Thursday, August 31, 2006

Arming the border.... guards.

Steve Harper has announced that some guards in the Canadian Border Service Agency will be armed in a rather slow advance.

Canadian border guards will be armed starting in September 2007 but it will take 10 years to fully implement the plan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

Harper announced at a border crossing south of Vancouver that the federal government will have at least 150 officers with sidearms deployed by the end of March 2008.

He also reiterated a $101 million promise from the federal budget to hire 400 additional officers. They will be used, among other things, to double up on Canada-U.S. border crossings that only have a single officer on duty.
The rest of Harper's speech contained the usual nauseating political garbage about how the CPoC "gets things done". (How about those hospital wait times, eh Steve?!)

It was one of Harper's campaign promises and I honestly have no real opinion one way or the other on it. Given the way things are going we'll soon be arming bylaw enforcement officers "to protect the Canadian people" against heavily armed parking meter violators.

I'm not certain this has anything to do with safety as much as it has to do with ego soothing for Canadians who work just meters away from their armed American counterparts. Let's face it, the dogcatchers are armed in some US counties, but that's another issue, isn't it?

I do have some questions though?

Given that border guards will get the firearms they have been demanding does this mean they will no longer leave their posts if they feel their safety is in jeapordy? That's the reason they give now and they point to the lack of weapons as their reason. Will their collective agreement with the Treasury Board have that item removed?

Will those people, identified as being required to carry a firearm in the performance of their duties, lose their job if they fail to qualify with the firearm issued to them? What if they don't pass the new eyesight test? (Yes... there is an increased eyesight requirement for those who carry firearms.)

Once a border guard is off-duty where does the firearm go? Is it secured at their place of duty or do they get to pack it about unfettered?

When do they unholster their firearm?

There's little information on how the government intends to arm these people. Let's assume 9 mm semi-automatic pistols. What happens if the criminal element is moving around with AK-47s and and FAL assault rifles? Once the border guards realize they are out-gunned do we sling automatic rifles on them?

OK, that's just a few. I have a few more because I'm at a bit of a loss.

I looked but could not find any recent incident where a border guard was shot at the border. Has there ever been such an incident in the last 10 years?

Are Canadian border guards trained in the use of and is each border crossing equipped with spike belts? Just, you know, asking.

Anyway, I do hope the border guards are happier now that they're getting a Glock, or whatever. Now they can look and feel just like their American comrades.

SaskBoy is in the running. Help him out here.

SaskBoy, and his wheelchair-bound goldfish have entered their old fridge in a Saskatchewan ugly fridge contest. (Beats me. I thought the happy hog contests were the epitome of prairie challenges. I particularly like the Hurry Hog!!! ice decals.)

He explains, and he needs your vote.

Go now. You don't have much time.

Olmert goes into CYA mode.

Israeli politics can be confusing at the best of times. In the whole of the existence of modern Israel there has never been a majority government. The Israeli government operates as a coalition of various parties and the prime minister usually has a very tenuous hold on power. It is a tradition in Israeli politics that failure, particularly where it relates to defense, is accompanied by the resignation.

Ehud Olmert seems to feel he is not beholden to that tradition.

Following the first Lebanon War, Menachem Begin announced that he "could no longer" - and resigned. After the Yom Kippur War, Golda Meir recognized she had lost her political standing - and stepped down. Ehud Olmert is not behaving like them: he reiterates that he is supremely responsible for the decision to go to war and for its results, but he is clinging to his post.
For what it's worth, while the Yom Kippur War was an event for which the IDF was not prepared, they dispatched themselves admirably and emerged the victors. Meir still understood that she could no longer lead.

Olmert seems to be taking a page from the Bush administration's book. Something along the line of I am ultimately responsible, but it's not my fault.

Olmert established two inquiry committees to investigate the outcome of the latest war, one in which Israel came out as anything but victorious. In fact, Israel suffered a huge loss. The Israeli army is demoralized, the reserves are furious at their treatment and the IDF has lost their status as the paragon of invincibility. In the fight between David and Goliath, the IDF came out Goliath.

Olmert's inquiries, however, are already in trouble. With no terms of reference, and with Olmert retaining his seat at the head of the cabinet table, the committee members have no idea what they are supposed to do.

However, most committee members are currently abroad, including Lipkin-Shahak, who will be back in Israel in nine days. The committee will not convene before he returns. Asked whether he would continue to head the committee, Lipkin-Shahak replied: "I have no idea what's going on. They have to decide what they want, after which I will decide if I'm interested."

Other committee members also expressed displeasure at not being briefed regarding the future of committee proceedings.
Whitewashes are common when trying to hide political failure, but this emerges as something even worse. Israel, surrounded by groups that would see them annihilated, does not enjoy the luxury of navel-gazing over a military defeat. Hiding from the truth by producing ineffective inquiries will do nothing to correct the problems in the IDF and Israel's defense systems.

It's what banana-republics do.

While the inquiries, one political and one military, seem to have no clear role, Dan (Just Bomb Them) Halutz, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force, has made it clear that as far as he's concerned Major General Moshe Kaplinsky will head up the military inquiry.

That's interesting. Kaplinsky was complicit in the direction of the entire war and eventually took over operations on the ground on Israel's northern border.

Appointing Kaplinsky to investigate on "what went wrong" is akin to having ENRON investigate their own unethical accounting practices. Instead of inquiries being conducted at arms-length, they can only be viewed as cover your own ass shams.

If there was any question as to who won in the Israeli/Hezbollah scrap, these inquiry committees provide the answer.

It wasn't Israel.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You want support? Earn it.

I don't normally pay attention to this kind of blather, but this particular post deserves some treatment considering certain portions are intentionally deceiving.

First, the title. The shrill beaver. Apparently the author doesn't accept that questioning those in power is reasonable.

Then this:

Can a beaver run with it’s tail between it’s legs?
A clear indication that the author thinks this post contains a suggestion that Canada withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan.

There is no such suggestion in that post. My suggestion is that Harper keeps touting "Canadian values" as the reason for being in Afghanistan and I'm not buying that line of bullshit.

The author is directed, in comments, to prior posts at TGB which point out that his basic premise is seriously flawed. He then goes on to suggest that he has difficulty reconciling any support I might have for the Afghanistan mission with what I've written.

He wants me to put in print something like this: "I, without reservation, support the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan."

Except that, I don't. My support comes with serious reservations, not the least of which is that I expect Harper to behave with a great deal more honesty. And, I have one other very good reason for questioning a committment of troops to combat.

I absolutely despise war.

I have a good reason for that too. Unlike the microchip militia, who cheerlead the use of military force without qualification, I've been exposed to war and combat - up close and personal - more than once. I've got a chestful of useless gongs and some permanent shrapnel wounds to remind me of days which I would rather have missed in my life.

I've experienced the exhilaration of close-quarters battle and the years of remorse that follow because I had no choice but to kill the teenage soldiers in the fire-pit to my front.

I've been beside a good man, a highly competent marine, who suddenly dropped like a bag of shit while I got splattered with flesh and blood. The movies make it look so much more dramatic and heroic than it really is. The truth is just a bloody, fucking mess.

I've been on the right flank of a patrol when the man on point stepped on a landmine. And all we could do was watch as he lay there screaming, his viscera splayed over the ground, the lower half of his body gone. He lived for over five minutes while the medic did a drill on him - with morphine auto-injectors. It ended with a colour sergeant screaming, "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" because he had been unable to protect a good man.

