Gang-rape in Afghanistan

Below is a report from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan’s website.  It makes me physically ill to read it, so do not take the link if you do not want to know about the gang-rape of a woman in Badakhshan and the treatment of her children, who were witnesses to the event.

Is it this vilification of women and children — this terrorism — that we are reconstructing in Afghanistan?  It seems to me that Canadian participation in this pseudo war on terror has made the situation for the women of that country even worse than before.

Bring our troops home!


Harper’s Gamble

I hope that I will one day have the discipline to pump out essays like my friend, John Conway, does.  Here’s another really good one folks.



The Afghan War: Harper’s Re-election Gamble



by J. F. Conway


Our esteemed prime minister continues to dig himself deeper into his political hole. Soon it will be impossible for him to claw his way out.

On the UN world stage Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to present himself, and Canada, as warmongers, defending the dirty war in Afghanistan and vowing never to leave until the job is done. Finally, he is brazenly affirming that Canada is at war. But what is this war? It is a war of invasion, occupation and aggressive combat supporting one side against the other in a civil war. The current puppet regime, put in place by the US after questionable elections, wouldn’t last a fortnight if NATO troops pulled out. Indeed, military experts argue that in the absence of superior American air power, the current combat troops on the ground would be overrun by the Taliban-led insurgency coalition.

Harper insists we are fighting the war on terror. But the Taliban, formerly the government after driving out the Soviet invaders, then toppled after 9/11 by US bombing and invasion, are not the terrorists who haunt us. They are one side in a civil war. Our war is therefore a war on the Afghans who support the Taliban. According to the Senlis Council of Europe and the US-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, both prominent establishment think tanks, the Afghan war can no longer be won. That in a nutshell is why other NATO members are reluctant to send troops. The military campaign has ravaged the homes, farms and infrastructure of the country so badly that the Afghan people face insecurity and lawlessness, abject poverty and mass starvation. And this massive destruction has been due to the bombing and artillery shelling of NATO forces. The 10 to 15,000 refugees in camps in the south are not receiving enough aid simply to survive. As a result the Taliban is returning to political prominence and has fashioned a growing insurgency coalition against the foreign occupiers. Over one-half of Afghanistan and one-third of Iraq are now effectively in the control of the respective insurgencies.

Harper dug himself in deeper by inviting Afghan President Hamid Karzai to visit Canada and to address a joint sitting of the House of Commons and the Senate. Karzai’s visit was planned to coincide with a 10,000 strong “Wear Red Friday” rally on Parliament Hill. The Wear Red on Fridays campaign was founded by family members of troops from the Petawawa military base. The movement has grown into a jingoistic pro-war “support our troops” movement mobilized with a great deal of help from Harper’s Tory party. In his address to the rally Harper promised to build up the Canadian military and to stay the course in Afghanistan through all necessary means, no matter how long it takes.

This double whammy of the theatre of pro-war propaganda – Karzai’s visit and the Wear Red rally – might contribute temporarily to growth in support for the war among Canadians. The last Strategic Council poll reported that 49 per cent of Canadians want to bring the troops home, while 43 per cent support staying the course. These figures reveal a polarized and confused public, since the polls have gone up and down with events and propaganda campaigns. But the pattern has remained clear, a plurality of Canadians, usually a majority, opposes the war and wants our troops brought home. Harper ignores this political truth at his peril, and the Afghan war could become a defining issue in the next election. Harper appears to welcome such a possibility (after all, 43 per cent is higher that his current support level of 35 per cent).

The polling numbers reflect the deep ambivalence in Canadians’ sentiments rooted in contradictory attitudes. All Canadians support our troops in the sense of admiring their courage and their devotion to their duty as defined by Parliament. All Canadians grieve with the families of the fallen. Harper’s cynical and manipulative ploy of trying to conflate those good sentiments into support for the war and its political objectives is hard to resist. Harper says in order to support our troops, and to honour their sacrifices, we must support this war and support continuing to send more troops to wage it. Canadians, however, are increasingly moving to the position that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home now, not to leave them there to fight, kill and die, nor to send yet more young men and women to do so.

