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   Media Lens does fantastic, if grim work, in describing the system we live in.  We are insulated from other narratives other ideas, other peoples sufferings.  How can a public become informed with no other sources to cross reference?  You cannot triangulate with only one point.  Media Lens, Al-Jazeera and other alternative news sources provide those points for those who have the resources to find out.

The Statistics of Western State Terror (click title for link to full article)

“Ten years later, the violent consequences of the invasion of Afghanistan are truly appalling. A Stop the War video, ‘What is the true cost of the Afghanistan war?’ details some of the appalling statistics:

9,300 Afghan civilians have been killed by International Security Assistance Forces, i.e. Nato.

380 British soldiers are dead.

£18 billion of UK taxpayer’s money has been spent.

The war is costing Britain £12 million per day. The same amount could employ 100,000 nurses (at £21,000 annually) and 150,000 care workers (£15,000).

A study by Brown University in the United States estimates an unimaginable combined sum of up to $4 trillion to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, ‘cautious estimates’ of the total civilian death toll exceed 40,000 people, of which:

25.6%  killed by ISAF forces.

15.4%  killed by anti-government forces.

60%  killed by poverty, disease and starvation.

In particular, the horrendous killing of Afghan children in US air strikes and night raids gets scant coverage, if any, before the Western media swiftly looks away.

There are now three million refugees from Afghanistan: 30.7% of the world’s total, exceeding the figures of 16.9% from Iraq, 7.7% from Somalia and 4.8% from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

74% of the British public want the occupation to end either ‘immediately’ or ‘soon’.

Very little of this reality made it into the largely uncritical coverage of the ten-year anniversary of the West’s aggression against Afghanistan.

In the conclusion to a new report for Stop the War, David Swanson provides a stunning example of the media’s systematic bias:

‘On August 6, 2011, numerous US media outlets reported “the deadliest day of the war” because 38 soldiers, including 30 U.S. troops, had been killed when their helicopter was shot down.

‘But compare that with the day of May 4, 2009, discussed in this report, on which 140 people, including 93 children, were killed in U.S. airstrikes. We are denying to each other through silence and misdirection every day that the children of Afghanistan exist. But their deaths are rising.’

But the deaths of Afghan children, and the suffering of the people of Afghanistan, are seemingly of little consequence for most Western journalists who would rather focus on the ‘progress’ and ‘achievements’ of the Nato ‘campaign’. “

    Afghanistan destroys Empires.  Ask Great Britain, ask the Russians.  The US is well along the same course, but rather than being blinded by nationalism, or ideology the American poison of choice is the continued mismanagement of priorities by the corporate elite.   The corporate elite are running the foreign policy bus off a cliff and bankrupting the US in the process.

“Among multiple layers of deception and newspeak, the official Washington spin on the strategic quagmire in Afghanistan simply does not hold.

No more than “50-75 ‘al-Qaeda types’ in Afghanistan”, according to the CIA, have been responsible for draining the US government by no less than US $10 billion a month, or $120 billion a year. “

120 billion is a tidy sum that would go a long way in the ‘butter’ rather than the ‘guns’ department.

“A recent, detailed study by the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University revealed that the war on terror has cost the US economy, so far, from $3.7 trillion (the most conservative estimate) to $4.4 trillion (the moderate estimate). Then there are interest payments on these costs – another $1 trillion.

That makes the total cost of the war on terror to be, at least, a staggering $5.4 trillion. And that does not include, as the report mentions, “additional macroeconomic consequences of war spending”, or a promised (and undelivered) $5.3 billion reconstruction aid for Afghanistan.

Who’s profiting from this bonanza? That’s easy – US military contractors and a global banking/financial elite.”

Well, it is good to see that someone is making money during this downturn of the economy, although I’d hate to be the person having to explain the American public why the coffers fly open so easily when it comes to Military contractors and yet seem welded shut when it comes to public expenditures such as social security and health care.

“In the famous November 1, 2004 video that played a crucial part in assuring the reelection of George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden – or a clone of Osama bin Laden – once again expanded on how the “mujahedeen bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.” That’s the exact same strategy al-Qaeda has deployed against the US; according to Bin Laden at the time, “all that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note, other than some benefits to their private companies.”

The record since 9/11 shows that’s exactly what’s happening. The war on terror has totally depleted the US treasury – to the point that the White House and Congress are now immersed in a titanic battle over a $4 trillion debt ceiling.  

What is never mentioned is that these trillions of dollars were ruthlessly subtracted from the wellbeing of average Americans – smashing the carefully constructed myth of the American dream.”

