strongman president Nursultan Nazarbayev for the Nobel Peace Prize. The whole thing was like something straight out of Borat.
What I couldn’t find funny was the moral obscenity of the United Nations’ current envoy-jobbery exercise in “robust diplomacy,” in the abbatoir of Syria, now led (after former UN boss Kofi Annan washed its blood from his hands) by the twilight-years Arab League diplocrats Lakhdar Brahimi and Mokhtar Lamani. It was mostly their delicate feelings that Heinbecker is right to assume I don’t care much about.
I noted as well that Lamani showed up earlier this year as a “distinguished fellow, former ambassador and special envoy for peace” on Paul Dewar’s list of celebrity endorsers during Dewar’s failed bid for the NDP leadership, and that Brahimi and Lamani were also coincidentally the two svengalis Dewar had convinced the late NDP leader Jack Layton to nominate for the leadership of the “eminent persons” group that Layton wanted Canada to send to parlay a peace bargain with the Taliban.
One thing I didn’t mention, which is relevant now, is that Heinbecker also lent his name to Dewar’s campaign, and he did so specifically to endorse Dewar’s wished-for Canadian policy towards Iran: “Like Paul Dewar, I do not believe we should allow ourselves to be stampeded into supporting a war based on arbitrary timelines and hyped intelligence.” 
To understand something of Lakhdar Brahimi’s candid views on these subjects, it helps to know why he came close to getting himself fired by the UN in 2004, during his time as the UN’s special envoy to Iraq. It was for letting it slip to a reporter that he regarded Israel’s policies as “the great poison in the region.”
This just happens to be precisely the propaganda lie that Iran’s Khomeinists and pretty well all the Arab dictatorships have been force-feeding their captive populations, for decades, in order to explain away their poverty, backwardness and oppression. The U.S.-backed Israeli “poison” was even aggravating the jihadist and sectarian violence in Iraq, Brahimi said.
Annan was quick to distance himself from Brahimi’s vulgarity, but the unpleasantness did leave a bit of a smell on Brahimi’s job applications from then on. It was around this time that Brahimi started showing up on the “distinguished fellow” circuit, a quiet vocation Lamani went on to enter in 2007 when he turned up at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario, where Heinbecker had also landed a place for himself as a distinguished fellow.
Lamani had just decamped from a failed Arab League assignment in Iraq that had ended in nasty recriminations after only a few months. This appears to be Lamani’s “special envoy for peace” role as advertised by Dewar and which Heinbecker has now dramatized by placing Lamani even outside Baghdad’s heavily-armoured “Green Zone.”
The Lakhdar Brahimi who shows up in Heinbecker’s complaint in the Ottawa Citizen today is a selfless and distinguished gentleman “in frail health” who you can almost picture riding in a rickety way among the teeming Syrian hoi-polloi on a white UN horse with only his Sancho Panza sidekick Mokhtar Lamani as aide-manservant. Lamani appears in Heinbecker’s version as an only slightly less heroic figure with “a long career of risk-taking in dangerous assignments in the public interest.”
But what all this mutual back-patting and serial resumé-fluffing cannot camouflage is the astonishing record of abject failure Brahimi and Lamani have managed to accomplish, oversee, troubleshoot and undersecretary in conditions of luxury almost unimaginable to the people of the teeming “Arab world” slums. 
While their string of more recent UN boondoggle-catastrophes runs from Taliban-era Afghanistan to post-Saddam Iraq, their comings and goings over the past quarter of a century reveal a cavalcade of macabre ego-tripping, status-quo safeguarding and boot-polishing work in Beirut and Baghdad, Brussels and New York, Geneva and Cairo. Brahimi and Lamani have enjoyed one comfortable postng after another as administrative butlers, headwaiters and errand-runners for the oil-money crime families and torture-state dictators of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Now they’re back from semi-retirement and they’re at it again, this time in Syria. It will surprise nobody who has watched these disgusting dramas unfold that Brahimi and Lamani have been warmly welcomed to Damascus by the Khomeinist proxy and Baathist butcher Bashir al Assad, and by the “official” and contrived opposition Assad’s regime so generously tolerates. Neither should it come as a shock to anyone that the Syrian rebels on the ground of that brutalized and broken country have sensibly dismissed the duo’s assignment as yet another grotesque UN ritual involving globe-trotting envoys kissing the faces of the murderers of the Syrian people.
These things might serve to provide at least a hint of why Heinbecker is relying on lipstick and high heels in the effort to make “robust diplomacy” look presentable. Certainly nothing in his complaint challenges the factual accuracy of a single word of my column. But because Heinbecker claims to know what my own opinion is and gets that wrong too, I’ll reiterate.
My contention was that the rousting of Tehran’s agents from their Ottawa compound on Metcalfe Street and the shuttering our useless embassy in Tehran is at least a good start, and perhaps we might now turn to some more effective means of isolating, containing and ultimately assisting in the overthrow of the Khomeinist despotism that is the cause of all this grief in the first place. I’m hardly going to apologize for holding that view.
Heinbecker pleads for keeping diplomats to the fore because “we need to bear witness to the horrors.” Well no, actually, some of us would rather skip the horrors altogether, thanks. Something like 26,000 Syrians have already been slaughtered. The great Iranian people remain enslaved and they have lost almost all hope of any help coming from the outside world. Their black-turbaned overlords are now at the brink of nuclear-bomb capability. Israel has been brought to the brink of a pre-emptive war that could end up engulfing much of the world in massacres and flames and chaos.
In open defiance of UN conventions against incitement to genocide, one fat ayatollah after another has solemnly pledged to revisit the Holocaust upon the people of Israel one day, then denied the Holocaust ever happened, in contravention of every principle of human decency, the next. The UN Security Council has now issued six nuclear-program warnings to Iran in a row, with four containing sanctions, all to get the ayatollahs to back off, and all to no avail. The International Atomic Energy Agency has now issued 12 stern warnings and none have made a bit of difference.
Its latest “serious concern” warning from only last week won the backing of the United States, Russia, Britain and China with 31 in favour, three abstentions, and only the senile Cuban delegate opposed. After an undisclosed number of watered-down versions, the final, approved version: Iran continues to snub its nose at UN demands; Iran continues its uranium enrichment program in defiance of the UN Security Council; Iran continues to dodge UN inspections at the Parchin military base. On and on.
This latest unenforceable resolution doesn’t leave one with the impression that it is based on the “hyped intelligence” Heinbecker has been sneering about, nor does it seem likely that everyone else is crazy and it’s Tehran’s state of mind that is, as Heinbecker put it in Winnipeg, “fundamentally and logically sound.”
Just as last week’s resolution was being negotiated, Assad’s Air Force was dropping more bombs on the people of Aleppo and Lakhdar Brahimi’s ample backside was causing his chair to creak in the presidential palace drawing room in Damascus where he was politely inquiring of Assad how many crumbs his blood-drenched regime might be willing to let drop from its table in order to make everyone just shut up and go away. That's what "robust diplomacy" gets you.
Bibi Netanyahu may well be a belligerent schmuck, but you can’t blame him for any of this. You can also say what you like about Canada’s reckless, poorly-tutored, Zionist-favouring, geopolitics-misunderstanding prime minister. But you’ve got to admit that it does seem to appear as though he’s not being altogether rash in his disinclination to subcontract and outsource Canada’s foreign policy to Paul Heinbecker, Lakhdar Brahimi, Mokhtar Lamani, Paul Dewar and Nursultan Nazarbayev.
For good or ill, Canada has now chosen to defect from the diplomatic travesty that has obliged ordinary Canadians to put up with Khomeinist thugs in their midst and to abstain from the diplomatic obsequies that require Canadian diplomats to smile when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini’s appointments secretaries spit in their faces.
Of course it’s not enough. It's merely an act of conscientious objection. But it will have to do for the moment, and in the meantime I reckon I’ll continue to “disparage diplomacy” of the Heinbecker-Dewar kind, no matter how much it upsets Heinbecker or any of his creepy friends.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another Atrocity Committed By the Extreme Right.

