Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ottawa Chills Canadian Aid Climate

Canadian aid groups told to keep quiet on policy issues
Earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince wait in line to collect water this week. Aid groups in Canada say they've been warned by the Conservatives not to weigh in on policy.
by Campbell Clark

Non-governmental organizations say they're receiving veiled warnings about positions that clash with Ottawa's

Ottawa — From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 9:30PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 11:11PM EST

Aid groups say the federal government is casting a chill over advocacy work that takes positions on policy or political issues – and one claims a senior Conservative aide warned them against such activities.

An official with a mainstream non-governmental aid group said that Keith Fountain, policy director for International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, gave a verbal warning that the organization's policy positions were under scrutiny: “Be careful about your advocacy.”

The official did not want to be identified out of concern that it might jeopardize funding for the group's aid projects from the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA.

That's a concern voiced by some other NGO leaders, who said they have received hints the government dislikes their policy advocacy or criticisms of the government policies, but did not want to be identified.

Most aid organizations, from church-based organizations such as Anglican and Mennonite aid agencies to big agencies such as World Vision, Oxfam and CARE, take public positions on some policy issues, and some organize letter-writing campaigns or publish pamphlets.

The aid groups use CIDA money to finance 75 per cent of specific programs, but don't use it for advocacy.

Some have had veiled warnings about positions that clash with Ottawa's on issues such as climate change, free trade with Colombia, or the Middle East, said Gerry Barr, president of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, an umbrella group.

“NGOs are being positively invited to remain silent on key questions of public policy,” he said.

Cheryl Curtis, executive director of the Anglican Church's Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, said government officials have never warned her organization about public-policy positions, but other aid organizations have reported such messages.

“We've certainly heard that amongst colleagues,” she said, adding: “There clearly is a conversation that's brewing at the government level.”

But the government insists that is not so.

A spokesman for Ms. Oda, Jean-Luc Benoit, did not specifically respond to a question about whether Mr. Fountain had warned an aid agency about its advocacy work. But he said an NGO's funding is evaluated on effectiveness in delivering aid and matching CIDA's aid priorities.

“This is about best use of taxpayers' dollars to help the poor, not about what these organizations do with their own money,” Mr. Benoit said in an e-mail.

The fears among the NGOs have been amplified by the government's move to reject a $7-million funding request from Kairos, an aid organization backed by a coalition of churches.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said publicly that Kairos was de-funded because it supported a boycott campaign against Israel. (Kairos insists it doesn't support a boycott.)

The government later backtracked and said the agency's funding was turned down because it did not meet CIDA's new areas of focus. But Ms. Curtis, who is also chair of Kairos's board of directors, said the feeling that the agency lost funding for political reasons has not gone away.

“Each and every one of us who are members of Kairos feel that keenly,” she said.

Another aid NGO, the left-leaning Montreal-based Alternatives, can't get CIDA to return its calls since the National Post – citing unnamed government sources – reported that the organization's long-standing $2.1-million funding proposal would be rejected because of its political advocacy. Its most recent aid funding ran out last March.

Alternatives produces a newspaper that has published left-wing commentators and, for example, a piece that made a controversial argument for a “united Israel” and against Israel's status as a Jewish state – rather than the internationally endorsed “two-state solution” of Israel existing beside a separate Palestinian state.

“Everything we hear is that Alternatives' advocacy work is the main reason we'll eventually be cut,” said the organization's executive director, Michel Lambert.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Privileges Assumed and Taken: Harper and "Executive Privilege"

Harper assumes powers of executive privilege, U.S.-presidential style
A dispute that began with stonewalled reports of Afghan prisoner abuse is set to become the crucible that determines if the Prime Minister or Parliament is now supreme.
Published December 21, 2009

OTTAWA—Pierre Trudeau first freed the genie of expansive prime ministerial power. Now an increasingly feeble Parliament is trying to stuff the monster back into the bottle by demanding Stephen Harper release uncensored documents on Afghanistan prisoner abuse.

At stake is the ability to hold the ruling party accountable between elections. Already dangerously diminished, that capacity will shrink to irrelevance if the Prime Minister wins what is fast becoming an annual Parliament Hill showdown.

On the surface, the current clash favours opposition parties. Armed with legal opinion and the majority of seats won in the 2008 campaign, they have the theoretical right and political numbers to insist the government reveals what Conservatives are desperate to keep secret.