What is truly astonishing about Canadian attitudes is that opposition to the war continues to be so strong. The Canadian media have betrayed the trust of the Canadian people by serving as a pro-war propaganda arm of the Harper government and cheer leading chorus for the war. Even the news broadcasts are little more than pro-war propaganda. There is a virtual absence of critical, investigative reporting on the war. But despite a pro-war media, a pro-war prime minister and government, and repeated pro-war messages from the military broadcast daily, the Canadian people have refused to be bamboozled and stampeded.

This failure of the media took a particularly disgusting turn with the visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The media bought into Harper’s stunt of treating Karzai like he was the greatest freedom fighting government leader since Winston Churchill – pomp, ceremony, honour guards, salutes by cannon, the whole red carpet treatment, including the rare honour of addressing a joint sitting of Parliament. One understands why the Harper government would want to do so as part of a political campaign to win the hearts and minds of Canadians to support the war. But where were the critical analyses in the media about Karzai? Canadians were being instructed to honour this man uncritically, and asked to spend yet more blood and treasure (37 dead and over $3 billion to date) in supporting him and his government.

Did Canadian people not have the right to know that Karzai has so little support outside the capital city that he is widely referred to as “the Mayor of Kabul?” Or that he vetoed US plans to destroy the poppy crop through aerial spraying (Afghanistan now supplies 92 per cent of the world’s heroin; during the Taliban regime the trade was virtually stopped)? Or that his brother is alleged to be involved in the drug trade? Or that he was picked to lead the country at a meeting of US officials and Afghan exiles prior to the overthrow of the Taliban at a meeting in Bonn? Or that his election was allegedly riddled with fraud, only one month’s campaigning was allowed, his opponents were blacked out by the media, and his main political adversary, the Taliban, could not run (and would not in an American organized election)? Or that he was a former consultant to oil companies in the region? Or that he has fired all the reformers from his cabinet? Or that he is alleged to have had links with the CIA and US military intelligence? Or that George Bush personally approved his candidacy? The fact is that Karzai heads up a puppet regime set up by the US and its NATO allies. Do Canadians not have a right to know the nature of the president and government they are sending their young men and women to die defending?

This is a time of shame for Canadian media institutions. They have failed to inform Canadians in a balanced way about this war. Not only have they betrayed the public trust, but they have lost the trust of the public.

Harper is clearly gambling that he can parlay his warmongering, pro-US stance into a victory in the next election. Many think he has made a big mistake.

Conway is a University of Regina political sociologist.

Women and the Middle East

I don’t think I can say it any better than Lucinda Marshall has, so go have a look-see.

What women are saying about the Violence in the Middle EastBy Lucinda Marshall

September 11, 2006
There has been no shortage of punditry when it comes to the current crisis in the Middle East, however most of the published and broadcast voices have been male. If there is to be any hope of a sustainable peace in this region it is critically important to also listen to what women are saying.

As Professor Cynthia Enloe has pointed out many times, we must ask how armed conflict and militarism affects women. How are their lives impacted, what are their needs, and what are their thoughts. Unfortunately, every time anyone fires a rocket or a gun, real news about women and what they are saying (not to be confused with sensationalized coverage such as the Jon Benet Ramsey ‘story’) is almost completely blacked out. We get a few pictures of anguished women holding dead children and husbands, but mostly we see pictures of tanks, mobs of men and the voices of generals and politicians, with only a token woman or 2 thrown in to ‘balance’ the picture.

While many women have offered thoughtful and intelligent analyses of what is happening in the Middle East, very few of these voices have made their way on to the Op Ed pages. One of the exceptions is a piece by Nobel Peace Prize winners Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams that appeared in the International Herald Tribune , where the authors write,

“We do not understand how the international community can continue to stand by while entire populations are held hostage in what has been described as “self defense.”

Read the full article

Bring our troops home!

For a deeper understanding of the situation in Afghanistan, the lack of clarity regarding Canada’s role there, and the twist the media is applying to Layton’s statement regarding “talking to the Taleban”, please read Stephen Moore’s piece at No BMD, eh?. And follow that up with Duncan Cameron’s piece at

Then sign the petition to bring our troops home.

And then forward this far and wide.

So You Trust Our Secret Police? Think Again.