I've watched kids die. It ends everything. Their personalities cease to be a part of the team; their humour stops; their dreams end; and, their death affects a hundred other people - permanently.

I've had to call fire down on my own position while I watched my men nod. They knew, as I did, that there was little chance we would get out of it alive, much less unscathed. It was necessary at the time and the cost of that act is paid for in year after year of nightmares.

I have a direct and long-service association with both British and Canadian militaries. I have an affinity for the people who serve in those militaries and I have an interest in how they are committed. My interest is in their welfare, how they're led and how safe they are. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, they are kids on an adventure. They won't come home that way.

I'm not "anti-war". I am, however, highly skeptical whenever troops are committed to combat. I expect that the real reasons for going to war will be clearly enunciated by the politicians who continue to live in comfort and convenience while others suffer and die.

To provide unreserved support for the Afghanistan mission is not only stupid, it is irresponsible. And, it is not contingent upon me to provide alternatives to the decisions of the self-styled warrior class, those who are prepared to waste lives while not risking theirs, be they prime ministers, presidents or keyboard commandos.

I will question everything about the Afghanistan mission. My support comes only when I receive rational, truthful answers. The canned rhetorical responses of the politicians serve only to cause my skepticism to increase. The fact that the initial assault on Afghanistan was a total cock-up and the US definition of "reconstruction" doesn't seem to carry with it any form of accountability only fuels my desire to question the whole thing.

And as for this:

It’s difficult to reconcile his support for the mission and his experience with his post(s). I’ll take your word for it
Please, don't waste your fucking time. Your opinion doesn't matter to me.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that most Canadians, after reading of another soldier killed in Afghanistan, ponder whether to return their empty beer bottles or shine up the motorcycle. Almost no one considers that there are 27 Canadians who can never entertain such mundane thoughts because they were blown away in a mission that appears to lack long-term definition and has gone on longer than the US involvement in World War II.

Shrill? If you say so, pencil-neck. Just think. You could have used churlish.

You're welcome to yomp a mile in my old combat boots. On second thought, make that 50 yards. There's little point in continuing once the laughter starts.

Update: I would point out that KevinG has apologized to his readers for the comment which precipitated this post. As one of his regular readers, I accept that apology without reservation.

One of our regular readers asked that I provide a link to the Military/Civilian Compact which I described back in June. Here it is.

How the Softwood Deal Makes Sense

The Tyee published a piece today that is essentially a partial transcription of an appearance by Elliot Feldman before the Standing Committee on International Trade in Ottawa.

Feldman drew the committee's attention to a little known and even more poorly understood element of the Emerson "deal".

Namely that of the $1 billion of collected duties not being returned to Canadian lumber producers, about $450 million will be going into an escrow fund to be directed out of the White House with no apparent Congressional oversight.

Think Progress has it here, Daily Kos has it here.

On the face of it appears to at least raise some questions if not set off alarm bells this late in a US election year.

But it does explain why getting this deal through Parliament quickly is so important to Harper.

If the money is available in time and ends up being used by Rove and Co. to ensure the Republicans retain Congress it proves Stevie's, and his government's loyalty, to the movement once and for all.

That it's a slap in the face to the citizens of Canada who may be on the hook for a sizeable chunk of change if not enough Canadian lumber producers have signed on to the deal is of no consequence.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Just show me the troops, Jack.

After getting his hands on the briefing notes issued to Gordon O'Connor during the transition of government, NDP leader Jack Layton is suggesting that the Canadian Forces has, to paraphrase, "excess capacity" giving Canada the ability to deploy up to 1200 troops to Lebanon as part of a 15,000 member peacekeeping force.

Canada has 1,200 troops available to respond to global missions, a military briefing note says, contradicting claims by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor that the army is stretched too thin to consider other big deployments.

The document would appear to back Liberal assertions that, as a government, they committed Canada to the Afghan mission only after top military leaders assured them the Canadian Forces had the capacity to help elsewhere in the world, notably in Darfur.

Since then, the new Conservative government has cited Canada's deployment of 2,300 troops to Afghanistan as the big reason it cannot deploy troops elsewhere.

Calling for immediate deployment of troops as peacekeepers in Lebanon, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Prime Minister Stephen Harper and O'Connor haven't been "fully truthful" about the state of the military.

"Given that we quite clearly ... have the capacity to assist ... what's the real reason we're not responding?" Layton asked in an interview.

"The fact that Canadians have been denied the knowledge that we have the ability to assist is certainly shocking to me."
That Harper and O'Connor are less than truthful is not in question, although I'm calling Layton on this one.

It might be more useful to identify what those troops are. 1200 available troops does not translate into 1200 rifles. While there may be 1200 troops available for contingency operations, if they are deployed for more than 6 months there is a requirement to prepare a subsequent rotation. I would be somewhat surprized if a portion of those 1200 supposedly "available" troops did not actually exist, save for the paper battalions. (If Layton isn't familiar with that term, it's due time he learned.)

What would end up happening would be similar to the effect of the Balkans peacekeeping missions: Not enough time between rotations for the troops carrying the load. They end up exhausted, fed up and bitter... and walk out the main gate before they have to go back again.

All of that, however, is irrelevent when another factor is applied.

George Bush's good buddy, Steve Harper, following the lead of the American Cheney administration, clearly and without reservation, lined-up behind Israel. Canada is not neutral, is not detached from both sides of the conflict and cannot accept a mission in which Canada is expected to be viewed as an honest broker.

Layton could have made more noise about that at the time. And, he should have crucified Harper for his "measured response" comment.

The lesson not learned

Know yourself and know your enemy and in a hundred battles you will be victorious.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

An ancient but simple lesson, forgotten by more than one general or politician.

We expected a tent and three Kalashnikovs - that was the intelligence we were given. Instead, we found a hydraulic steel door leading to a well-equipped network of tunnels.

IDF soldier
The commander of the IDF's northern sector, Lieutenant-General Udi Adam, could barely believe that some of his best soldiers had been so swiftly trapped; neither could the chief of staff. [Dan Halutz]
"What's wrong with the Maglans?" Halutz demanded to know. "They are surrounded," Adam replied quietly. "I must send in more forces."
As the reinforcements of the Egoz brigade prepared to enter Maroun a-Ras and rescue their comrades, however, several were mown down in a second ambush. Hours of battle ensued before the Maglan and Egoz platoons were able to drag their dead and wounded back to Israel.
Hezbollah also suffered heavy casualties but its fighters slipped back into their tunnels to await the next round of fighting. It was immediately obvious to everyone in Tel Aviv that this was going to be a tougher fight than Halutz had bargained for.
As the war unfolded his optimism was brought crashing down to earth - and with it the invincible reputation of the Israeli armed forces.

