Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan


Canada’s Failure in Afghanistan and its War at Home


NATO and Afghanistan’s Shia Marriage Law: The Collapse of a Master Narrative


Firing Shoes at the Faces of Empire: From Baghdad to Montreal

A written commentary will follow in the next post, but for now, two videos that I made pertaining to Saturday’s rally in Montreal (see the announcement on this blog), organized by Block the Empire, in solidarity with imprisoned Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zeidi (yes, the famous shoe thrower). On Saturday, we were all shoe throwers.

First, a video summary of the protests and march through Montreal:


Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “SHOES AGAINST BUSH and HARPER, MONTRE…“, posted with vodpod

if that does not work for any reason, here it is again…

Second, a remixed compilation, with guest appearances by George W. Bush, produce for some added “context”:


Also, see the great photos of the event taken by Anirudh Koul, on his flickr page.


The Canadian Military-Media Complex

A November 13, 2008, report by David Pugliese in his “Defence Watch” section of the Ottawa Citizen, speaks of “the Ross Munro Media Award, an award handed out yearly by the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) to a journalist who covers military issues. The CDA receives significant funding and support from the Department of National Defence. The 2008 award, which carries a cash prize of $2,500, will be given to Le Devoir journalist Alec Castonguay during the CDA’s Vimy Dinner ceremony at the Canadian War Museum”. The CDA receives about $500,000 from the Department of Defence to support its efforts in building public support for the war in Afghanistan.


The Liberal Party of Canada had a “Left” Territory?

According to CBC News, political consultant David Herle, who chaired the two previous Liberal campaigns, said:

We are now again, virtually irrelevant in Western Canada and have lost the beachhead we had in British Columbia. The problems in Quebec remain widespread and deep. The NDP and Greens are encroaching on the Liberal party’s territory from the left.

I never knew the Liberal Party thought of itself as having any “territory” on the “left;” in fact, I have never personally known anyone in Canada who would describe him/herself as being on the “left” and who would vote Liberal. It seems that the Liberals are bemoaning the loss of something they never had. It seems clearer that some of its past supporters have departed both toward the right and the left, to other parties, hence my comment that the centre can no longer hold. The Liberal Party is obviously having trouble inventing a new identity for itself, especially when fewer voters decided to “vote strategically” by choosing it over the Conservative Party. A repository for strategic votes is not an identity; it is an identity defined as an absence, “not Conservative.” “Not Conservative” is simply not good enough.

What is also not good enough is the late-in-the-day attempt by Liberal leader Dion to assert that the Liberals are the party of social justice and environmentalism. Where I reside, Liberal Party posters attempted to define the party as one of “peace” and “against the war in Afghanistan.”

Since I credit Afghanistan with moving me to vote, I could hardly fail to notice the irony — the mendacity — of this new Liberal assertion:

  • The Liberals began Canada’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan, allegedly beating conservative Australia in being the first country to offer troops to support the U.S. The Liberals have not since explained why they are now against the war they started.
  • Among the Liberals’ top tier is Michael Ignatieff, one of the world’s better known “new imperialists” — have the Liberals repudiated imperialism? If so, when did it happen, and why?
  • The Liberals were the ones to first abide by the abusive detention in Guantanamo of someone who at the very worst could be labeled a “child soldier,” and here I refer to Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who never had the aid of his government, to which all citizens are entitled. When and why did the Liberals ever decide they were now concerned about Khadr?
  • The Liberal government in 2002 collaborated with and supported the U.S. in sending Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, to be tortured in Syria

Invasion, secret detention, torture, and the new imperialism — and the Liberals want to claim they had “territory” on the left that others are “encroaching” upon. They are going to need to learn some modesty, and how to be honest with themselves, before they can continue their journey to a new identity.

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Elections in Canada, 2008: Rewind, Replay, Return, but with Some Change

Why Post Now?

Frankly I do not expect anyone to read this, and I can afford to be brutally frank, and hopefully coldly analytical as well. I have posted absolutely nothing about the Canadian federal elections which came to a conclusion just last night (October 14, 2008), mostly because I expected no real change to result from the expensive, $300 million exercise of people going out to preserve the status quo: another minority Conservative government. In addition, I did not want party politics to pollute this blog, and to allow myself to be drawn into “party blogging,” posting every minute detail about the party campaigns and taking part in the scooping ambitions of elements of the Canadian political “blogosphere.” Moreover, I had planned to not vote. Plans change. Change can also happen in the midst of continuity.

What has Changed?

As mentioned above, the Conservative Party “won” another minority government: they form the next government by virtue of having won more seats than any other party, even if it is still a minority of seats. Once again, most voters voted for a party other than the Conservatives, and yet they see their wishes frustrated once more as the Conservatives rule over all of us.