Worse still for the ruling party, the defence is porous.

National security concerns can be easily satisfied either by releasing the documents to MPs under the protection of secrecy laws or, by naming a judge—as Ottawa did in the Maher Arar case—to decide what is damaging to the country as opposed to injurious to politicians.

But the opposition's upper hand is deceptive. As the coalition parties learned during last year's Christmas crisis, a cornered Prime Minister is formidable prey.

Facing certain defeat, Harper escaped by persuading the Governor General to suspend Parliament and by convincing a surprising number of civics-challenged citizens that he alone could rule. On balance, Michaƫlle Jean was right. By any measure beyond a propaganda triumph, Harper was wrong.

Americans directly choose presidents; Canadians elect Members of Parliament. In the absence of U.S. checks and balances, prime ministers are controlled by the confidence of the Commons.

How loose that control has become was exposed by the Quebec sponsorship scandal. Not only were MPs in the dark about how Liberals were misspending public money, Justice John Gomery couldn't follow the dollars through the maze of "mechanics" up the command chain to a responsible minister.

Conservatives won the 2006 election in part by promising transparency. Since then, Ottawa has become only more opaque as the result of the resolute Conservative effort to mute public watchdogs, pass the buck to civil servants and continue concentrating power among appointed partisans in the Prime Minister's Office.

Those factors are coalescing again in a replay of recent history. Denied vital facts, MPs are lost along the Afghanistan prisoner paper trail. Bureaucrats, most notably diplomat Richard Colvin, are the designated scapegoats. By balking at Parliament's demand for information, Harper is assuming powers of executive privilege normally associated with U.S. presidents, not Canadian prime ministers.

Forcing compliance and re-establishing the democratic balance of power is as straightforward as it is twisted. At the first opportunity, opposition parties can defeat Conservatives in the Commons, forcing election-weary voters back to the polls.

Not an appealing political proposition. The loss of Commons confidence is still the appropriate democratic response if the threat of an unwanted campaign, the possible embarrassment of a court challenge or Parliamentary censure fail to cool overheated heads. If not, a dispute that began with stonewalled reports of Afghan prisoner abuse is set to become the crucible that determines if the Prime Minister or Parliament is now supreme.

James Travers is a national affairs columnist with The Toronto Star. This column was released on Dec. 15.

The Hill Times

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Istanbul: A Week Of Western War Councils

The Planning of War Behind Closed Doors
Brussels, London, Istanbul: A Week Of Western War Councils
by Rick Rozoff

Global Research, February 5, 2010
The defense chiefs of all 28 NATO nations and an undisclosed number of counterparts from non-Alliance partners gathered in Istanbul, Turkey on February 4 to begin two days of meetings focused on the war in Afghanistan, the withdrawal of military forces from Kosovo in the course of transferring control of security operations to the breakaway province's embryonic army (the Kosovo Security Force) and "the transformation efforts required to best conduct the full range of NATO’s agreed missions." [1]

Istanbul was the site of the bloc's 2004 summit which accounted for the largest expansion in its 60-year history - seven new Eastern European nations - and its strengthening military partnerships with thirteen Middle Eastern and African nations under the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James Stavridis and the top commander of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan - soon to reach over 150,000 - General Stanley McChrystal are also in attendance, as are European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and United Nations High Representative for Afghanistan Kai Eide as well as the defense and interior ministers of Afghanistan.

The meetings follow by a week the International Conference on Afghanistan held in London, which in turn occurred the day after two days of meetings of the NATO Military Committee with the Chiefs of Defense of the military bloc's 28 member states and 35 more from what were described as Troop Contributing Nations; presumably NATO partner nations with troops stationed in the Afghan war theater. In all, the military chiefs of 63 countries.

The U.S.'s McChrystal was present there also as were Israeli Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi and Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Beforehand the bloc's website reported that "The various meetings will focus on the progress made in ongoing operations and the New Strategic Concept for NATO." [2] That 35 top military commanders from non-NATO countries were present to hear plans for the escalation of what is already the largest war in the world is understandable, as their forces are on the ground as part of a 50-nation plus force under NATO military command.