In five weeks, their critics charge, they displayed tactical incompetence and strategic short-sightedness. Their much-vaunted intelligence was found wanting.
Because they were supposed to be fighting a bunch of rag-tag jihadists.
Israel had one option once they decided to take on Hezbollah in a fight: total annihilation of Hezbollah's military arm. Anything short of that would be seen as a failure. And it was a failure, of unbelievable proportions.
Hezbollah, a rag-tag jihadist militia had perfected the tactic of drawing in their enemy and fighting on terrain of their choosing. They had penetrated the Israelis' secure communications, including frequency-hopping systems.
Israel, on the other hand had reduced the training for their reserves and downgraded their equipment. When the time came to put them to work, they were unprepared and under-equipped. Some of the equipment and stores the reserves needed to become effective had been opened up and taken by regular force regiments.
It should not have mattered. They were fighting a rag-tag, jihadist militia. At least that's what they had come to believe. They had no intelligence to prove otherwise.
Halutz committed a sin. His hubris and his ego overwhelmed a simple axiom of warfare: Know your enemy and respect his power.
Halutz and his political masters may now be living on borrowed time. Israeli’s military elite, such as its fighter squadrons and commando units, may still be among the best in the world but the mediocrity of much of the army has been exposed for all in the Middle East to see.
Halutz would have done well to read his own country's history. He might then have understood that rag-tag militias such as the Hagana, the Irgun and the Lehi once possessed the strength to defeat one of the world's most powerful nations and fight back the attempt by Arab neighbours to crush Israel in the early days of its existence.
He might have done, but he didn't. He forget the simple lessons of Sun Tzu. Many have.
In fact, we have one of our own who has demonstrated that he too can push aside classic knowledge for a good soundbite.
These are detestable murderers and scumbags. I'll tell you that right up front.
And they're your enemy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Exactly what values are we promoting in Afghanistan?

It's been almost five years since the initial attack on Afghanistan. In that time almost 15,000 Canadian troops have been involved in that campaign. And it's nowhere near over.

Instead of a full consolidation of Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban the Bush administration, obsessed with Iraq, stiffed Afghanistan and failed to provide a comprehensive reconstruction plan. And this is the result: (All emphasis mine)

Opium cultivation has hit a new high in Afghanistan, up more than 40 per cent from 2005, even though hundreds of millions have been spent to counter the narcotics trade, Western officials say.

The increase could have serious repercussions, with drug lords joining the Taliban-led fight against Afghan and international forces.
It gets worse.

Last year, the UN reported Afghanistan produced an estimated 4,100 tonnes of opium, enough to make 410 tonnes of heroin, nearly 90 per cent of world supply.

This year's preliminary findings indicate failed attempts to eradicate poppy cultivation and continuing corruption among provincial officials and police, problems acknowledged by President Hamid Karzai.

In a recent interview, Karzai told Fortune magazine "lots of people" in his administration profit from narcotics trade, adding he underestimated the difficulty of ending opium production.

The UN agency estimates opium accounted for 52 per cent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product in 2005.
In short, Afghanistan is the ultimate global narco-state and rather than the presence of a NATO force on the ground causing the cultivation of opium to shrink, it is expanding... rapidly.

And, where is the opium going to end up?

Afghanistan's bumper poppy crop will turn up on the streets of British cities in six to nine months in the form of cheap but high quality heroin, experts warn.
And some of it will end up in North America.

Other problems in Afghanistan abound. While Hamid Karzai is favoured by western leaders, he has done little to solve many of the government's problems.

Compounding the problem, corruption amongst government authorities presents a serious challenge for poppy eradication efforts in the landlocked nation of 31 million, where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment remains rampant.
That has brought about other problems in Afghanistan. Despite the day of the purple fingers, Afghanis have lost faith in Karzai's ability to govern and that is giving the Taliban a renewed life.

After months of widespread frustration in Afghanistan over corruption, the economy and a lack of justice and security, doubts about President Hamid Karzai have led to a crisis of confidence in the country.

Interviews with ordinary Afghans, foreign diplomats and Afghan officials make clear that the expanding Taliban insurgency in the south represents the most serious challenge yet to Karzai's presidency.

The insurgency has precipitated an eruption of doubts about Karzai, widely viewed as having failed to attend to a range of problems that have left Afghans asking what the government is doing.

Corruption is so widespread, the government apparently so lethargic, and the divide between rich and poor so great, that Karzai is losing public support, warn officials like Ahmad Fahim Hakim, vice chairman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Canada has lost 27 troops and one diplomat in Afghanistan. George Bush's good buddy, Steve Harper tells us it is to promote "Canadian values".

Harper needs to explain how perpetuating and promoting a corrupt, inept government which sits by and allows the Taliban to expand and profit from opium poppy production is anything close to a Canadian value.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Giving stuff away

Today I gave away a computer .

A perfectly good one too.

I did it on craigslist.

A Phillipino chap who's kids needed a second one came and collected it about 1/2 hour ago.

It's resale value was probably only about $150 and I certainly didn't have any pressing need to get any money back on it.

I highly recommend it.

Not buying Jason Kenney's story

Jason Kenney is claiming that he:

A) Knew nothing of the Committee for Human Rights In Iran;
B) Had a staffer double-check the background of the group but could find nothing problematic about them.

The Toronto Star suggested that there was nothing on the internet about the group.

Kenney said he is well aware that the PMOI is also known as the MEK and is listed as a terrorist group. He then specifically recalled questioning the man who invited him — whose name he said he could not recall — at a meeting in Kenney's office after the parliamentary committee meeting. He asked if the man had any ties to "those radicals in the People's Mojahedin. And he laughed or denied it or something."

"I wanted to be sure there wasn't a connection," said Kenney. "I came away with the impression that there was no connection whatsoever."

Kenney said he also later asked a staffer to double-check the background of the Committee for Human Rights in Iran to be sure it was a mainstream organization. The staffer said he couldn't "seem to find anything problematic about them."

An Internet search doesn't turn up any website for a group by that name.
Got all that?

The Star is correct. There is no website for a group by that name. So what?

There is information about the group and I would call it problematic.

A 30 second Google search turned up this from March, 2001.

In February 1998, the affidavit states that the FBI seized banking records from a Bank of America account belonging to the Committee for Human Rights in Iran (CHR), a front organization used by the MEK to disguise its fund-raising activities on behalf of the group's military wing in Iraq.
Due diligence?

The execrable Jason Kenney clearly doesn't have a clue what due diligence really means. And if he believes he or is staff did due diligence then this country is in a world of hurt. Imagine what other things are being screwed up. Either Kenney isn't coming clean or he has the laziest staffers on the Hill.

Personally, I'm working out the number of ways to describe horse shit.

Check out liberal catnip for the whole story.

Why don't they just blow him and get it over with?

Hot on the heels of this, from Canadian Cynic, comes this piece of work.

Assrocket can almost be excused for blind adoration of his hero. They are, after all, very much the same kind of person - heavy promoters of war for any reason without actually, well, you know, having to fight.

And, it's not like we haven't heard all this before from the Minnesota butt-booster. It's starting to look like an annual event.

I would be more critical of John-boy but he has a tendency to become rather vile with anyone who criticizes his opinions... and win awards in the process! Not to mention the episode of tripping over his own dink during the Terri Schiavo "Republican Talking Points Memo".

But, I digress. This is about Kathleen Parker's entry into the I was in the presence of the Commander In Chief and I'm starting to pant submissions.

According to KP, George W. Bush, is not a moron. He only speaks like one.

What I witnessed was revealing. Not only was the man fluent in the English language and intellectually agile, he was knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects raised during a 90-minute Q&A. Someone apparently had been slipping intellectual-curiosity tablets into Bush's cola.

Toward the end, one of the guests said, "Mr. President, I think if Americans could hear you speak the way you have today, you'd have a 95 percent approval rating.''

I think that's almost true. Not 95 percent, obviously, but he'd surely have a higher than 30 percent approval rating were he better able to explain what he's thinking. Bush does know; he just can't seem to say.
How does she determine that?