Nonetheless, some important shifts took place. First, the main opposition Liberal Party was the only party to suffer severe losses as a result of this election: they lost 19 seats and fell to a new total of 75 seats in Parliament. This continues the Liberal Party’s decline, going from an uninterrupted succession of governments in the 1990s to the early 2000s under Jean Chretien, to a minority government under Paul Martin, and then to opposition, and now a dwindled opposition. In the meantime, for the sixth straight time, the Bloc Québécois won a majority of Quebec’s seats, and seems to have increased its holdings by one seat. The New Democratic Party (NDP) also significantly advanced its share of seats in Parliament, rising from 30 to 37. Even the new Green Party, which won no seats, still gained 9% of the overall vote.

For those not familiar with where Canadian political parties fall on the political spectrum and what these results may show, let me explain this by showing the range of parties from left (left wing) to right (right wing):

GreenNDPBloc QuébécoisLiberalConservative

(For American readers: the Conservatives are mostly like your “moderate Republicans;” the Liberals often represent what your media would represent as the left side of the Democratic Party; the Bloc is largely to the left of the Democrats, with some former Conservatives, but also some former Communists, and is anti-federal; the NDP is closer to resembling Ralph Nader’s political orientation; and the Greens are similar to most Green parties elsewhere in the world.)

To the extent that the Liberals formed a “middle ground,” and indeed repeatedly stressed that they were the only credible opposition to the Conservatives (the Bloc and NDP won 87 seats together, more than the Liberals’ 76, so the facts seem to challenge the Liberal view), it seems that the middle is falling apart. The centre cannot hold. That is not just an indication of the growing polarization in Canadian politics, it is good news in my view to look forward to a politics without the buffoonery of buffers, of meandering middle men who promise a bit of this, some of that, and really do neither in the end. The hoped-for departure of the Liberals will be the first step toward routing the Conservatives.

Another important change is that despite seemingly all the news media proclaiming that these would be the most important national elections in a long time, a gigantic minority of voters decided to not vote at all. Indeed, it was the lowest voter turnout ever. Typically the argument against non-voters is that they do not count. I say, “Nice accounting system you have there.” Of course they count, and their non-vote is a significant, that is, meaningful and valuable display of disinterest, rejection, and non-participation. It is a vote against politics as is.

Some have argued that the new identification rules quickly put in place disenfranchised many voters, especially students who lived on campus and away from home and had no bills with proof of their address. People at Dalhousie University reported that many if not most students were turned away, and doubt that many or any of them returned.

I myself was turned away at first, for simply wanting to vote where I lived, rather than where I worked (for some reason my electoral card was mailed to my university). It took some work to get the election monitors to take notice of the fact that my ample documentation showed precisely where I lived, and that it was unreasonable to deny me my vote, late in the day, in the very place where I resided. It took about an hour, but I got through eventually.

What Has Not Changed: More Mass Mediated, Middle Class Illusions

None of the existing political parties present an option I would endorse without reservation. Each of the five parties in this general election essentially peddled lies and illusions to the public: that Canadians could continue to live, or achieve, a suburban middle class dreamland with high paying jobs, vacations, trips to malls, nice clothes, fat pensions, and high consumption, at little actual cost to the individual. The most “radical” parties premised their visions on increased involvement of the state in public affairs, and increased spending — thereby making their thousand compromises and pacts with the devil. They each took the capitalist system for granted; spending was premised on high gains from a capitalist economy; “more jobs” was more jobs in capitalist enterprises.

I am tired of hearing about “jobs.” The talk should be about independent access to resources, and not the usual system of resource-less individuals depending on others to provide them with employment. The talk should also be about “work” as something that should be viewed as repugnant. The talk should be about the reality of this “democracy,” when most people spend most of their waking hours as servants to bosses. The talk should be about how after generations of automation and computerization, we still have 40 hour working weeks, and less time for leisure and personal development. This system generates fraud after scam, and we rush to those who promise more “jobs” in such a system.

None of the parties challenged Canadians to think differently. None of them told Canadians that they would need to think in terms of austerity, restraint, sacrifice, self-reliance and lowered expectations to bring about real change. None of them told Canadians that their way of life is fundamentally sick and unsustainable. None of them told Canadians about the fact that their system has an expiry date. None of them told Canadians to be very cautious about producing more children, when the future promises extreme turmoil. Instead we heard about more child care and more tax credits for children, and more plans to “help families.”