That the same conference discussed the bloc's 21st century new global military doctrine - former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright delivered an address on the topic - raises the question of how many of the 35 partner states' military chiefs may have joined their 28 NATO colleagues for that phase of discussions. That such a high percentage of the world's leading military commanders attended a two-day affair which deliberated on both the war in South Asia and the expansion of the world's only military bloc's activities even further outside the Euro-Atlantic area (when it has already conducted operations in four continents) confirms that the Afghan war serves more than one purpose for the West. It is the laboratory for strengthening military ties with nations on every inhabited continent and for building the nucleus of and foundation for a potential future world army.

The London conference on Afghanistan, presented in the West as a benign undertaking tantamount to an economic development or humanitarian aid planning event - the conference's website described it as "The international community [coming] together to fully align military and civilian resources behind an Afghan-led political strategy" [3] - was preceded by two days of meetings between top military commanders of almost a third of the world's nations at NATO headquarters and followed by two days of meetings by NATO and allied defense chiefs this week. Many of the same people - EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton and the UN's Eide (who formerly occupied comparable posts in Bosnia and Kosovo and was Norway's ambassador to NATO from 2002 to 2006) - attended both the London conference and are attending the Istanbul NATO defense ministers conclave.

(Ashton's predecessor's Javier Solana was Secretary General of NATO from 1995 to 1999 before becoming the EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy - the title slightly adjusted after the Lisbon Treaty - from 1999 until December of 2009, effecting the transition seamlessly.)

By way of reciprocity, the London conference was addressed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said, inter alia, "with more than 85,000 troops from 44 nations deployed to Afghanistan – and with over 39,000 additional forces arriving over the coming weeks and months - the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force remains NATO’s top priority." [4]

If any further evidence was required that the United Nations is at the service of NATO and not vice versa, that the EU is NATO's civilian valet de chambre, and that all three are subordinated to the United States, the last week's events and the roster of attendees at them should suffice.

The chain of command begins in Washington and orders barked out there work their way down to Brussels and New York City.

The two organizations based in the Belgium capital, the "military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America" (NATO's self-definition) and the "European military superstate" (Irish opposition parties' reference to the effects of the Nice and Lisbon treaties), are afflicted with political echolalia, parroting the U.S. position on conflicts armed and with the potential to become so around the world - Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia-Russia, Georgia-Abkhazia, Georgia-South Ossetia, Russia-Ukraine, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Yemen, Colombia, Myanmar, Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Israel-Lebanon, Lebanon-Syria, Israel-Palestine, Macedonia, Ivory Coast, Djibouti-Eritrea, Transdniester and all those to come - with truly impressive fidelity in this otherwise inconsistent age.

Condemnations, tirades and threats issued by the U.S. secretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations may as well be presented in triplicate.

Permanent Security Council members Russia and China may occasionally - all too occasionally - block hostile Western actions against defenseless third parties in the United Nations, but Washington always walks away with a mandate and the final say in the selection of viceroys to complement U.S. and NATO military forces on the ground in subjugated nations.

As a recent example, during the second day of the NATO Military Committee meetings in Brussels and the day before the Afghan conference in London, an "international" conference on Yemen was also held in London which "Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown called response to the failed bomb attack on an airliner over Detroit on December 25." [5]

That bears repeating. The apprehension in the U.S. of a Nigerian national alleged to have been trained in Yemen led the head of state of the United Kingdom to summon representatives of the Group of Eight (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.S.), the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), Egypt, Jordan - but not the Arab League - Turkey and the European Union, United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund "to bolster Yemen's fight against al Qaeda...." [7] Soon 50,000 non-American NATO troops will be bogged down in Afghanistan because the bloc invoked its Article 5 collective defense provision in fight against al-Qaeda.

Ever-compliant UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lent legitimacy to this American and British charade, as he did the following day's Afghan conference where he delivered a speech in the presence of 28 NATO and perhaps dozens of its International Security Assistance Force non-member states foreign ministers.

Yemen has joined the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq as a target for Western "assistance and stabilization." NATO will conduct more planning sessions with scores of military chiefs and defense and foreign ministers and not only for the war in Afghanistan.

Its new Strategic Concept knows no geographical bounds.


1) NATO, February 3, 2010]
2) NATO, January 25, 2010
3) Afghanistan: The London Conference
5) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 28, 2010
6) Reuters, January 27, 2010

Rick Rozoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Rick Rozoff

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