Here’s another piece by Dr. John F. Conway. If you missed the earlier piece, it’s Safe and Secure in Our Beds?.

So You Trust Our Secret Police? Think Again.

by J. F. Conway

Conway is a University of Regina political sociologist and the author of The West: The History of a Region in Confederation and Debts to Pay: The Future of Federalism in Quebec.

An Innovative Research Group poll taken after the early June bust of “the Toronto 17” should cause deep concern among all Canadians. Sixty-two per cent of Canadians agreed with the proposition that without national security all other rights of Canadians were simply theoretical. This is the argument presented by federal lawyers before the Supreme Court in an effort to defend the constitutionality of the use of “security certificates,” i.e., the right of the secret police to incarcerate suspected terrorists for an indefinite time without laying charges or proceeding to trial. Another 40 per cent declared a willingness to see our civil liberties eroded in the name of national security. One in three expressed worries that they could be personally victimized by terrorist acts, and one in four felt that they or someone close to them could have been killed or injured by the actions of “the Toronto 17.” The campaign of terror and fear by our secret police and the Harper government is working. Fear is stalking the land, infecting our democracy.

Fear, deliberately provoked and orchestrated, has always been a favourite tool of governments in efforts to win public support for questionable, controversial policies. In this particular case, the Harper government chose to mount arguably the biggest peacetime combined police and military operation since the 1970 War Measures Act to round up a gang of hapless, abjectly stupid ideological zealots suffering from terrorist fantasies and delusions of grandeur. Based on the evidence so far reported on “the Toronto 17,” they would have difficulty successfully organizing a community soccer tournament.

Canadians should resist giving instant credence to unsubstantiated claims made by our secret police, and hysterically echoed by Prime Minister Harper and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, given the Harper government’s political agenda. That agenda has been further clarified in recent days. Besides trying to stampede a reluctant Canadian public into supporting the deployment of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and appeasing the U.S. government’s demands that Canada enthusiastically join the global war on terror, Harper now wants to persuade Canadians to support a massive $15 billion increased defence spending program billed as essential for our participation in this war. And this $15 billion is not earmarked for military tools for the defence of Canada, or for UN peacekeeping abroad, but rather for acquiring the military equipment essential for wars of aggression, invasion and occupation of foreign territories.

Let us remember the lessons about our secret police so painfully learned during Canada’s last brush with terrorism and its suppression – the 1970 FLQ crisis and the invocation of the War Measures Act. Public hysteria was whipped up by leaked claims of the secret police, and politicians and governments who uncritically echoed them: FLQ terrorists had infiltrated all key institutions of Quebec; 3000 armed FLQ terrorists were ready to begin an insurrection; the FLQ had a “hit list” of 200 Quebec leaders marked for assassination; the kidnappings of the British diplomat and the Quebec Labour Minister were but the first step in a revolutionary plot for takeover; a massive bombing campaign was in the works; there would be a bloodbath of executions followed by the installation of a provisional government. It was all a pack of lies, but led to a wave of arrests and violations of civil liberties focussed in Quebec, but affecting suspected individuals and groups all across Canada. And the suppression enjoyed almost universal public support.

In the years after the crisis Canadians learned how they had been manipulated by the secret police and politicians in power, thanks to Ottawa’s Royal Commission of Inquiry Into Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Policy (the McDonald Commission) and Quebec’s Keable Inquiry into Illegal Police Activities. These inquiries exposed the dirty tricks and illegal actions employed by the secret police against not only the FLQ, but the democratic sovereignty movement, as well as other individuals and groups on a list of “the politically suspect” (including members of parliament, candidates for election, student groups and trade unions). Seventeen past and present members of the RCMP’s Security Service were charged with 44 offences following the release of the Keable Report (there would have been more, but the federal government stonewalled the Commission’s request for documents). The McDonald Commission also reported a long list of dirty tricks and illegal actions carried out by the secret police, though these did not result in charges and trials (and portions of the report have yet to be released). These included over 400 illegal break-ins, thefts of dynamite, theft of the membership list of the Parti Québécois, an act of arson, unauthorized mail openings, surveillance of MPs and candidates for office, investigations of the NDP’s Waffle group, illegal detentions involving psychological and physical violence to recruit informers, forging and releasing documents under the FLQ’s name calling for violence to win independence, the massive infiltration of the FLQ to the point where by 1972 secret police agents had a voting majority in the organization. The list goes on and on.