Canadians are stuck in a nursery mentality: they are told that the only things they have to care about are getting more milk, more pillows, and more nurses. These are not citizens in the end, they are patients. The political system seeks to infantilize them, and appeals to selfish interests, premised on unspoken dreams of mass consumption. Addiction and dependency are the roots of public politics governed by the state and the market.

A Personal Change of Plan: Why I Voted

The first, and until yesterday the last time I ever voted was 20 years ago in the 1988 elections. Both that time, and this time, the Conservatives won, and the party I voted for made remarkable gains as well. Let me explain why I have consciously refused to vote for such a long time, aside from the fact that I was away from Canada for most of those 20 years.

Party politics impressed me as among the least democratic options I envision when I think of what democracy means. First, the vote is a distilled one, not a direct vote: your vote can appear to be wasted in the “first past the post” system we have, where the candidate in a riding who wins more votes than another, wins the seat, and unless you voted for the winner your vote is, for all intents and purposes, tossed aside. (Some counter argue that no vote is wasted, because each vote a candidate gets earns their party $1.82 for its next campaign. I have not fact checked this.) You are now being represented by someone you did not select. You lose a say. And your very vote legitimates the process of your own effective disenfranchisement. I did not want to vote again until we had two conditions in place in Canada: proportional representation, so that all votes count, and parties are allotted seats in Parliament on the basis of their percentage of the popular vote, and, provisions to recall elected representatives who fail to keep their promises. Without these, democracy is a sham, and it still is in my view.

Secondly, I abhorred the system of representation itself. I do not agree to surrender my power to a stranger, especially one who does not represent my interests. I can speak for myself, and I insist on doing so. With the advent of the Internet especially, we now have the infrastructure in place for more direct forms of democratic participation. To have elites, from parties that rarely reflect my own orientations and were created without my input, select themselves and present themselves to be placed in power seems to be a travesty, a violation of voter sovereignty and autonomy, a mock democracy at best. I would much rather have a one party state, but one in which I am daily given a say in governance, than what we have now and here.

Thirdly, voting in a general election is a personal act of recognition and endorsement of federalism. I reject federalism. Simply put, I do not believe that “Canada” has any right to exist as such, and that far too much power is lifted above and over, and against, the mass of the largely disempowered citizenry by a swollen state. I think that “Canada” is a domestic empire, an imperialist entity, and I cannot accept it.

Despite these strong views against voting, I nonetheless voted. I decided that I could not complain about the results as a bystander. I also decided that I would be waiting an eternity for one day a party to appear that adequately reflected the range of my opinions and goals, and I do not have the energy or ability to create my own party. I wanted to explicitly vote against Canadian participation in the war in Afghanistan. I found a candidate in my riding who highlighted four, and only four, facts about his political campaigning: he was a protester at the 2001 Summit of the Americas; he organized demonstrations in Montreal against the war in Afghanistan; he worked actively in QuebecKyoto, supporting Quebec’s adherence to the Kyoto protocol; and, interestingly, he was a co-founder of the Green Party of Quebec, the other party that attracted me. That made up my mind. I could not criticize the war in Afghanistan and then sit back and not vote for those trying to bring an immediate end to it.

In these 2008 federal elections, the NDP has won its first ever seat in a general election in Quebec, right in the centre of Montreal itself. The NDP has seen its support among Montreal voters rise by 60%. The NDP in my riding doubled its share of the votes compared to only two years ago. And I can say I played a small part in that.

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The Ugly AmeriKKKan

“It” had to happen. Of course “it” has deep roots and its inculcation and reinforcement has been ongoing, and “it” is nothing new. By “it” I mean that deep seated racism, fear, and hate mongering would come to the surface and out in the open in the U.S. presidential election. I do not advocate America-bashing, especially as I am talking about Amerikkka, a notion of nationhood predicated on ignorance of the world, white supremacy, and hatred for Others. Amerikka does not dwell inside America alone, but can be found in Canada on the front lines of barricades erected by First Nations in protest against land seizures, and can be found in France with state-sponsored Islamophobia, in the U.K., in Denmark, and so on. Amerikkka stands out these days most clearly as a NATO phenomenon, the alliance that has plunged itself into Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan now, bringing violence and hatred directly to a nation that never attacked any NATO member.

Things have taken an uglier turn this week, with Amerikkka intent on showing the world its ugliest face. In a Washington Post report for Tues., Oct. 7, 2008, titled “Unleashed, Palin Makes a Pit Bull Look Tame,” we see some of the nasty evidence of what happens when unscrupulous and ignorant politicians, desperate to secure an edge against their own dismal failure, resort to race-baiting and fear-mongering. Sarah Palin, who when adrift comes across as a foggy tag cloud of buzz words, spoke in unusually clear terms when promising to propel hate:

Okay, so, Florida, you know that you’re going to have to hang on to your hats, because from now until Election Day, it may get kind of rough.