The problem, back in the US, is that ordinary people are not being represented in Congress.  Americans, for the most part are a kind, generous people.  They may hold some funny notions about egalitarianism (and religion and…), but on the whole they are not the ignorant, jingoistic warmongers that the media often paint them to be.  If the interests of the majority of American’s were actually respected, instead of a small section of the elites, the US would truly be that ‘shining city on the hill’.   Yet the prosperity of the average American is being sacrificed on the altar of war so that a narrow slice of the populace can profit.

“It all comes back, once again, to Pipelineistan – and one of its outstanding chimeras; the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline, also known once as the Trans-Afghan Pipeline, which might one day become TAPI if India decides to be on board.

The US corporate media simply refuses to cover what is one of the most important stories of the early 21st century.

Washington has badly wanted TAP since the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration was negotiating with the Taliban; the talks broke down because of transit fees, even before 9/11, when the Bush administration decided to change the rhetoric from “a carpet of gold” to “a carpet of bombs”.

TAP is a classic Pipelineistan gambit; the US supporting the flow of gas from Central Asia to global markets, bypassing both Iran and Russia. If it ever gets built, it will cost over $10 billion.

It needs a totally pacified Afghanistan – still another chimera – and a Pakistani government totally implicated in Afghanistan’s security, still a no-no as long as Islamabad’s policy is to have Afghanistan as its “strategic depth”, a vassal state, in a long-term confrontation mindset against India.”

Is the War all about the pipeline as the article suggests?  More research is needed into the topic, but it would be hardly surprising to observe that this is one of the overarching goals of the war in Afghanistan.

“It’s mind-boggling that 10 years and $5.4 trillion dollars later, the situation is exactly the same. Washington still badly wants “its” pipeline – which will in fact be a winning game mostly for commodity traders, global finance majors and Western energy giants.

From the standpoint of these elites, the ideal endgame scenario is global Robocop NATO – helped by hundreds of thousands of mercenaries – “protecting” TAP (or TAPI) while taking a 24/7 peek on what’s going on in neighbours Russia and China.     
 Sharp wits in India have described Washington’s tortuous moves in Afghanistan as “surge, bribe and run”. It’s rather “surge, bribe and stay”. This whole saga might have been accomplished without a superpower bankrupting itself, and without immense, atrocious, sustained loss of life, but hey – nobody’s perfect.”

Are the strategic resources in the region worth the devastation of the Western world’s largest economy?  The movers and the shakers in the US seem to think so.

 

 

 

Like every US president to date, Ronald Reagan is responsible for prosecutable war crimes.  Of course, we being the “good-guys” do not apply the same standards to ourselves that we expect the rest of the world to follow.   It is little wonder you see the ironic smirks in the UN and other international bodies when the US is discussing “law and order” and commitment to human rights, because outside of the memory hole that defines our imperial culture the picture is quite clear cut.  The national interest of the US trumps human rights, justice and law almost every time.  We just do not get to hear about it here in fortress North America.   What we also do not get to easily see is how we sow the seeds of our own discord, as in the case of Afghanistan and the current imperial war taking place there.

Here is what Rasil Basu, UN Developmental Program, senior advisor to the Afghan government for women’s development (1986 – 88) had to say.

“She reported “enormous strides” for women under the Russian occupation:

“Illiteracy declined from 98% to 75%, and they were granted equal rights with men in civil law, and in the Constitution… Unjust patriarchal relations still prevailed in the workplace and in the family with women occupying lower level sex-type jobs.  But the strides [women] took in education and employment were very impressive…  In Kabul I saw great advances in industry, factories, government offices, professions and the media.  With large numbers of men killed or disabled, women shouldered the responsibility of both family and country.  I met a woman who specialized in war medicine with dealt with trauma and reconstructive surgery for the war wounded. This represented empowerment to her.  Another woman was a road engineer.  Roads represented freedom – an escape from the oppressive patriarchal structures.”

By 1988, however, Basu “could see the early warning signals” as Russian troops departed and the fundamentalist Islamist extremists favoured by the Reagan administration took over, brushing aside the more moderate mujahideen groups.  Saudi Arabian and American arms and ammunition “have been vital in giving fundamentalist groups an edge over the moderates,” providing them with military hardware used,” according to Amnesty International, to target unarmed civilians, most of them women and children.”  Then followed much worse horrors as the U.S – Saudi favorites overthrew the Najibullah government.  The suffering of the population was so extreme that the Taliban were welcomed when they drove out Reagan’s freedom fighters.  Another chapter in the triumph of Reaganite reactionary ultranationalism, worshiped today by those dedicated to defaming the honourable term “conservative”.

– Noam Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects pages 245 – 246.

