Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Effective Opposition

The Tories are facing an embarrassing defeat on one of their most cherished issues, and they have been put on the defensive about a CBC report that alleges their campaign on this issue has ties to the NRA. The CBC has published documents to back up their claim that the NRA has been actively involved in trying to abolish the long gun registry for years now. To top it all off, David McGuinty accused Stephen Harper and the Conservatives of playing U.S. Republican-style wedge politics.

 This week's developments regarding the bill to scrap the gun registry give me hope that the three opposition parties will not spend the year being pushed around and manipulated by Harper's Tories but instead be an effective counterweight. There were moments all year long when it looked as if the registry was doomed to voted out of existence but then things began to change. The Liberal leader Michael decided back in April he would whip the Liberal vote on the issue, the Bloc were always going to vote against the Conservative private members bill, but it looked like rural NDP MP's were going to vote along with the Tories and end the registry. Then something happened.

It's hard to say if Jack Layton didn't like being called out by the Liberals or the Bloc or if he just wanted to be on the right side of this issue. Maybe he, like the other leaders, is sensing that the Conservatives are vulnerable and Canadians fed up with the fear card being played time and again -- whatever the reason he came out this week and said he had the votes to save the registry and on the 22nd of this month if he' right, that will be that.

With a newly emboldened opposition one suspects that the ride for Harper and the gang will only get bumpier. I'm really looking forward to the kickoff of Parliament -- it promises to be full of surprises.

Compare and Contrast

Covering the very unsexy Afghanistan war today on my radio program I began by reporting what Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance said on Monday night on his return to Kandahar where he was in command. “Although we’ve been in Afghanistan for a long time, and in the south since 2006, we really did not have the forces necessary to defeat the enemy using counterinsurgency tactics at the time.” But that's all changed now with Obama's surge in troops for Afghanistan and now the allies do have what’s needed for “enduring progress.”

 Did you get that? You see all this time we've had Canadian soldiers fighting and dying in a situation that they could not win so, unbeknownst to Canadians, they have essentially just been in a holding pattern all these years. But now, with the extra troops the Americans are providing to the southern battlefields, now victory is on the way!

It sure sounds like bunk after eight long years of Canadians doing their part on behalf of their American and NATO allies, but who am I to dispute the General's assertions? So let's hear what Robert Blackwill, who was Condolezza Rice's deputy as National Security Adviser in 2003 to 2004 has to say. The Telegraph reports that he will use a speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies think tank in London on Monday to call on President Obama to make drastic changes in the war's objectives. He believes the surge will likely fail and that, "The Taliban are winning, we are losing, They have high morale and want to continue the insurgency. Plan A is going to fail. We need a Plan B."

Indeed the do, as there are reportedly now 1,000 soldiers deployed for every one of the estimated 100 al Qaeda operatives now believed to be based in Afghanistan, and it's costing the US $100 billion dollars a year. Even General Petreus is reported as having said on ABC News that success over the insurgency could be another 9 or 10 years away. This presents us with the obvious question of, do any of the allies have the stomach to wage war in Afghanistan for that much longer and what exactly would a plan B look like?

As for Canada's part in all this, by 2011 at least $18 billion dollars of taxpayers money will have been sunk into the war ($1500 per person) and is the reason Canada has essentially abandoned its' 50-year commitment to UN peacekeeping. Some estimates of the total costs to Canadians by 2011, when the private costs to families and community of lost and injured soldiers are factored in, as being as high as $28 billion.

So, exactly why was General Vance trying to paint such a rosy picture? Who in hell believes him, and why doesn't the Canadian media challenge his assertions?

The Iraq Debacle

Looking for adjectives to describe what the American war machine has wrought in Iraq is only difficult in the sense that there are so many of them. Even the word debacle seems to understate it -- for the Iraqis it is a complete disaster and the current state of affairs is far worse than was ever visited upon them by their former dictator.

 There was a report yesterday that 1 out of every 6 Iraqis is an orphan. You read that right. Not 1 out of every 6 Iraqi kids but 1 out of ever 6 Iraqis, period. The exact figure only became a reality recently, when the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs made public its own statistics, but there have been reports reflecting this crisis for years now -- they've just been ignored. So when you read that the Americans have only killed 100,000 or so Iraqis, remember the number of Iraqi orphans and do the math. The real numbers of deaths the Americans are responsible for are far higher, as this report from Truthout asserts, for the war and continuing occupation of Iraq.

Leaving behind 50,000 combat ready troops and paid contractors (modern day mercenaries) who are regularly engaging in combat is war and occupation no matter how the story is currently being spun. 
 
While on the subject of people whose misery is being scrupulously ignored in the media go read this report on the 4.5 million Iraqi refugees that this war has created. The humanitarian consequences of this seven-year war on Iraqi civilians are too often unreported. Since 2003, 2.5 million Iraqis have fled the country, mainly to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, while another two million have been dislocated inside Iraq, many of whom are now living in makeshift camps on the outskirts of Baghdad and other cities.
 
This is a humanitarian crisis on a grand scale and the United States needs to take action but it seems uunlikely that they will because as far as the US media is concerned it's not really happening.