The Post takes us inside the rally:

Barack Obama, she told 8,000 fans at a rally here [Fort Myers, Florida] Monday afternoon, “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist!” This followed her earlier accusation that the Democrat pals around with terrorists. “This is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America,” she told the Clearwater crowd. “I’m afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.” The crowd replied with boos….

Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”

The reception had been better in Clearwater, where Palin, speaking to a sea of “Palin Power” and “Sarahcuda” T-shirts, tried to link Obama to the 1960s Weather Underground. “One of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” she said. (“Boooo!” said the crowd.) “And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,’ ” she continued. (“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.)

“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.

The Nation provides us with even nastier glimpses into the McCain-Palin lynch mob rallies. Ari Berman in his article for Oct. 8, 2008, titled “McCain’s Ayers Attacks Backfire,” writes:

Sarah Palin was on the verge of inciting a race riot in northern Florida yesterday. At her rallies, the Republican faithful hurled a racial epithet at a black sound man, and screamed “kill him” and “treason!” at Barack Obama.

Boy, you guys just get it!” Palin responded. This reaction, presumably, was what Palin had in mind when she urged John McCain to “take the gloves off.”

The interesting thing about what has taken form on the political landscape in the body of Sarah Palin is the return to core Amerikkkan values: it’s not just Muslims who are the problem — Zionists don’t take heart just yet — but also Jews. This is part of the traditional core of the KKK value system, where Blacks and Jews were targeted as threats, as dangerous Others, as contaminants. And what do we read from a mainstream source such as TIME (“Does Sarah Palin Have a Pentecostal Problem?” Thurs., Oct. 9, 2008)?

Palin’s religious background must initially have been seen as a positive to McCain campaign vetters, who assumed that her faith would appeal to the conservative base of the party that has always been suspicious of McCain. But ever since she joined the ticket in late August, the Alaska governor’s various religious affiliations have caused headaches. First came reports that her pastor at the nondenominational Wasilla Bible Church was connected to Jews for Jesus, an organization that seeks to convert Jews to Christianity. Prominent Jewish leaders, including the co-chair of McCain’s Jewish outreach effort, have since demanded to know whether Palin also believes that Jews must be converted….

And finally, a videotape surfaced of a 2005 service at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church, the Pentecostal church that Palin attended for most of her life. In the scene captured on video, Palin stands at the front of the sanctuary while a visiting African pastor prays that God will help her gubernatorial campaign and protect her “from every form of witchcraft.” Later in the same service, the pastor complains that “Israelites” held too many prominent positions in business, a comment that has further alienated Jewish voters.

Of course to suggest that this reflects Palin’s beliefs is to engage in her same guilt-by-association tactics…but with one important difference. TIME is not some underground magazine. What it writes is very public, and read fairly widely, both online and offline. Unlike Barack Obama, who  engaged in gross overkill in condemning, rejecting, disowning, and repudiating those he was associated with whose beliefs are different from his own…we have heard only silence from Palin on these fronts. No rejection, no condemnation. She is free to define herself as against bigotry and racial hatred, but instead chooses silence about her associations, while defining the Other in fanning the flames of racism and bigotry among her own followers. Until she corrects the record, the message is fairly clear. This is a Crusader leading citizens (see the videos below) who seemingly have been radically separated from anything resembling good sense, civilization, and humanity, having been intellectually and morally brutalized by churches, media and an education system in the gutter and by generations of nurtured hatreds.

As I said, one could only hope that all of this was confined to the U.S. alone. The fact of the matter is that we can find this at home too. In my case, home happens to be Canada at the moment, and I have previously spoken of the hysteria whipped up over “Native terrorism” every time a group of Mohawk women gather with placards (see here).

It is difficult to deny that the U.S. has taken on many of the same traits of the so-called “failed states” it claims to see in the world: heightened domestic poverty, violence at home and abroad, religious fundamentalism, widespread ignorance, and a “lousy economy” indicative of a “lousy government” (that was John McCain’s own characterization of Iran in his first televised debate with Barack Obama, ironic words indeed).

When John McCain misspoke recently, referring to his fellow Americans as “my fellow prisoners,” he said a mouthful: this really appears to be a culture incapable of escaping itself, as if waiting for reform by the most drastic means possible: environmental breakdown, an economic depression, humiliation abroad, and perhaps civil war at home. It’s as if the people we see in these videos have given up all hope on themselves, submerging themselves in old and worn anger systems, seeking refuge from memory and reason in an anger that erases all doubt, remorse, and impending anguish. These do not look or sound like courageous, enthusiastic, progressive people. Instead they come across as goons, and mothers of goons, looking for a fight, possessed by criminal ideas.

