C. L. Cook
March 3, 2006
Just a year ago, while holding the Defence portfolio, the now nominal leader of the Liberal party, Bill Graham went on a ghoulish public relations tour, warning every rubber-chicken devotee who would listen about the coming Canadian casualties. The effort seemingly designed to "soften up" a public already dubious of Afghanistan. That unease was magnified today by Canadian Forces honcho, Rick Hillier who says Canada could expect to be in Afghanistan for at least a decade, or more. Hillier is the shoot from the lip General who marked his arrival on the Aghan scene last year, talking tough as George W. "Bring 'em on!" Bush, who last week lamented in the national press the too-dumb public's failure to grasp the vital importance impoverished, distant, hopeless Afghanistan poses Canada, and why a "decade, or more" military occupation is its duty.
This past week, Stephen Harper too sputtered across the front pages, outraged that "any Canadian" would challenge the country's commitment to "its men and women in uniform, etcetera ..." That commitment has deepened with Canada's leadership ascension of Nato's ISAF mission in the Kunar, centre of Taliban activity. Until recently, Canadians had it relatively easy, based at Camp Julien, outside the capital, Kabul. But, that all ended last year, when Defence Minister Graham, addressing another banqueting gaggle of camp followers, pronounced Canada's improved military, apparently equipped with a spanking new set of marching orders; orders bearing an unmistakable echo.
What Graham outlined, and Stephen Harper is executing, is the end of Canada's "traditional" Peacekeeping role. Today, Nato, not the UN is where Canada's foreign "commitments" are drawn up. Brussels, not Ottawa decides where, when, and how many of Canada's soldiers will take the field. As for why, it depends on who you listen to. But, the most scarifying question, a query naturally left untended by the "mum's the word" media, is the question gnawing at the conscience of, according to a Globe & Mail poll, at least 62% of Canadians is: "What?"
Just what will Canada be doing?
Will it look like what America is doing in Iraq? Or, will it look like what Israel is doing in Palestine? Will it look like Gaza? Groszny? Llassa. Or, perhaps it will be another Port-au-Prince, with countless Somalia-like instances of random torture and murder thrown in.
Yes. Port-au-Prince where blue-helmets kick in the doors of the poor, pouring hundreds of rounds of automatic rifle fire, and a shock grenade, or two into and through where the tarpaper-shacked populace cowers in terror sounds more the future of Canada's Afghanistan Mission. Besides the ludicrous notion Afghanistan bears any threat to the security of Canada; and, ignoring the situation, worsening after four years of liberation from the despotic religious zeal of the Taliban regime, is commiting thousands of soldiers for years sound reasoning?
Can history teach us anything?
Following the aerial destruction of Afghanistan's military and infrastructure, the infantry started collecting prisoners. Thousands were bagged and tagged in the manner now made familiar through Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the long list of other chambers of horror located, seemingly, everywhere. The least fortunate we know of being those finding
themselves at Shebarghan Prison. Thousands of men, rounded up in village sweeps by U.S. forces, were sent on a death journey across the wastes of Afghanistan, crammed into unventilated semi-trailers.
Three thousand souls now inhabit shallow graves in the desert beyond Shebarghan, a crime left largely unaddressed yet. And, now in the news, revelations Bagram Airbase still hosts facilities at least as gruesome as those in Guantanamo, or Iraq. Kandahar, now under titular Canadian control, too has an airbase, and attendant prison/torture centre. Will Canada, a willing supplier of prison/torture fodder until now, also oversee the America's prison methodology?
Shall Canadians become further mired with a demented president bent on a program the scope of which even the bravest dread mention? How long before Canadians serve picket duty in Iraq, or Iran?
George W. Bush is even now busy lighting fires. He's today reported in Pakistan, following his jaunt to India, where he pledged U.S. nuclear technology. Something of more than passing interest to bitter India foe, Pakistan, and regional rival, China. Some analysts warn this is a move promising a renewed nuclear arms race. Bush's stop in India brought hundreds of thousands in protest. In Pakistan there was a suicide bombing attack that killed a high-ranking American diplomat, and three others.
Canada's facade of independence is now its only hope of side-stepping the American march to self-destruction. When America falls, Canada will too be economically wounded, but how much worse for the nation should it now abandon its soul to only forestall the inevitable American demise?
The Canadian rabble is finally rousing to Afghanistan, as reflected in some major media. The country's most influential newspaper, The Toronto-based, Globe & Mail, picked up the gauntlet last week, promising to run a "talking to Canadians" campaign to gauge public opinion. A campaign they maintain necessary due to Parliament's failure to adequately debate the issue.