Hisham Matar's account provides all you need to understand about what happened in Libya:
. . .Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was a popular figure in Libya, and nowhere more than in Benghazi. Friends and relatives there tell me that the city is mournful. There have been spontaneous demonstrations denouncing the attack. Popular Libyan Web sites are full of condemnations of those who carried out the assault. And there was a general air of despondency in the city Wednesday night. The streets were not as crowded and bustling as usual. There is a deep and palpable sense that Benghazi, the proud birthplace of the revolution, has failed to protect a highly regarded guest. There is outrage that Tripoli is yet to send government officials to Benghazi to condemn the attacks, instigate the necessary investigations and visit the Libyan members of the consulate staff who were wounded in the attack. 
. . .Like Benito Mussolini’s Milan fascio in nineteen-twenties Italy, Libya’s far right knows that it cannot rule through violence and fear if it does not have the young and strong on its side.
So instead they have focussed on easy targets: architecture, women, and, now, America, or, more abstractly, the West.
This has nothing to do with some vulgar amateur film, the "West" should stop apologizing for it, and anyone who persists in rummaging around for reasons why these atrocities are "our" fault is my enemy. 
The picture below is of a young Afghan. Korshid, 14, instructor at the Kabul Skate Park known as Skateistan. She was killed in a suicide bomb attack last weekend along with her eight-year-old sister Parwana and Skateistan regulars Nawab, 17 Assad, age unknown, and Mohammad Eeza, 13. None of these kids were producers of sick Youtube videos. They were skateboarders


Brief Civics Lesson In Light Of Events: Strictly Speaking, Stephen Harper No "Trotskyite".