If the guy can't say what he's thinking, we'll never know what's on his mind - except for the way he governs, which has managed to screw up, well, the entire planet.

Parker seems to have some mystic insight into the mind of George Bush. Why is she hiding it from us?

Tapes of Bush as governor of Texas reveal none of the malapropisms for which he is now infamous. That's because in Texas, he speaks his native tongue -- dropping syllables and esses without fear of criticism or embarrassment. That kind of freedom seems to liberate the man's mind and his mouth.

It wouldn't have to do with the fact that he was reading from prepared speeches though, would it? On his own we see his mind at work - on slow idle.

I work for a woman from Houston. She speaks perfectly understandable English - with a Texas accent. Funny thing about that. She's intelligent, articulate and knows that no one expects her to speak Canadian English.

She's smart enough to figure that out for herself. I guess Bush needs Kathleen Parker to tell him the same thing.

At the going down of the Sun, and in the morning...

With respect and condolences to the family and friends of Corporal David Braun, 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Leaky dike. Put your finger in it.

The Netherlands have arrested 12 suspects from a US Northwest Airlines plane after it was determined they were acting suspiciously.

Dutch police arrested 12 passengers behaving suspiciously on a U.S. Northwest Airlines plane bound for India that was forced to turn back to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Wednesday.

Police arrested 12 of the 149 passengers on flight 42 to Mumbai, which turned back to Amsterdam due to security concerns after the crew reported suspicious behaviour, officials said. Two Dutch fighter jets accompanied the plane back to Schiphol.
At the time of writing I jumped over to the various "terror watch" sites to see what they had on this and found... well, they were all snoring away. Nobody had this, so no peeing of pants.

For what it's worth, the Dutch have a much better handle on this than most countries.

But the return of the Northwest plane did not lead to heightened security on Wednesday, an airport spokeswoman said.

She added that it also had not affected other flights at Schiphol, Europe's third largest cargo airport and fourth biggest passenger hub.

Dutch airport officials said the Northwest pilot decided to turn back his 273-seat DC10-30 when it was in German airspace.
I don't know how the Dutch did it without the bed-wetters cycling into their normal hysterics.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Softwood and Insite

Imagine, if you will, a country governed by a political apparatus and claque that deems it appropriate to play a harder style of ball with it's own citizens, corporate and civil, than it does with the country's main international trading partner, a partner which is almost globally acknowledged to be duplicitous with regards to international trade.

Well, I suppose it makes sense if you believe, as I do, that the political apparatus and claque I speak of places a very high value on their ability as a governing organization to strong-arm people, irrespective of what those people may wish for themselves.

As we shall see next month when they do away with Insite, the supervised safe injection site, in Vancouver's downtown east side.

There's just been too much support of Insite expressed by the BC government, the City of Vancouver, the medical profession, the police and so on for the Conservatives to handle.

They will have to force it to close just to prove that they have the power.

Iraq nothing short of a miracle

First we have this. It has all the earmarks of conservatives getting the message, particularly if they want to be re-elected during the mid-terms.

Then, via SMP, we have this. Senator James Inhofe (R) Oklahoma, when referring to Iraq said:

What's happened there is nothing short of a miracle.
Well, sort of, I guess.

But then, so was this. There wasn't a lot of celebrating around the obelisks then either.

I don't know what Inhofe is drinking these days but I hope it mixes with 7-Up®.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Canadian Forces and re-inventing the wheel.

Three stories focused on the Canadian Forces in the past couple of days left me scratching my noggin for a while. First, this. (All emphasis mine)

The Canadian military may soon begin accepting recruits who bring along a note from their doctor saying they're fit for military service, says the officer in charge of recruiting for the Canadian Forces.
Well, actually, Colonel, that's what used to happen back in the day and it was stopped because, gee whiz, one doctor views medical fitness for military or naval service as something different from another doctor.

In any case, way back when, I had to bring a summary of my medical history from my doctor before any personnel selection process was started. I know it was the RCN but that's a minor point.

Medical checks for new recruits currently are slowed by the forces' shortage of physicians, but Col. Kevin Cotten said yesterday that turning to recruits' own doctors may be the solution.
Two things here. The CF Medical Services have perhaps the best trained Physician Assistants in the world. A shortage of physicians could easily be made up by employing those PAs, advancing a few more of them to training and creating positions beyond the independent-duty PA in ships. Just a thought.

The other issue is that a civilian doctor is going to charge a recruit a fee for service to complete a questionnaire and write a letter. It's not covered under provincial medical plans. Is the CF recruiting system going to pay for this?

"Let's say we made a requirement to walk in with a questionnaire and a signed letter from a doctor," Cotten said in a telephone interview from CFB Borden. "We would take that at face value as our initial medical assessment."
Nope. The prospective recruit pays. This raises other issues. Commercial air pilots and merchant mariners are required to have regular medicals and they can't get them done by their family physicians. Those government licenced occupations must attend a Transport Canada approved physician to complete the required medicals.

There is definitely a problem. When I joined I walked into a recruiting office on day one. On day twelve I was on my way to New Entry Training. The current recruiting system can take up to a year.

Another issue is security clearances. And, here's the solution.

Security checks could be done soon after new recruits were enrolled; candidates could be subsequently ditched if a problem were found.

"Maybe we take some risk on the front end," Cotten said. "With a little bit of process, a good interview ... some verifiable background checks and you get a pretty good sense of who you are dealing with."
If anyone thinks that is an innovative approach they're dead wrong. That is what used to happen. In past years a recruit normally received a reliability check while undergoing recruit training. There is little in the way of sensitive information made available until the individual moves into basic occupation training and even then, it is a few selected occupations which require any more than a basic reliability check to complete the first trade course. In the past most people were into the first trades training course of their career before a security check was completed.

Re-invention of the wheel.

Next on the menu is this.

Proposals to boost flagging recruitment levels mean soldiers may no longer have to be Canadian citizens before they enlist in the Forces, military officials revealed this week.
So, I rooted through all the documents I kept throughout my career, including the ones I requested after leaving the service. On the application for entry into the service I could have checked-off, Canadian Citizen, Commonwealth Citizen, British Subject, Landed Immigrant. All were eligible to join any of the three services at the time. (I know... the Earth was a little flatter then, but it was still Canada.)

Why did they change to this?

Cheap and easy, that's why.

Aside from the fact that we could, perhaps, employ a battalion of these guys, this is actually a return to a prior standard. It's not new.

The last item of interest was this one.

Recent military operations in the Arctic have exposed weaknesses in how the navy, army and air force work together and suggest the military is still only equipped to fight a Cold War that ended years ago, top officers acknowledge.

A problem-plagued landing of soldiers on a remote northern coastline from a navy frigate showed that the goal of the three services being able to operate seamlessly is still a ways off.
It pisses me off when I read stuff like that because it's just a replay of past events.

In 1967 a company of Queen's Own Rifles (when they were a regular force regiment) were to make a landing on Brooks Peninsula, Vancouver Island from the frigate HMCS Beacon Hill. The ensuing pandemonium was worth the price of admission. Violently seasick riflemen attempting to board wooden boats in rough weather to make a landing through the surf on a rocky shore. The after-action report detailed that the RCN did not have an amphibious capability, did not possess the proper landing vessels and the soldiers had been ill-prepared for the exercise.