In the meanwhile, Canadians are at grave risk, and as Minister Graham told all who'd listen last Spring:
It's to be expected.
Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News and host Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. His writings are also featured at Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque. You can check out the GR Blog here.
You can contact the author at: pej.info.ca
Navigating Afghanistan's Propaganda Minefields
PEJ News - C. L. Cook - An e:mail press release from no less an august body than the irreproachable Canadian Landmine Foundation found its way recently into my in-box, informing: "Canadians Support Canada's Commitment to Afghanistan." Being a Canadian singularly unsupportive of Canada's support of an immoral and illegal invasion and occupation of a once-sovereign nation, I was anxious to discover what changed "my" mind.
C. L. Cook
March 9, 2006
On its face, the Canadian Landmine Foundation is the perfect example of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) doing good in the world. Who could argue with the cause of the saintly Lady Diana (RIP), or its mission statement: "to raise awareness and funds to end the human and economic suffering caused by anti-personnel landmines," after all?
Queer then the CLF would join the Public Relations battle currently being waged for the hearts and minds of Canadians regarding an always unpopular decision by the former Liberal government to send Canadian soldiers, reconstruction, and civil infrastructure specialists on an open-ended mission to Afghanistan - unpopular not because Canadians don't care about the deprivation of those necessities suffered by the people of Afghanistan, but more due to how those deprivations came about - to many of the "Canadians" scooped wholesale into the CLF's news release headline, Canada's military deployment, an incumbent requirement for any humanitarian effort, served to legitimize the ruthless and bloody senseless American aerial annihilation of what little infrastructure remained in war-torn, Taliban Afghanistan on September 10th, 2001.
Queer until you probe the groundcover.
The CLF is an affiliate of the larger Adopt-A-Minefield organization. The AMA is, as cited on the CLF website: "an initiative of the Canadian Landmine Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) and the Better World Fund (BWF)." Those affiliated with the CLF's affiliate are not largely the group of peaceniks one might expect. They include: spookworld notables from perennial conspiracy theorist favourite, the Council on Foreign Relations; State Department officials; ex-diplomats; Reaganites; and oily businessmen of all stripe.
A look at the UNA-USA's board reveals principles: President Ambassador William H. Luers, "active" CFR member, who cut his diplomatic teeth in communist Czechoslovakia, (shortly before it becoming the tipping point that brought down the USSR in Eastern Europe), and Venezuela. Luers served in South America during the opening days of Reagan and George H. W. Bush's reign of terror there, 1978-82. When not busy ridding the world of landmines, William spends his time championing other humanitarian efforts, such as those led by the Harriman Institute and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
And, on his right-hand: John C. Whitehead, former Deputy Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, (so highly held in fact was "the Gipper's" regard for the work Mr. Whitehead carried out for on-again-off-again G-Man/Bechtel Corporation CEO, Secretary of State George Shultz during those sticky Iran-Contra years, Reagan awarded Whitehead the Presidential Citizens Medal), and former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Whitehead is a current confrere to blue-blood trusts, institutes, and foundations too numerous to mention. He's also serving as appointed chair of the Board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. That's the outfit overseeing the reconstruction of the World Trade Center lands.
It seems a little less strange that an humanitarian organization would be trying to deliver the soul of Canada wholesale over to a, as Canadian Broadcasting Corporation icon and 'The National' anchor, Peter Mansbridge refers it, "more robust mission," in Afghanistan, when looking at some of the personalities at the Canadian Landmine Foundation itself. It reads like a Who's Who of the Canadian Public Relations industry and the companies it represents; companies that spend more of their time flogging "Genetically Modified" Frankencrops, munitions, drugs, and eager to cover any number of malefactions their commited pursuit of pure profit engender. Luckily, the equally eager PR sweepers are there, ready to brush the latest outrage under the media rug.
Among the crop at CLF are: Gaetan Lussier, President of Gaetan Lussier and Associates. You can catch Gaetan at the upcoming 'Smarter Regulation of Foods in Canada' conference in Ottawa later this month. He's scheduled to present, "The Impact of Regulation on the Business of Food in Canada" lecture. I'll bet that impact is BAD!
The conference is sponsored by notable humanitarians, Nestle, Unilever, and General Mills, amongst others.
Joining Gaetan at the CLF: The mysterious Dr. Irene Sage, Director of the shadowy, U.K.-based, 'Foundation for International Security.' Her name appears on lists, and as a funding friend of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, itself another gaggle of Council on Foreign Relations; State Department diplomats; Reaganites; and, oily businessmen of all stripe types.