When viewing some of the mob members in the videos below, I confess my weakness: it is nearly impossible to sympathize with the self-made plight of these people, and I wish they would face the calamities they cause worldwide with greater immediacy at home. If their self-harm could be contained at home, one might become more generous. At this point, whatever “tragedies” serve to erode the U.S.’ “great power” status can only, regardless of the alternatives and short-term consequences, herald a vast improvement to the global human condition. The only chance many Americans have of escaping their worst selves is to start by inverting the meanings propounded by their leadership: the parasitic oligarchs as some would call them, the ultra-wealthy and coercive holders of state and financial power. When the likes of McCain complain about “radical leftists,” it is precisely then that Americans should seek these people out, that underground of American self-criticism that seeks serious social transformation, Americans not Amerikkkans, ones whose courage deserves our support so that they will persevere.

“That One”

“That one” is a phrase one might use normally to refer to objects, or to criminals in a lineup, to children, to dogs…to slaves. That one: singular for “those people.” Just look at the sinister and maniacal look on McCain’s face as he says those words, as if to tell the audience: “See your golden boy here, he who dwarfs my manhood? Right, let me tell you something ugly about him…it.”

“Kill him [Obama]!” at McCain’s rally

“Kill him [Obama]!” at Palin’s rally

The McCain-Palin Mob, part 1

The McCain-Palin Mob, part 2

…and, the Ugly Canukkk

A news report filed by the CBC in the spring of 2006, featuring reactions against the Six Nations blockade at Caledonia, Ontario.

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Spectroscopic Survey of Imperial (De)formations

Breaking down the White Light of Empire,

This report starts at the big blue end of the spectrum:

Afghanistan, Iraq, held low under the high water of 1492,
By an oversized 227 year old man of war.
A down swinging empire of rising fear, meets its boomerang,
With the lies told abroad only believed at home.

Choreographed leadership to reconcile the world to American supremacy.
Fist bumps of hope capture celebration, news of massacred wedding guests escapes indignation.
Empire’s hypocrite calls out: “People of the world, look to” – Abu Ghraib (?)
Boasting democracy with Guantánamo, that shit stain of torture on Cuba‘s indigenous territory.
Looking over butt pyramids of Freedom, refusing to name the obscenity for what it is,
As minute men torture truth from the mouths of babes in tribute to the
Founding Fatherswaterboards of liberty.
As a Winter Soldier’s tattoo boasts of foreign adventure.

Überanthropological terrain, better targeting for a global kill chain:
Cluster bombs
of liberation unleash a fury of fantasy on a cocktail napkin.
A rendezvous of fear and opportunity calls for lipstick and pearls,
They spray on Eau de la mort for their private function,
Racing to the doctrinal command’s members club,
The “SS” party crew bears a gift of plagiarized information.
Pepsi shows up in the trash, is danger at hand?
Luckily Abu Muqawama stands guard outside,
As Amatu Al-Muntaqim creeps nearer from surrounding jihad fields.

Toward fortunate, harmonious, stable, traveled,

Something tepid this way ambles:
Middling middleman strolling the middle road from Middlebury where he middle manages
Cosmopolitan common grounds in a senior common room.
While the middlebrow irony man poses for an ad for a war on terror,
Counter-hope of continuity masked by vain audacity,
Tiptoeing on eggshells with a 50 caliber machine gun on his back.
Shifting to the centre, seeking a middle ground, avoiding vengeful anger.
Besides…what about Zimbabwe? And what about Sudan?
We are Nobel imperialists, not uncompromising by paying no regard to the sentiments of Others.

Yellow, aging deceit

G-8 jabbering jowls ceaselessly chattering hegemonic gibberish.
The nobel‘s privileged view from the centre of the world.
True monsters fondly fondling their shriveled pedagogy,
Under silk hotel sheets hiding
That Naipaulian civilized Eurocentric eroticism
That “hates black men, but loves black cunt.”
“Africans need to be kicked – that’s the only thing they understand.”

Ending dead on the dread of red

Red ants.
Zero hour.
Out of the night, J’ouvert’s red awakening.
Recreating a ’68 convention will see unconventional action.
As a monkey, left speechless by all the deathpower, promises to smash heaven,
As the long awaited chickens come home to roost,
As unbearable rage ensures that some will push back.
As it will be, because He Promised the Fire Next Time.



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