In today's Ottawa Citizen: That Vladimir Putin is a vulgar, preening thug is not news. But there was something newsworthy, or at least notable, in the brutish utterance he is reported to have let slip during a meeting last weekend with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Toronto Sun's David Akin appears to have solely acquired this account of Putin's comment, and good for Akin, who takes the remark as a sort of foreshadowing of the murders in Libya, including that of the American ambassador Chris Stevens, at the hands of a mob of Islamist thugs yesterday in Benghazi. That's the sort of thing you'll get, Putin is said to have advised, for "instigating" mobs.

"According to officials in the room with the two men," Akin reports, "Putin said Harper and other Western leaders are acting like 'Trotskyites' - that was Putin's line -- for exporting revolution and promoting instability."

This business of exporting revolution, I unhappily notice, is largely the stuff of conspiracy theory. This in itself should give you some more insight into Putin's ugly and paranoid mind. Akin goes on: "I'm not sure how Putin connects the dots between Stephen Harper and Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but Putin's basic point to Harper was that Western leaders were being dangerously naive by meddling in the affairs of the dictators of the Middle East. Harper was trying to get Putin to join the West in taking a hard line against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad."

What the dots leading from Putin's vulgarity connect are his proper location as "paleoconservative" reactionary in the post-Soviet sense of the term, a neo-Stalinist who shares more with Stephen Harper's more fervent detractors - not a few of whom use the term "neoconservative" as a substitute for "Zionist" or "Jew" - than they would want or even understand. The dots also connect an actually-existing political trajectory that is occluded by contemporary leftish conspiracy-mongering in the same circles of the "West" that Putin so reviles.

What follows will be familiar to those who imagine themselves to be members of the cognoscenti, but for those of you who normally have more interesting things to occupy your attention this might be "news," and even mildly entertaining. Heaven knows we need to find things to amuse ourselves at the moment, with what's happening today in Yemen, Cairo, Gaza, Kashmir, Morocco, Tunisia and so on

The first thing to understand is that Stephen Harper is by no means a neoconservative, least of all if the lame descriptive "exporting revolution" is to be relied upon. His ideology, to the extent that he has one, is a species of neoliberalism certainly, but he's by no means a "neocon." There are a few decent members of Harper's cabinet who can be placed by compliment in the so-called neoconservative camp, but as for Harper, it's worth remembering that our prime minister, unlike many members of his cabinet and caucus and the Opposition benches, was never even much of an enthusiast about Canada's bold and honourable efforts in Afghanistan.

Here's the fun bits.

If, like Akin, you are mystified by Putin's "Trotskyite" comment, you'll want to look in a direction way from the place Putin occupies in a lineage with its origin in the deep and irreconcilable divisions that beset the Russian communist movement back in the 1920s and 1930s. For the moment, let's leave all that history this way, at the risk of absurd oversimplification: Putin would have been in Josef Stalin's camp - the "socialism in one country" crowd, the authoritarian, boot-wearing murderers of Rosa Luxemburg who went on to slaughter thousands of their own party members to assert discipline and so on. 

The cadre Putin would have pitted himself against would have been the "permanent revolution" crowd that gathered around Lev Davidovitch Bronstein (known to history more commonly as Leon Trotsky) in exile, and went on to form the Fourth International. Here's where the line of dots re-emerges in a different direction: there is a case to be made that the heirs and successors of the Fourth International are indeed the "Trotskyite" neoconservatives Putin was reportedly being so clever about. This observation deeply offends the George Galloway cultists and the gruesome bourgeois "anti-war" pseudo-leftists who dominate left-wing politics in Canada these days. The observation truly horrifies them and hurts their feelings, which is precisely why I like to make it whenever I get the chance.

It's not a case that holds all that much heavy water, sadly. But it is still amusing to notice a few things, beginning with this fun fact: In the broad sweep of global political trends, today's  "neoconservatives" do bear a closer functional resemblance to the Trotskyists of the 1930s than the poseurs and post-modernists who actually imagine that there is something "progressive" about the so-called "anti-war" political milieu that has overshadowed the Canadian left over the past decade. Another fun fact: The structural remnants of the Fourth International provide the dominant organizational architecture within the pathetic brand of exhibitionist narcissism otherwise known as Canada's "anti-war" movement.