It happened again in 1974 when an army combat leader course was being landed in Toquart Bay, Vancouver Island from the destroyer escort HMCS Gatineau. The ship left the Strait of Juan de Fuca and encountered storm-force winds. Aside from storm damage to the ship, the soldiers were violently ill and although the debarkation eventually took place in calm water the men had not recovered properly. Getting into the boats they dropped gear over the side including seven rifles.

The navy has long known the problem with attempting amphibious landing from destroyers and frigates. In 1987 the Kernel Potlatch exercises again demonstrated the difficulty of such operations.

And there have been plenty more.

"This is a new sort of operation for the navy," said Col. Chris Whitecross, commander of the military in the Arctic. "We donĂ‚’t necessarily do it all that often in terms of taking folks off the ship and inserting them onto the land."
No, Colonel, it's new to you. The results have always been the same.

This from Commander Paul Dempsey, captain of HMCS Montreal:

HMCS Montreal has proven highly effective at stopping and searching ships in the Persian Gulf. But the navy was built for "blue-water" operations in the deep seas, Dempsey said, not necessarily to operate around coastlines.

As security threats to Canada shift from submarine and nuclear attacks to terrorism on the ground, the navy will have to shift as well, Dempsey said.
And that would involve a new type of ship. Perhaps a combat support ship and the appropriate landing vessels. Not armed icebreakers.

But then, that's been known for a long time too.

It's easy to see what's causing this re-invention of the wheel in the CF: lack of corporate knowledge.

It's what happens when an established group is constantly being resized and reorganized. The corporate knowledge evaporates and the organization loses its memory.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Right-wingers emboldening 'the terrorists'

Suddenly the American right-wing pundits and even legislators are starting to see the clarity of what the reality-based community has been saying all along. Iraq is a disaster, Bush has violated the US Constitution with his warrantless wiretaps and the Patriot Act doesn't improve national security.

Conservative voices all over the US are starting to mumble things like, "Bush failed in Iraq" and recently, MSNBC talk show host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough prodded his guests for an answer to the question, "Is George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." Scarborough ran a caption for 10 minutes which asked his viewing audience, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"

Guess what? The answer was an unequivocal "YES".

For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"

But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."
Welcome to reality Scarborough. Anybody who wasn't blinded by neo-con ideology saw that almost 4 years ago. And Scarborough defended Bush against that comment in 2002.

If Scarborough was commenting in isolation it might be written off as just another right-winger who'd gone off his medication, but there are more.

"Conservatives for a long time were in protective mode, wanting to emphasize the progress in Iraq to contrast what they felt was an unfair attack on the war by the Democrats and media and other sources," Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, said in an interview. "But there's more of a sense now that things are on a downward trajectory, and more of a willingness to acknowledge it and pressure the administration to react to it."

Lowry's magazine offers a powerful example. "It is time to say it unequivocally: We are winning in Iraq," Lowry wrote in April 2005, chastising those who disagreed. This month, he published an editorial that concluded that "success in Iraq seems more out of reach than it has at any time since the initial invasion three years ago" and assailed "the administration's on-again-off-again approach to Iraq."
And, another one bites the dust.

Quin Hillyer, executive editor of the American Spectator, cited Lowry's column in his own last week, writing that many are upset "because we seem not to be winning"
And, another one gone.

Bush aides were bothered by a George F. Will column last week mocking neoconservative desires to transform the Middle East: "Foreign policy 'realists' considered Middle East stability the goal. The realists' critics, who regard realism as reprehensibly unambitious, considered stability the problem. That problem has been solved."
And, another one gone. Well, sort of. Suddenly George F. Will turns out not to be the Republican shill the reality-based community thought he was. Apparently the White House was hiding this fact all this time:

Bush advisers said that they never counted Will or some others now voicing criticism as strong supporters but that the president's political weakness has encouraged soft supporters and quiet skeptics to speak out.
Who knew?! You certainly couldn't tell from they way they yapped it up since 1999.

Thomas L. Friedman, a New York Times columnist who is not a conservative but has strongly backed the Iraq war, reversed course this month, writing that " 'staying the course' is pointless, and it's time to start thinking about Plan B -- how we might disengage with the least damage possible."
You mean like, "peace with honor"? Where the hell have we heard that sentiment before?

Uh oh. That sounds like V. I. E. T. N. A. M.

Can't be... or could it? Chuck Hagel, Republican senator and hard-ass Bush supporter was on, (of all places) FOX with Chris Wallace and said this:

The fact is we are where we are. We're not going to go back and replay or unwind the bad decisions, and I think we made them right from the beginning, beginning with the fact that we didn't have enough troops going in. But that's essentially irrelevant now.

It's how do we get out of this mess. We've got a very unstable Middle East, I think the most unstable Middle East we've seen since 1948. And you can measure that any way you want. The fact is the future of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqi people just like it was in Vietnam.
The only thing he left out was, "Murtha was right all along."

Hagel has said a lot more and Wallace wanted to know about it. Surprize! Hagel is changing is from tighty-whiteys to no shorts at all.

WALLACE: ... You've been very critical, as we've just heard, of U.S. policy in Iraq. And you have problems with NSA wiretaps and parts of the Patriot Act. When it comes to national security, are you closer to John Kerry than you are to George W. Bush?

HAGEL: Chris, I'm going to go back to the comment I made earlier. When it comes to war, Americans dying in a war, national security, it should never be held captive to a political agenda. I think that's wrong. I've said it's wrong.
I don't base my analysis and judgment and votes on war, national security, on a party position. I don't think that's the right thing to do. I don't think Americans really want us to do that.
Hmmm... excuse me while I call Bullshit!

Hagel might like to have a look at this little bit of record-keeping to see whether he voted party line or principle. From his voting record it looks very much like he supported everything he's now against. That's a flip-flop or a thong or something, but it isn't consistent.

So what's going on?


The pundits, the politicians, and a good chunk of the American population do not like the idea of losing... at anything. And, they're losing big-time in Iraq. That would make the person who started the whole mess a loser.

It's an election year. American's don't vote for a loser. Bush is now clearly, well, besides being a moron, a loser.

And so is anybody who did and continues to support him. The Republicans are in a mad scramble. Yup, it looks like rats keeping an eye on the bilge water and sure enough it's rising.

And the White House isn't sure what to do, short of the inevitable October attack on Iran.

No worries. You can always go to the clown site and read this.

A double dose of Mrs. Mills' wisdom

It was difficult to choose which of Mrs. Mills responses was the most outstanding this week. Was it the young woman, who was about to discover that the only bird her prospective date was interested in watching was the type with shaved legs, or was it the odiferous man suffering from an underwear shortage?

You decide.

I’m 20 years old and have been asked out by an attractive man 20 years my senior. He wants to take me bird-watching on our first date. I’ve never been in this type of social situation before and am desperately unsure of what to wear, how to behave and so on. Please help me, as I want to make a good impression.
Oh, poor Amy. Mrs. Mills spells it out for her.

Heels, short skirt, sheer blouse and a cashmere cardie. Anything else (especially involving stout boots and an anorak) is asking for trouble, as he’ll think you are actually interested in sitting at the side of some damp patch of countryside for hours and hours, staring at brown things fluttering about in the distance. I would hope that by bird-watching he really means a little alfresco frolic in a discreet hide, otherwise you might have picked a real tit-fancier.
And then there's this...

I am getting much grief from my wife about not changing my underpants on a daily basis. How can I persuade her that this hopelessly idealistic attitude of hers is purely a “woman’s thing”? Do you think I could get away with it if I change to those baggy boxers?
Mrs. Mills actually loses it a little.

