Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Unsexy War Blogging

There are days you can sift through your local Canadian fish-wrap and not know that there are Canadians at war on the other side of the planet. When you realize that Canada has been in Afghanistan longer than they were in the European theatre in WWII and no one can as of yet readily define what victory will look like -- you have to ask yourself why our forces remained there for such a long stay?

At the very least Canada's media could engage in more than just perfunctory coverage. I took a look through today's Montreal Gazette and found two items on Afghanistan - one a short article on Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai seeking help in the fight against insurgents from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. And the other an even shorter piece, on an issue that should be of concern, about security fears shutting down more than 900 polling centres before Afghanistan's parliamentary elections next month. There is mention of the upcoming election being a litmus test and that it will be against a backdrop of increasing violence as the Taliban-led insurgency has spread out of the traditional strongholds in the south into the rest of the country. That is not a sign of progress -- are Canadians aware?



So let's take a look at the under-reported news from the very unsexy war over just this last week. The above mentioned increase in violence is undermining the hope that Karzai can deliver security and a legitimate government. The US is expecting heavy fighting around the key Afghan city of Kandahar through this fall, one Pentagon official said Wednesday, dimming hopes for big gains in the war ahead of U.S. elections and a White House review of its war strategy. And so the US military is apparently urging Barack Obama to slow down the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which was planned to start next year.

General Petreus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said in an interview, "The timetable of U.S. troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan will be driven by situation on the ground," providing  a ready-made excuse for not leaving next year. With unsettling reports like the following from the Washington Post: With most Afghan and NATO troops stationed in the country's south and east, villagers in the path of the Taliban advance into the once-peaceful north say they are powerless and terrified, confused by the government's inability to prevail -- and ready to side with the insurgents to save their own lives -- how can anyone believe that they'll be able to declare victory and withdraw like they've just done in Iraq? Keep in mind the Iraq withdrawal involves leaving 50,000 troops behind.

In fact, General Petraeus has stated his belief that the July 2011 drawdown date, set by President Obama in December and quietly disavowed by virtually everyone in his administration, was not something that would bind him either. So even though the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates has put himself at odds with the country's top commander in Afghanistan by ruling out any delay in the start of troop withdrawals next year, who are you going to believe? Where's the analysis in the MSM?

It's a very complex situation that in all likelihood won't be resolved by next year -- Four members of the House of Representatives held talks last month in Europe with leaders of Afghanistan's ethnic minorities opposed to President Hamid Karzai and his U.S.-backed initiative to open political negotiations with the Taliban. There was acknowledgement by Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., after the meeting about the nature of the problems faced: "None of the people of Afghanistan except for the crooks at the top are interested in a central government with all the power," Rohrabacher said in a telephone interview last week. "That's the model that we have been trying to force with our military ... on the people of Afghanistan." And that widespread corruption has not been dealt with in a timely fashion in spite of repeated warnings from the Americans to Karzai to clean it up.

Karzai has declared that he wants to do away with the 52 security firms, both foreign and domestic operating in Afghanistan.  They employ more than 24,000 guards who work mostly for Western entities. Karzai, who calls the independent fighting forces "thieves by day, terrorists by night," has set a four-month timeline to dissolve the companies and bring their workload under his government's control. That may not sound like a terrible idea but in the unstable environment that currently exists the fear is ...transit routes will be impassable, foreign companies will leave Afghanistan, the economy will suffer, and -- perhaps most ominously -- unemployed security guards will turn to the insurgency.

Lastly, some numbers that should give everyone pause and deserved scrutiny from the media, in less than two years the US has suffered more combat deaths in Afghanistan under President Barack Obama than it did during the two-term presidency of George W. Bush.

That's just a week of cherry picked news from Afghanistan and it didn't include this week's civilian deaths or the protests over same. None of this augers well for our Canadian troops who are there until July of next year, and collectively this all points to a dramatic and expensive failure for the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Off With His Head!

I'm not particularly happy about the impending arrival of Fox News North, but whatever the market will bear is alright with me. Now it seems 2011 is not nearly soon enough for Péladueau's project and PM Harper will try and hasten its' arrival by dumping the head of the CRTC.

I've been looking around the Canadian blogosphere this morning and so I know it's not just me who believes Harper is losing it, or as Scott over at Scott's DiaTribes puts it, "going all in." The real question is will Canadians be turned off enough by this autocratic Conservative Party behaviour to encourage the opposition to head to the polls sometime in the autumn?

There aren't enough bad things to say about the idea of a network that resembles Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. All you have to do is watch this week's current fake controversy, the NYC mosque to know that their purpose is solely to divide and create animosity amongst Americans so as to boost their ratings. They'll use hate, demagoguery, propaganda and outright bald-faced lies to do it. They do not care about public policy or for that matter the country from which they broadcast. They care solely about the wealthy, the astroturfers, and other corporate interests. Canada does not need this and I do not want to be forced to have to accept this channel on my cable or satellite feed - but Stephen's not going to give me that option.

U.S. Rules Over Canadian Common Sense

Six Flags, corporate owner of Montreal's La Ronde Amusement Park has imposed its conservative right wing policies in Canada. Accused of raciest practices in the U.S. the company can now add Quebec to its list.
Brunaud Moise was kicked out of La Ronde for wearing Bob Marley shirt. According to La Ronde the shirt did not meet their "family friendly dress code". There with his 15 year old brother Mr. Moise was told by security guards he would have to turn his shirt inside out or leave.

Moïse said his brother was quiet during the meeting with La Ronde's security guards. "I told him you have to be courageous when these things happen. There has to be a change in mentality."  
(On behalf of  the staff here at NMP we would be proud to give you a New Media and Politics Tee-Shirt, just e-mail us. We can't promise you'll be able to wear it at La Ronde.)




We'll give Mr. Marley the final word









 

Stephen's Way

You know things are not going Stephen Harper's way when Canada's so-called national newspaper, the reasonably conservative Globe and Mail, compiles what they call a Tory hit list. They even do him the favour of leaving out the smearing of Richard Colvin and still things look bad. It's the kind of thing that gives the impression he's behaving like a tin-plated dictator from some 3rd rate banana republic -- and he is.

It's gotten so bad for PM Harper that he actually spoke to the press today to tell them he had nothing to do with the "bouncing" of Superintendent Marty Cheliak - video here. He looked completely sincere -- it's all an internal RCMP matter don't you know, and the PM would never interfere. That's not his style, right?

Rick Mercer dished out some advice to all Canadians just before Harper's first prorogue. It was well worth heeding then and is still pertinent today.