Stick with me here. It gets better.

The term "neoconservative" was coined by American socialist Michael Harrington as a sort of pejorative (note also that Putin's "Trotskyite" is a pejorative for "Trotskyist") for the socialists around him during the early 1970s whose anti-Stalinist exuberance was so acute that they were prepared to consider supporting the American misadventure in Vietnam, even, just to give grief to their old Soviet enemies. Soviet Russia was to be understood as a deformed workers' state, but not beyond hope at all, if only the heirs of Stalin were giving the high jump. These "neoconservatives" quickly became pariahs, as one might imagine. Where did they go?

Max Boot is a very serious thinker on matters of anti-Islamist strategy, counter-insurgency and so on. Here, in 2004, while he was (ironic or what!) the Jeane J Kirkpatrick fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations while he was (and still is) closely associated with American "neoconservatives." Boot enumerates some of the luminaries of the Trotskyist-Neocon lineage, which includes the elegant Reaganite Jeane Kirkpatrick (that is what I meant by "ironic"), who started out, like neocon archfiend of leftish imagination Richard Perle, as a left-wing (though not "socialist" by any means) Democrat. 

Notably, the late and hugely influential polemicist Christopher Hitchens - archdruid of the erstwhile  Cruise Missile Left - ascended from apprentice to journeyman intellectual as a Trotskyist of the International Socialist variety. So did the pro-intervention Iraqi-American intellectual Kanan Makiya, author of the indispensable The Republic of Fear.
The immensely important intellectual Irving Kristol, grandpappy of the neoconservative movement - the "exporting revolution" enthusiasts of Putin's vulgar caricature - emerged on the American scene as an actually-existing Trotskyist. Sidney Hook, too, was an enormously important figure on the Trotskyist and anti-Stalinist Left, and went on to be an inspiration to that school of thought that is so clumsily called neoconservativism. Here's something he wrote in 1950 that has absolutely astonishing resonance in the more important cultural and political debates underway at the moment. Keep events in Benghazi, Yemen, Gaza, Kashmir, Cairo and the rest in mind as you read this part:

Liberalism in the twentieth century must toughen its fiber for it is engaged in a fight on many different fronts. Liberalism must defend the free market in ideas against the racists, the professional patrioteer, and those spokesmen of the status quo who would freeze the existing inequalities of opportunity and economic power by choking off criticism. Liberalism must also defend freedom of ideas against those agents and apologists of Communist totalitarianism who, instead of honestly defending their heresies, resort to conspiratorial methods of anonymity and other techniques of fifth columnists. It will not be taken in by labels like "left" and "right."

Substitute "Islamist totalitarianism" for "Communist totalitarianism" and you will notice Hook's immediate relevance, in light of Chris Stevens' murder, all the related violent hysterics underway as ?I write this, Prime Minister Harper's severing of diplomatic ties with the Khomeinist abomination last week, and a panoply of related matters. Hook's clarity also neatly exposes the shallow, boring and unforgivably stupid depths of "criticism" that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition tends to level at Harper's government on these existential questions.  

You're welcome.     

(Disclosure addendum: While I've entertained no specific ideological commitments for some long while my loyalties were nonetheless once commanded by all the main and all the minor Trotskyist groupuscules, in succession, all of which I'd abandoned by the time I left high school. But if you read Hook you'll understand why I object to those lumpen goofballs who insist that at some point about a decade ago my journalism betrayed a distinct shift to the "right.")

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cannibalism With Table Manners.

From my Ottawa Citizen column today:

Closing embassies is child’s play, and Canada could indeed do more. Ottawa could bolster our sanctions laws to ensure that Tehran’s financiers in Beijing’s complex of state-owned entities can do business in Iran or in Alberta’s oilpatch, but not both. Or, since it has been the official all-party position in Ottawa since December 2010 that the Iranian regime is already guilty of incitement to genocide owing to its repeated threats to destroy what the ayatollahs call the Zionist Entity, and which civilized countries call Israel, a UN member state, how’s this: Canada draws up a charge to have Iranian Surpeme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei hauled before the International Criminal Court.

In any event, the only defensible Canadian policy is one that seeks to provide all material assistance to Iranian democrats so as to hasten the day that they can give Khomeinist scum the bum’s rush in the City of Tehran with as firm a resolve as the regime’s agents were just given in the City of Ottawa.

Khomeinists Out.