Sometimes I read a letter, flop back in my chair, sigh deeply and shake my head. This one has been sitting in my in-tray for a while, so presumably you are no longer married and it’s liberty hall for you in the underwear department. I hope you enjoy your bachelor status. It’s going to last a long time.
Read the rest at The Times.

Bush's mentality is bleeding down to the troops on the ground

Read this very carefully from the Washington Post: (all emphasis mine)

The Marine officer who commanded the battalion involved in the Haditha killings last November did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, according to a sworn statement he gave to military investigators in March.

"I thought it was very sad, very unfortunate, but at the time, I did not suspect any wrongdoing from my Marines," Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marines, said in the statement.

"I did not have any reason to believe that this was anything other than combat action," he added.
A marine Lt. Col. doesn't think 24 dead after any action is worth an inquiry. Later in the article, this appears:

At one point, Col. John Ewers, the Marine lawyer who took the statement, seemed almost exasperated with Chessani's passive approach to the incident. Using a profanity, he told Chessani his own reaction was "15 civilians dead, 23 or 24 total dead, with no real indication of how it was that we arrived at the enemy KIA number."

Ewers asked: "Did it occur to you that you needed to do an investigation simply so you could go to the locals and say, 'This was righteous'? . . . And be confident that you were speaking with certainty?"

Chessani responded: "Sir, I did not think about it like that. . . . Enemy has picked the place, he had picked the time, and the location for a reason. . . . [H]e wanted to make us look bad."
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

The leader of a marine battalion can't be bothered to find out what the hell happened when his troops killed 24 people.

Go back and read that first paragraph again.

Now tell me it's just 24 people who have been killed this way. If it's not unusual, it's happening regularly.

Iraq isn't Viet Nam - it's hotter and drier.

The problem was we didn't know who the enemy was. We were told the Vietcong wore black pyjamas and coolie hats, but everyone wore black pyjamas and coolie hats.
2nd Lt. Graeme Cusack, Royal Australian Regiment, 1966

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bush on Hezbollah

Via Billmon from today's White House news release dated August 18, 2006, The Decider made this statement:

The first reaction, of course, of Hezbollah and its supporters is, declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them.

That's exactly what you did, asshole.

May 1st, 2003, declaring victory in Iraq, where now 100 people a day are being killed.

The Wingnut News

This is just too funny.

Click here.

Why do the Conservatives hate the CF reserves?

Despite all the lofty promises made by the Harper government in the field of national defence they have managed to demonstrate a complete ineptitude in the personnel department.

A particular problem which has long plagued the Canadian Forces is the status and employment of the reserve component: that group of 23,000 volunteers who train on weekends, during vacations and often, during periods of unpaid leave from civilian jobs.

And now, because the regular force is so short-handed and the commitments are too high, reservists are filling lengthy active service positions on major operations, including combat. Part of this goes back to the 1987 Mulroney-era Defence White Paper which introduced the Total Force Concept, a plan which integrated the CF reserve component into the peacetime national defence structure.

Typical of conservative governments, less than adequate attention was paid to the effect on the people involved. While some minor improvements were made in the compensation for reserve service the single biggest problem facing Canada's part-time service personnel was the issue of conflict with civilian employment.

The Chretien government, while reaffirming the Total Force policy in its 1994 Defence White Paper simply made the problem worse. Instead of addressing the issue it reduced the paid-ceiling strength of the CF Reserve by several thousand people. Along with refusing the pay the Supplementary Reserve at all, (resulting in the wholesale loss of former regular force, skilled personnel in the event of an emergency), there was a very real possibility that Primary Reserve personnel would be refused training opportunities because the pay budget had been exhausted.

But the problem didn't go away and now, because reservists are now needed to fill certain full-time roles, it is surfacing as one of the most damaging aspects of a reservist's volunteer service.

Charles Gillis in Macleans writes:

When the call came through, Paul, a master corporal in the Canadian Forces reserves, was coated in camouflage, soot and a sheen of sweat. But the 35-year-old soldier from Toronto figured the message must be urgent, so he rushed to find out what was wrong. "It was my office telling me I had made a mistake filling out the forms for my leave," he recalls, noting that he was miles away from the nearest land line -- a pay phone at the base offices -- at the time. After weeks of trudging through the brush near Meaford, Ont., as part of his training for active duty, he was near the end of his tether with an employer who failed to grasp what he was trying to accomplish in the reserves. "I was totally exhausted, I hadn't eaten in two days," he says. "Here they were calling me over some stupid problem with paperwork. It definitely was not cool."

It would get worse. Paul -- who asked that his identity be withheld because he was speaking without the army's approval -- lost three days of pay because of the paperwork foul-up. Then, in a decisive exchange upon his return, the head of the Toronto finance company where he worked cornered him for a face-to-face conversation. "You were one of our best employees," the executive said ruefully, "until you got into this silly army thing."

Paul quit the firm three weeks later -- "I knew at that moment that I couldn't stay" -- and found another job. But stories like his are playing out with increasing frequency throughout Canada's army reserves, as the so-called "weekend warriors" who back up the country's 62,000-strong force of regulars are drawn into the all too real world of gun battles, ambushes and roadside bombs.


The result, inevitably, is friction between reservists and their bosses. Leo Desmarteau, the executive director of the Canadian Forces Liaison Centre, a joint civilian-military body which works to mediate these differences, estimates the number of soldiers seeking assistance in workplace disputes has increased from roughly 30 per year before the mission in Afghanistan to more than 100 last year. Most cases are easily settled, he says. "We encourage reservists to have a clean, clear break from their work situation before they go on tour." But some are not. (Emphasis mine)
Hold it right there.

This is not a new problem. It's getting to be an old and tired story, and there aren't too many reservists who would disagree, particularly where they are in a progressing civilian career, that they are in jeopardy of severe future financial loss on their return to the civilian world. In fact, most have no job to come home to.

Why? Because there is nothing to compel Canadian employers to make allowances of any kind for national military service. They don't have to hold a position and they don't have to grant leave without pay. They can, after having granted leave, terminate an employee in absentia, conceivably at precisely the moment that employee is engaged in a firefight in a place like Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, a retired regular force brigadier-general and former defence industry lobbyist agrees that reservists should have their civilian jobs protected when they are away serving Canada.

Officials in O'Connor's office say the minister has asked his department for advice on the issue, and hopes to bring forward a new approach later in the year.
The advice O'Connor is seeking has been spewing forth for decades. And it's very straight forward: Pass legislation that would compel employers to hold a reservist's position for the specified duration of his/her full-time military obligation. If necessary, compensate employers financially.

The result would see an immediate increase in CF Reserve component recruiting and retention.

Is there a problem? Oh yes. Canadian employers don't really like the idea. It creates a level of instability in their workforce they would rather not endure. It would be inconvenient.

Will such legislation likely be forthcoming? Probably not.

Harper's mean-spiritedness comes from the very community which would object to any legislation compelling them to hold jobs while some of their employees are on active service. It would be viewed as government interference with their businesses.

So, for now, the cost of sending reservists to Harper's military adventures will be borne by the reservists themselves. Their employers will suffer no discomfort or inconvenience - at all.

It puts this statement by Harper to the test:

Harper said Canadians could learn from the soldiers, who are embarking on what he called "the highest calling of citizenship".
No one believes for a minute that Harper actually meant that, but by saying it, he correctly and inadvertently puts the employers who would screw their people when they proceed on active service as somewhere well below that calling.