Hardly surprising considering the gross injustices wrought in Central America by Reagan and the United States.  The 1980’s were grim years for Central America plagued by torture, terrorism and death all sponsored by the US.

More people need to educate themselves and do the reading into what exactly their foreign policy entails, because the American populace would certainly not endorse the terror wrought in their name if it was properly publicized and discussed realistically.

Well, I guess the phrase, “Our troops will be out of Afghanistan by 2011” has more connotations than the ones most people would be aware of.  Apparently it means this:

“Instead, the Harper government now wants to extend Canada’s military presence by another three years to 2014, maintaining a force of up to 1,000 soldiers and support personnel in “non-combat training roles.”

It is nice to see that our autocratic PM is being all that he can be.  Furthermore, Harper is not putting this extension up for debate in the House of Commons.

Harper and Cannon have both said a vote on the extension is not needed. Cannon pointed out Monday that a parliamentary vote was not taken when Canadian troops were sent to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in January.

Speaking on CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Cannon said there was “no precedent” for a parliamentary vote on the extension of the mission in Afghanistan.

“This is really a function of mission creep,” NDP MP Jack Harris said after the announcement. “We started in 2002 and we’ve been there nine years now. Last Saturday was the ninth anniversary of the fall of the Taliban.”

Canada has wilted under the pressure of NATO and the US, to keep a military presence in Afghanistan despite promises to get our troops out of the country.

“NDP Leader Jack Layton accused Harper of breaking a promise.

“Why did he break his promise to bring the troops home?” Layton asked in question period.”

Listen to the Canadians?  Respect democracy?  Meh.

 

Approaching contentious topics in conversation is always a touchy proposition considering my stance on most issues.  The War in Afghanistan, Prison Policy, Educational Policy and Patriarchy are all minefields that are necessarily carefully navigated through as disagreeing too much with the dominant point of view only leads to consternation and frustration on both sides of the conversation.

Sadly, we end up talking about ‘other’ topics and any sort of give or take is eliminated because of the calcified nature of conservatism in Alberta.  Take for instance the Oilsands, a blight in Northern Alberta that is poisoning the environment and the people who live near them.  The counter argument, jobs and the economy of course.  We are making money and that takes precedence over all.  Once the Athabasca river is thoroughly contaminated and the people living near it have moved away or died, things will be fine I imagine.

Similarly in Afghanistan, I’m sure once we kill enough of  the Taliban peace and prosperity will firmly take hold and we can make a gracious exit and commend ourselves on a job well done.  The alternate picture, perpetual war against a embittered, radicalized population does not to have much traction, although it is a narrative much closer to the reality of the situation in Afghanistan at present.  I imagine though that we’ll eventually end up blaming the Afghan people for being too backward, too corrupt and too sectarian for our benevolent efforts (bombing the crap out of everything) and disengage while calling it mendaciously, a victory for our side.  Consider the magic woven in Vietnam where America came out of the war eventually demanding reparations from the Vietnamese for their actions…  Imperial hubris is wonderful.

Hubris aside, the mentality of some conservatives can be somewhat trying, especially with regards to crime and prisons.  The verdict is in, and the evidence points to one clear concept.  Punishing people does not ‘fix’ them. More punishment is not the solution.  Here is where I get accused of being “soft” on crime.  Quite bluntly, dealing with the precursors to crime and criminality – poverty, discrimination, and inequality- is a much more efficient and effective way to deal with crime in a society.  I assert with certainty we will still need prisons because necessarily, there exists in any population a percentage of people who simply do not fit in and need to be segregated from the general population.  The focus though needs to be on the precursors and getting people the skills they need to become a member of  society that does not need to commit crime.

Educational policy dovetails into the discussion of the justice system as it has been noted that in punishment heavy modes of operation, educational policy can act as a feeder system for the criminal justice system.  Again, the idea that we can punish (people) children into becoming what we want is deleteriously wrong notion that needs to be dispelled from the schools.  The fear of punishment works for many, but not all children.  For those who do not have the skills to behave correctly punishing them more only pushes them further away from our goal of nurturing and educating people to become contributing members of our society.

Like the unreality of the punishment point of view the view that Feminism is over and women have achieved equality in our society is a persistent meme that needs to be corrected.  The Patriarchy is not dead, our culture is a rape culture and women are still second class citizens at their very best.  Is the work of eradicating the massive inequality built into our culture even close to being done, heck no.  Not acknowledging that the work needs to be done retards progress significantly, as again, the case must be made, defended and writ large so the proper context can be established and the idea that feminism is not “over” can be vanquished (again).