Friday, September 07, 2012


Canada Cuts Ties With Iran, Closes Embassy, Orders Iranian Diplomats Home. Khomeinist scum given five days to get outta town. Credit where it's overdue: Michael Petrou. Marg Bar Diktator. 



Monday, September 03, 2012

Myths About Muslims.

Here's my review of Doug Saunders' The Myth of the Muslim Tide in the Globe and Mail. It was a slightly awkward assignment. Given that Saunders is a senior Globe correspondent, had I not thought the book was up to snuff it would have been very awkward. As it happens, I quite like it:
As it turns out, the chief assumptions about Muslim demographics in Mark Steyn’s wildly popular America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It appear to have been overtaken by a mountain of contradictory data that Saunders puts to persuasive use. Muslims do not carry some sort of fertility gene with them wherever they go. When they settle down in Europe and North America, Muslims soon enough tend to exhibit all the behaviours and values of – let’s not be delicate about it – white people.
Still, you will not much like this book if you are the type that sneers at Mark Steyn, declaims the imminent takeover of America by the Christian right, dismisses the courageously militant atheist reformer Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a mere operative of sinister conservatives or bangs on about “Islamophobia” – a silly term Saunders thankfully doesn’t even bother to dignify with a dismissal. 

 As for multiculturalism, better to “abandon the word” entirely, Saunders argues. . .

By calling "Islamophobia" a silly term I mean that it is almost always a diagnosis looking for an ailment. There is nothing irrational in the fear of certain aspects of Islam (or any religion, come to think of it) and as often as not the term is applied to any concentrated attention on Islamist crackpottery, on backward and barbaric practices cloaked in the guise of Islam, and so on.

It's not that there isn't anti-Muslim bigotry or even "phobia" about Muslims abroad in the so-called West. But there is also an especially sinister kind of bigotry betrayed in the presumption that Muslims will be upset if any of the rest of us notice the obscurantist savagery that animates the trussed-up clerics who prey upon Muslims themselves, and who too many journalists, for instance, imagine to be  representative of Mulsim immigrants. That is a most indecent sort of presumptuous bigotry, and paradoxically it is most often indulged by leftish people who have cultivated the habit of slinging the term "Islamophobe" at their betters.
The one fault in Saunders' book that I might have pointed out had I more space is not minor, and it's the same sort of fault that some have found in my book on Absurdistan (Saunders' structures his book in a similar way too).
I've been taken to task for wasting effort in piling evidence against the existence of the Absurdistan that occupies the western imagination - effort that I might have more usefully expended in telling stories about the actually-existing Afghanistan. Saunders goes to extraordinary lengths to disabuse the reader of widely-held misconceptions about Muslim immigration and immigrant communities, but he only more or less alludes to those more interesting and disturbing implications of certain real-world currents within immigrant communities and within Islam globally that readers would very much benefit to know more about.
Too bad, too, because Saunders' vigorous disassembling of the school of thought championed by the likes of Mark Steyn and Robert Spencer would have served Saunders well in establishing himself as a trustworthy voice among the masses of those who lazily imagine that close scrutiny of, say, the Khomeinist scum among us, is somehow masking a species of racism (that's "Islamophobia" for you).
The one lousy thing Saunders does is he wanders dangerously close to an engagement in the same sort of cheap and opportunistic smearing that erupted in the wake of the mass atrocity Anders Breivik committed in Norway. It was all the rage at the time: people who should have known better started reaching for explanations and placed the formidable Bruce Bawer in the same class as the ghastly and cretinous Pamela Geller,blaming Breivik's act of terror on individuals whose work Breivik had cited in his nutty manifesto (Breivik cites Bawer, for one). But at least Saunders also places Bawer in the same company as Niall Fergusson and Sir Martin Gilbert. This could be taken as a compliment, however unintended.
The Norwegian court's bizarre finding that Breivik is sane - Breivik insists he is a member in good standing of an actually-persisting brotherhood of the Knights Templar, if you don't mind - has only exacerbated the sickening tendency that James Kirchick exhaustively assessed here. Kirchick comes properly to Bawer's defence, too.
By engaging in something approximating guilt (Bawer's) by association (tangentially, with Breivik), Saunders comes perilously close to committing the same sort of offence he properly accuses the Gellerites of committing when they smear harmlessly devout Muslims with the taint of jihadist dingbattery. It is as ridiculous as laying the sins of Mao and Stalin at the feet of starry-eyed young socialists. I would have wanted Saunders to have taken a higher, if uneasier, road. 
Still, Saunders is otherwise a good egg and The Myth of the Muslim Tide is otherwise a very worthwhile and useful book.