Hat tip to reader: Les

The Terrorist Threat. The boys from Birmingham.

This is part two of a two part post. Remember this?

Part 2 will be intended to make people squirm, and you may never view your dentist the same again.
In the mid-1980s three special forces operators attended a briefing for something of a strange mission. The job involved observing, taking in details and reporting back to their superior authority. While they were well-trained in reconnaissance, this task was different. They would be seen by the objects of their mission, and they were to behave as though they had never served in the military.

* * * *

Suburbia is full of males all wishing to do something more than live vicariously through the public exploits of others. With nothing on which to base their beliefs they see combat, physical endurance and deprivation as gloriously manly - something to be admired. To them it is a simple truth.

If only it weren't for their highly-paid jobs, where wearing a Samuelsohn suit through the heat of the day is considered an act of heroism. If only they could trade in the office-chair dreams for the action of a commando - without actually having to give up the highly-paid job.

Lawyers, dentists, businessmen, accountants and even doctors seek out extreme challenges, however contrived they may be, to prove to others that they too are heroic. It's a form of penile enhancement. It feeds their egos. It gives them bragging rights back in the office, where other males are expected to defer to the hero and women would presumably melt in adoration.

In the 1980s several of these otherwise unassuming but self-absorbed individuals sought out and found their military adventure through an advertisement in Soldier Of Fortune magazine. Without having to actually commit to military service, and for a very large fee, they would train at a mercenary school. They packed their oversized egos and their dreams of glory and manliness off to Dolomite, Alabama - for two weeks.

They would be joined by members of an organization known as Babbar Khalsa, a militant Sikh group bent on creating an independent state of Khalistan out of the Punjab. Two of them would later be positively identified as having been involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 and the Narita, Japan airport bombing.

* * * *

Frank Camper served in Viet Nam in a long range reconnaissance patrol organization. He left the US Army after a so-called "administrative error" and then eventually rejoined as a Ranger before leaving the army permanently to engage in other pursuits. He was an FBI informant which is often translated into "working for" the FBI. Whether this association came about out of a sense of duty or rather because of a convenient piece of diplomatic timing resulting in self-preservation is not clearly known. What is clear is that he was viewed as suspicious and dangerous by more than one arm of the US government and by other western governments. Camper was a southern right-wing redneck with a known association with both the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups in the US.

In 1980 Frank Camper started the Mercenary Association. From the small town of Dolomite, Alabama, near Birmingham, he operated the association's training course known as the Merc School. The para-military school was portrayed as a survival course. In fact, Camper was in the business of training anyone who wanted two weeks of playing at commando - or more.

On April 27th, 1981, 10 men, (8 Americans and 2 Canadians), were arrested in New Orleans as they were attempting to board a boat to the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. Their goal was to overthrow the legal government of Eugenia Charles and establish an international fraud center. The venture was sponsored by none other than David Duke, leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Those arrested were KKK members and neo-Nazis. They called their little venture Operation Red Dog and they had taken their training under the guidance of Frank Camper at the Merc School.

There are some who credit Camper with having turned the would-be mercenaries over to the FBI. The truth is the group was turned in by Mike Howell, the captain of the vessel they had hired. Another source of police information came from one of the conspirators. James McQuirter, who was also behind the operation, was attempting to garner some publicity for his Canadian KKK activity and contacted a reporter at CFTR to tell him about the impending coup. The reporter called the Ontario Provincial Police with the details - and they shared it with the FBI. Camper did not turn in the conspirators, but he did draw attention to himself and his operation.

Camper claimed that he would train anyone except someone intending to overthrow the US government or communists. Supposedly there was a background check done on every applicant to the school to prevent being implicated in some communist plot. He would accept male applicants aged 22 to 45 for two weeks of so-called intense mercenary training.

That would have made real mercenaries like Bob Denard howl with laughter. Mercenaries don't go to "mercenary school" - they come from extensive military backgrounds where the training is long, hard and real.

Camper's operation was more akin to an extended paintball game with the odd bit of useful personal tactics thrown in and heaped up with ridiculous levels of cruelty. It sold well to the mercenary wannabe's attempting to establish their manhood through some foolish rite of mock combat and torture at the hands of a bunch of semi-literate rednecks.

But, another issue surrounded the Merc School. Those who found the credo appealing stayed for the whole two weeks. Those who didn't, left early. And the credo was militant, uber-right-wing, shoot anything you don't agree with. Overthrowing governments by force is fine and if you have a liberal government, find a way to get rid of it. Oh yes, you've now passed our very difficult course, with honors, so you are tougher than all others of your ilk. You are a real man - they are mere males of the species. You can be a mercenary (or a terrorist) - they can't.

It was to this environment that more than a few lawyers, dentists, businessmen, accountants and even doctors travelled to take Frank Camper's course. The customers, (and that's what Camper is all about - selling, his course and himself), came from several different countries, including Canada.

After the Air India flight 182 and Narita airport bombings Camper became somewhat public. He had provided the FBI information on four Sikhs attending his school. Whether this was voluntary or as a result of the FBI's infiltration of the Sikh group is not ascertainable. Ammand Singh and Lal Singh would be directly linked with an attempt to assassinate the Indian prime minister during a visit to the US and were suspected of involvement in the Air India bombing. Camper provided interviews to anyone who wanted to ask about the terrorists; hardly the behaviour of a high-level US government agent, as he claimed to be. It also gave Ammand and Lal Singh a public "heads up" and they disappeared completely.

Before the bombings three western governments agreed to cooperate on a fact finding mission. With that, three special forces operators, with years of training and experience, not from the US, infiltrated Camper's school.

The first thing exposed was the background check. It was non-existent. One operator's cover was purposely made very loose. Any background check would have shown communist leanings and an anti-American background. He was accepted at the Merc School without hesitation.

The operators completed the two week program and reported back to their operating authority. What they found was a group of closed-minded, militant individuals who truly thought they were receiving first-class mercenary training from a world-class operation. This despite the fact that most attendees were badly out of shape, believed themselves to be related to Rambo and had learned little to help them survive in a similar real-world environment.

What did shock the operators is that all attending had bought into Camper's worldview and left praising him and his legend with an unnatural adoration and hero worship.

The operators also had a list with the names and nationalities of everyone who had attended Camper's school to that date. And where a name came from one of the three cooperating nations, that person was put on a security "watch list". Because one of the items which the operators made clear is that Camper's Merc School was custom-made to train terrorists.

Camper was arrested in 1986 and charged with conspiracy to blow up the cars of three women in California. He was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison. On appeal, one of the charges was overturned. That isn't the telling part of that tale though. During the trial and again during the appeal he claimed to be a high-level US government intelligence agent. He was invited to prove it. He could produce no evidence nor a credible witness to verify his claim and the assertion was dismissed.

When Camper was being served a warrant by the Dolomite, Alabama sheriff, Camper heard of the approaching lawman and fled into the woods. The sheriff organized a posse of locals and went after him. Frank Camper, who was supposedly a world-class expert in escape and evasion was easily captured - by a posse of civilian turkey hunters.

Whether Camper's legend is genuine or not is irrelevant. He has trained terrorists and the Merc School was a terrorist training locale. That should make everyone who took his training a terror suspect.

Given that one of the most substantial pieces of evidence in this case is that the accused received or provided training at a camp north of Toronto, it seems only a matter of public safety that everyone who engaged in such training outside the legitimate establishment be taken into custody - regardless of when it happened.