The theme of this post has been pretty much “waaaa! it sucks having to constatantly contradict the dominant cultural and historical narrative, look how much work it is!!!!”.  I realize that, but I write to educate those who wonder why when they talk about certain topics with their progressive friends they all of a sudden get that tired 1000 kilometer stare.

 

We are going to go pave Afghanistan with the blood and bones of Canadian soldiers; will the nebulous goal of “stability” be sufficient to pacify their families as they grieve?   Will the inevitable deaths of innocent Afghanis be justified by bringing stability to the region?  Consider the very nature of the war in Afghanistan where there are  only a few “front lines” and the enemy has the capacity to strike anywhere at almost anytime.  Is this what we bring and justify our presence in Afghanistan for?

“Coalition forces in Afghanistan will go on the offensive this fall, says Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, the commander of Canadian troops overseas.

His comments to reporters in Kandahar on Saturday echoed those made by British Maj.-Gen. Nick Carter, commander of coalition troops in southern Afghanistan, who said up to 32,000 Afghan and coalition soldiers will try to clear 500 to 800 insurgents from around Kandahar city before December.

Lessard described the coalition push as “massive activities.” The attacks will be followed by development projects and efforts to strengthen the local governments.”

We have heard this so many times over the tenure of our stay in Afghanistan.  But better to have nebulous strategy to match our nebulous goals, one would suppose.

“He [Lessard] said the Taliban had taken the initiative over the summer and it had been “a tough go” for the coalition. “There was a lot more enemy presence and a lot more activity.”

The coalition consolidated its position, Lessard said. “There was no more expansion. We didn’t have the troops.”

But now the Taliban initiative has been stopped. “That’s good, but that’s not good enough,” he said, so the coalition is taking the offensive.”

And re-win the hearts and minds of the people?  Who do you side with if you are an Afghani citizen?  The corrupt Kharzi regime backed by imperial powers that will be leaving the country soon or with the Taliban who will be there with certainty (being that it is their country after all)?

“With the 150-plus killed, the hundreds of seriously injured, from our Canadian point of view, that’s our legacy.”

Poignant and prescient words from Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard.  I’m usually happy when blog posts write themselves, but in this instance, there is nothing to cheer about.

Moe over at Whatever Works has a great post about Afghanistan and the morass that passes as the status quo.

Our formal fighting presence is over as of 2011, despite the braying of the addled Liberal party of Canada.  I’m glad that Harper runs his government like an uncaring majority, at least on this one issue.  The radicalization of dissent in Canada has taken yet another turn as police have arrested a fourth suspect in the Ottawa bomb plot.

“But a police source told CBC News the individual arrested, who was identified as a man, is not likely to be charged. The source told CBC News there does not appear to be enough evidence for a charge and police are unlikely to hold the individual under anti-terrorism legislation.”

It sounds like the forth individual might have only been lightly colluding with the three other suspects in custody.  The other three men have been formally charged:

“Authorities have arrested and charged three Ontario men in what the RCMP is calling a conspiracy to commit “a violent terrorism attack.”  Earlier Friday, Khurram Sher, 28, of London, Ont., was remanded in custody until Sept. 1 after a brief court appearance. He was charged Thursday with conspiracy to knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity.      Two Ottawa men, Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, and Hiva Alizadeh, 30, were arrested on Wednesday. They appeared in an Ottawa courtroom on Thursday facing the same charge.”

Like the 9/11 bombers, these people are mostly all upper middle class well educated citizens.  Educated does not necessarily mean smart though.

“During their investigation, Therriault said, police seized more than 50 electronic circuit boards they say were designed specifically to remotely detonate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

CBC News has learned that the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team knew about the circuit boards some time ago — for perhaps months or at least many weeks.

The team obtained a warrant to enter Alizadeh’s apartment and surreptitiously removed the boards, replacing them with look-alikes that were duds. Therefore any attack would likely have failed.

Therriault said they also seized a vast quantity of terrorist literature, videos and manuals.”

Full marks for the RCMP and CSIS for actually getting a job done right for once.  I’m pretty sure this was because there was no tasering involved with the situation.

“Their profiles are likely to raise concerns about homegrown radicalism, said security expert Eric Margolis, who said the roots of the radicalism are likely triggered by anger over the involvement of Western governments in countries such as Afghanistan.”
Sad, but unsurprising.
The damage we wrought in Afghanistan is coming back to bite us.  The families we destroyed, intentionally or not, are crying for revenge and retribution by any means necessary.  Unfortunately, that usually means when the gun is pointed at us, instead of comfortably at someone else, a terrorist attack.   Canada got lucky with these individuals, they were stupid and relied on unencrypted email to plot their actions.
It is a lesson for Canada and the RCMP, but also a lesson for others who will learn from this groups mistakes.

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