With Irene and Gaetan: Remi Bujold, Senior Counsel for GPC International, an adjunct of Canadian Public Relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard Canada, subsidiary of Omnicon Group Inc. Fleishman-Hillard sums up their company values and culture in the pithy (and copyright phrase): "To make ourselves as valuable to our clients as they are to us."
They list some of their areas of special service as: government affairs and advocacy consulting; issues management; government communications, and of course; crisis communications. As the "robustness" of Canada's mission in Afghanistan increases, there will no doubt be a great need of some of that "crisis communications" stuff. It could be just the job for an upright sounding organization, staffed with a raft of operators operating from a spider's web of cross-referenced do-gooder organizations.
The recent redeployment of Canadians, sent to fill the boots on the ground of departing Americans, has already meant death for both Canadians and Afghans. Just tonight, (M9, 2006), the CBC announces a massive military mobilization of Canadian soldiers in an operation to scour the countryside around Kandahar for Taliban "insurgents." They're reported to begin the operation in the village where a Canadian soldier was recently wounded in an axe-attack.
Yes, it seemed passing queer an organization so concerned with "human and economic suffering," as the CLF proposes to be, would stand behind a massive military campaign currently ramping up in benighted Afghanistan; queer until considering the pedigree of the Canadian Landmine Foundation's stable of corporate promoters.
And who supports the Canadian Landmines Foundation and its President and CEO Scott Fairweather, another PR operative, when he says "Canadians support Canada's commitment to Afghanistan?"
Polls reveal a large and growing discomfort with the already four plus-year Canadian commitment in Afghanistan. But, Scott does hit the nail on the head when he says: "Landmines are a significant threat to Canadians serving in Afghanistan..."
And what better way to alleviate that threat than to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans?
The Canadian Landmines Foundation news release is reproduced in full below.
Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News, and host of Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.
From: "Canadian Landmine Foundation" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 2:24 PM
Subject: Canadians support Canada's commitment to Afghanistan
Press Release: For immediate release
Canadians support Canada's commitment to Afghanistan
Toronto (March 7, 2006) - For the past four years Canada has been committed to assisting Afghanistan on the path to stability, democracy and self-sufficiency. They have been working diligently to support the establishment of a stable environment in which the people of Afghanistan can rebuild their country and their lives.
Through the Canadian Landmine Foundation, Canadians are directly supporting this effort by getting involved in the rebuilding of the country. For the past four years, events have been held, raising money to clear landmines in Afghanistan where our personnel are serving. In 2005, Canadians raised enough money to clear an estimated 120,000 square metres of land just outside of Kabul.
2006 is off to a good start. On March 1, an event in Waterloo, Ontario raised $40,000 which will be put toward a clearance project in Afghanistan.
"Landmines are a significant threat to Canadians serving in Afghanistan, it is great that Canadians are working to alleviate this threat to our dedicated men and women and the communities in which they work" said Scott Fairweather, President and CEO of The Canadian Landmine Foundation, from his office in Toronto.
Afghanistan is one of the world's most mine-affected countries. The first landmines were laid in Afghanistan more than 25 years ago. Since then tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or disabled by mines or unexploded bombs. An Landmine Impact Survey (LIS), completed in November 2004, identified 2,368 mine- and ERW-impacted communities in 259 of the 329 districts of Afghanistan. The scope of the problem is immense.
Landmines contaminate the soil serving as booby traps against Canadian Forces as they patrol the streets and the country side bringing stability to the country - and for civilians on their way to the water well, or children on the way to school. These indiscriminate weapons threaten the daily life for hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan. They also threaten the ability of economic life of the community, leaving large areas of land unusable and damaging farm animals at work.
Removal of landmines is a significant step in the reconstruction and revitalization process of Afghanistan. It protects our Canadian personnel and innocent Afghan civilians that want to rebuild their lives.
The Canadian Landmine Foundation is working hard to bring safety and security to the Afghan community. Please join us in this very important effort.
For more information and interviews contact:
Paul Faucette, Manager
Canadian Landmine Foundation/Adopt-A-Minefield
416.365.9461 ext. 25
Peter Mansbridge: Carrying the Torch of the New Told Lie
- C. L. Cook - Is it possible, after nearly three years of the war and occupation in Iraq, after the millions of words written and uttered regarding the lies leading to that illegal act, and the bald-faced perfidy that has followed, anyone with half an eye to what is going on could still believe the Iraq "campaign" was a result of the September 2001 attack against the World Trade Center and Pentagon? Is it possible someone working at the apex of the Canadian media could seriously ask the nation to swallow this demonstrably false premise?