It's time we rounded up the lawyers, dentists, businessmen, accountants and even doctors who attended the Merc School, and lock them away.

Or is that just for brown people?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Coming home... sort of

Via Canadian Cynic comes this article from the Washington Post.

About 300 Alaska-based soldiers sent home from Iraq just before their unit's deployment was extended last month must now go back, the Army said Monday, setting up a wrenching departure for troops and families who thought their service there was finished.
Oh, that's really sad. But, hell, you join the army, you do as you're told. Still, it's not a good thing. At least it was only 300 troops.

Uh oh...

The bulk of the 172nd Brigade was still in Iraq when Rumsfeld extended their deployment as part of a plan to quell the escalating violence in Baghdad. Overall, the brigade has about 3,900 troops.

Another 300 soldiers from the unit had left Iraq and gotten to Kuwait, and were about to board flights home when they were called back.
I can see the letters to Congress now.

I wonder if Rumsfeld has any idea what starts mutinies?

The wingnut justification for killing children

The Rev over at the woodshed has linked to a post by uber-sojer Grim at the milblog, Blackfive.

The post to which The Rev refers is a disgusting display of immorality, but it's a good snapshot of a warped mind justifying any act, regardless of how heinous, to accomplish a goal. If children are in the way of your objective, kill them.

"It must be," I tell her sadly, "Here: That we pursue war without thought of the children. That we do not turn aside from the death of the innocent, but push on to the conclusion, through all fearful fire. If we do that, the children will lose their value as hostages, and as targets: if we love them, we must harden our hearts against their loss. Ours and theirs."
It's good that Grim wrote that, because it tells all. Because war involves innocents, killing innocents knowingly and with forethought, is not immoral if we accept his twisted logic.

The Rev takes apart Grim with this:

Tortured logic? check
Complete lack of self-doubt? check
Morally indefensible position? check
Tough guy warrior posing? check
Utter conviction that end justifies means? check
Condescesion to any who disagree? check
Strawman arguement? check
I don't know Grim's background and personally, don't want to. I do know, however, that even in an ugly war the loss of one's humanity can turn fighting units into murderous death squads. A guy like Grim can spread an evil infection through a team of soldiers.

I'll be looking forward to a future post from this turkey where he justifies killing his leaders because they exercise restraint and attempt to prevent unnecessary civilian deaths.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The shooting has stopped. Well... sort of

The ceasefire in Lebanon wasn't more than 4 hours old when shots were fired.

A ceasefire to end a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah lasted less than four hours yesterday before shooting broke out in the town of Hadata, in southern Lebanon.

A spokesman for the Israeli Army said soldiers had shot and killed a Hezbollah militant. The spokesman said the soldiers opened fire at a group of militants who approached a patrol about 11am.

"The Israeli Defence Forces identified a cell of armed gunmen a few metres away who were approaching and threatening the force," the spokesman said. "To defend themselves, the soldiers identified the gunmen and shot at them. The soldiers shot first. I stress that we are committed to the UN decision but we will continue to defend our soldiers in southern Lebanon."

An Israeli Army spokeswoman said troops deployed in Faroun, elsewhere in southern Lebanon, shot another Hezbollah guerrilla who had approached them and aimed his gun at them. It was not known whether he survived.
On the surface those two incidents could be called violations of the ceasefire agreement, however, they are no more than what Israel is permitted to do under the truce. A ceasefire in place means just that and if Hezbollah fighters are moving around, approaching IDF positions, the IDF is well within its limits to defend its forces.

So, although the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that the ceasefire collapsed before it was 4 hours old, that isn't quite accurate.

I received a question about this line in a previous post:

Both sides are still banging away at each other and will continue to do so until at least 0500 GMT, 14 August, 2006.
The question was, "Why would they do that? Why not accept the ceasefire in good faith and just stop fighting?"

There are many reasons, but it could be reduced to two for each side: Neither side would trust the other to stop fighting and attacking until the prescribed hour of the cessation of hostilities.

Hezbollah was intent on maintaining pressure on the IDF. To simplify it, if they could keep fighting, right up to the last minute, they would be able to declare something of a victory. In fact, that is exactly what they did.

The Israelis were behaving strategically. They used the time between accepting the ceasefire conditions and the truce deadline as a means to advance as far into Lebanon as possible. There are a few strange semantics at play here.

Israel has stated that they retain the right to engage in defensive operations in Lebanon. They further stated that "clean up" operations are defensive in nature. That's a little odd. Mopping up operations are still generally viewed as offensive. Calling the rooting out of pockets of resistance "defensive" is a bit of a stretch.

However, having stated that, Israel needed to be as far north to the Litani River as possible. While they would have bypassed many Hezbollah strongholds, those in the Israeli rear could be considered offensive and inside Israeli controlled ground. Despite a ceasefire Israel could claim that cleaning out those pockets is not a violation.

Further, as Israel withdraws, they can fight their way back to the border claiming self-defence.
It's not necessarily honest, but Israel has made it pretty clear that that is their plan.

Kofi Annan obviously doesn't put much faith in Hezbollah's ability to restrain themselves. Concerned that Hezbollah would provoke Israel, he sent a letter to Israel asking them not to respond to Hezbollah provocation.

Anticipating Hizb'allah's failure to comply with a UN-brokered ceasefire, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to Jerusalem at the weekend, insisting Israel not respond militarily to any violations of Security Council Resolution 1701, according to The Jerusalem Post.


Israeli government sources said Annan's letter was unacceptable, and that a firm response was being drafted.
As critical as I am of Israel's devastation of Lebanon I do not hold with the idea that Israel should be the only party to observe the conditions of the ceasefire.

Now that the ceasefire is in place, both sides are claiming victory. Victorious is hardly a word to describe the state of either side.

Lebanon has suffered enormous destruction and over 1000 deaths, mostly civilian. While those occured at the hands of the IDF in a totally disproportionate response to an incident, Hezbollah must take responsibility for starting the whole event and for allowing large areas of Lebanon to be laid waste.

Israel has another problem.

At the start of this whole mess, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz stated that he could crush Hezbollah in ten days. That gave Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert an opportunity to consolidate some of his own political power and establish himself as strong on defense. After all, the IDF has a history of being tough, effective and fast. It is the force which crushed whole Arab armies in six days.

Unfortunately for Olmert, Halutz couldn't deliver. An underestimation of Hezbollah's capability and strength combined with some bad decisions left Hezbollah damaged but still standing.

Olmert is now fighting for his political survival.

He has faced a backlash over his decision to accept the UN resolution and for failing to deliver a fatal blow to Hizbollah. Army officers have said they were held back and right-wing rivals have been calling for new elections. The next national ballot is not due until 2010.
Olmert is faced with right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu who, somehow, despite scandals and previous charges of corruption, (he was acquitted), keeps bouncing back into the Likud leadership role. (When he's not celebrating the anniversary of an act of terrorism committed by the Israeli Irgun).

Olmert is certainly on the ropes with the Israeli right-wing, not only for effectively losing the fight with Hezbollah, but accepting the UN ceasefire resolution. The truth is, Olmert desperately needed this ceasefire to prevent further humiliation by Hezbollah forces.

How this all plays out is anybody's guess. The ceasefire is more than a little fragile and can be equated to gluing together a broken teacup with school paste. If it holds together it will be something of a miracle.