"9/11 was, of course, the event that prompted the military campaigns both here in Afghanistan, and in Iraq." - Peter Mansbridge, The National Mar. 6, 2006www.PEJ.org
Carrying the Torch of the New Told Lie
C. L. Cook
March 6. 2006
Fascinating, now Canada has moved into the war-footing we've witnessed south of the border these past terrible years, to hear Canada's government news organ, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, importing propaganda from the mired U.S. The grossest of the lies designed to lend credibility to America's murderous rampage through benighted Iraq was George Bush's ludicrous allegation implicating Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks.
For Peter's sake, and for Canadians who may have spent the past three years lost in the wilds; the connection between Iraq and 9/11 has been dismissed by everyone. Even the Bush camp never went as far as Mansbridge did tonight; having the good sense to merely mention, time and time again, Iraq and 9/11 together, leaving it to the feeble-minded to fill in the blanks.
Maybe Peter is onto something; maybe Afghanistan and Iraq are connected afterall. As Canada's role in-country becomes "more robust" in nature; and, as "our" generals appear on television, telling Canadians the mission could last more than a decade, and saying we should be prepared for more casualties, Afghanistan is starting to look a lot like Iraq.
And, isn't Ottawa starting to sound a lot like Washington?
Conservative Party Foreign Affairs minister, Peter McKay refuses to waver on the policies drawn up by his Liberal predecessors, while the freshly sworn Defence minister and former General, Gordon O'Connor refuses to consider debating Canada's Afghan adventure in Parliament. The Liberals have little to say, beyond that they too support the deepening mire that is the occupation. The New Democrats, arrived to the debate a day late and dollar short, having allowed the war issue disappeared through two elections, now have Jack Layton bleating for public hearings, though not going so far as to call for troops to be removed.
Canadians are dying and killing in Afghanistan. The death will continue, and for what?
The generals tell us "defence begins abroad," and if the Taliban take back the country, what country will fall, domino-like next? The C.B.C. promises more stories from Afghanistan to explain better to too-dumb Canadian opponents of the glorious little war beginning there.
And, the Prime Minister tells us today, it is the generals, not Parliament, not the government, not the people, that will determine how long Canada stays in Afghanistan.
Perhaps it is all connected.
Chris Cook is a contributing editor at PEJ News and host of Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check the GR Blog here.
Afghanistan: Media Fiddles While Canadians Come Under Fire
- C. L. Cook - The "muscular" new Canadian approach
to fulfilling the foreign policy objectives of the Bush administration today again bore bitter fruit for Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Dismissing the damage to troops and their Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) as "minor," the national broadcaster
missed entirely the damage being done to Canada's international image.
Media Fiddles While Canadians Come Under Fire
C. L. Cook
February 9, 2006
Four Canadian soldiers were hurt when their convoy, on what was described as a joint U.S.- Canadian reconnaissance mission, was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted along their route. The Canadian contingent, dubbed 'Task Force Orion,' are recently arrived in the Taliban heartland city of Kandahar, and are expected, according to the Canadian general slated to take command of the greater, 'Task Force Afghanistan,' Brigadier-General David Fraser, to both "kill and die" there.
Indeed, just last month, Glyn Barry, Canada's head diplomat to the country was killed, and three Canadian soldiers wounded when their convoy was hit by a suicide car bomber. Attacks have been on the increase for at least a year in Afghanistan; attacks increasingly emulating the tactics seen in Iraq.
The Brigadier-General minces no words about Canada's involvement and his upcoming role as the Number One of the Multinational Brigade in Regional Command South, adjunct of the greater, American-led 'Operation Enduring Freedom,' saying; "This is a dangerous mission. This is a dangerous environment, and I cannot reduce the risk to zero."
Neither Canada's number one commercial broadcaster, nor Brig.-Gen. Fraser seem overly concerned with the greater danger the country's military adventurism poses for Canadian citizens, at home and abroad, or Canada's squandered reputation as mediator and peacekeeper on the world stage.
Instead, as Stephen Thorpe of Canadian Press reports, the increase IED and suicide attacks have led to "more liberal rules of engagement" for NATO troops, allowing they "fire on suspect vehicles and other attackers in Afghanistan." It can only be hoped, NATO will take more care than their American counterparts in Iraq, where un-tolled numbers of civilians have been killed at checkpoints, and just last week, a car carrying Canadian diplomats was shot at.
There will doubtless be more stories to come of Canadians wounded to a less "minor" degree as the campaign in Afghanistan continues, but few published by Canada's over-concentrated media are likely to explore their role in down-playing the nature of the conflict before the fact, the sea-change in Canadian foreign policy it represents, or the new understanding of Canada's role in further military deployments to Afghanistan, and those other "hot spots" around the edges of America's burgeoning empire.
Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News and hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.