Most of the perpetrators of the dirty tricks and illegal activities among the ranks of the secret police were never charged, and those who were charged either received unconditional discharges upon pleading guilty, or the charges were later dropped. In other words, the secret police were, in practice, not subject to the laws of the land but could cynically violate them at will in the name of “national security.” As a result, the McDonald Royal Commission recommended that, in future, the police, including the secret police, cease illegal activities, that mail openings and break-ins occur only under the oversight of a judge, and, allegedly most importantly, that the secret police be removed from the RCMP and that a civilian secret police agency be set up. In 1984, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was accordingly established.

This was an entirely cosmetic move and smeared the RCMP, suggesting that the secret police got out of control due to failures of the RCMP’s command structure. This is nonsense. The secret police was doing what the secret police always does, and continues to do under the CSIS structure. And they were doing it under the political direction of the government of the day. Indeed, it can be reasonably argued that the RCMP’s command structure, history and culture may well have imposed a bit of restraint on the activities of the secret police, a restraint that is absent in CSIS. Testimony before the McDonald Commission revealed that some rather bizarre plots proposed by secret police zealots were denied authorization at senior levels. Hence, I trust CSIS even less than I trusted the RCMP’s Security Service.

And what about the directive from the McDonald Commission that the police, including the secret police, always act within the law? Such a rule makes it very tough for the secret police to do what secret police do. Well, that problem has been solved. There is a new “doublethink” law allowing the police to act illegally while upholding the law. If that sounds a bit Orwellian, it is because it is – a law making breaking the law legal while enforcing the law. The new so-called Immunity Law was passed in February 2002 and allows police agents of all sorts to commit crimes in the line of duty. Any crime can be committed except those involving obstructing justice, sex crimes, and violence causing bodily harm (making violence that leaves no marks or breaks no bones perfectly legal). During 2004-05 Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day recently admitted that many crimes were committed by police covered by the immunity statute.

Therefore, secret police agents can actively work with suspects, or with individuals and groups targeted for political reasons, in order to encourage violations of the new, draconian anti-terrorist law, particularly in actively encouraging elaborate conspiracies to carry out fantastic terrorist plans. And all those illegal actions carried out by secret police in the 60s and 70s that led to the government inquiries would now be perfectly legal.

Our secret police is now unconstrained by law. Our democracy and our civil liberties are in big trouble. The next sensational terrorist bust could well involve a “sleeper cell” containing a majority of secret police agents.

Dr. J. F. (John) ConwayProfessor and Chair
Department of Sociology and Social Studies
University of Regina
Wascana Parkway
Regina, SK S4S 0A2

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Connecting the dots

If we want to make real change, then we need to connect the dots between and among the isms. This essay by Sally Darity, though hard to take, makes a strong case for the importance of doing so.

Serial Torture Murders From Chihuahua to Edmonton, Guatemala to Alaska: Connecting the Genocidal Dots

Living in the United States forces dwellers to either face the horrors of what is being done to crush all humanity impeding profit or to participate in the myriad facets of complicity. The most privileged people on the planet perch on remnants of dreams reduced to the hideous nightmare of looming total global annihilation. Each must heed the call of conscience. The roots of war infect planetary society. Iraq is the acceleration of 500 hundred years of the blueprint of domination taking us to the final brink. What follows is the torture slaughter carried out by social petty tyrants confident in the disposability of their victims in a climate of spreading patriarchal fundamentalist genocide never known on such a massive scale. Such killers do the dirty work of those in power. It can and must be halted.

The torture murders of thousands of marginalized women, Indigenous peoples, homeless, immigrants, homosexuals and others on the increasingly populated fringes is but an indicater of what faces most of us. 6,000 serial murders occur annually in the U.S., leading the world in such killings. Predominantly done by white males, this phenomenon is spreading, especially in South Africa and the former Soviet Union. The American Death Squads are here and they are us. Racism, sexism, classism, elitism and violence are essential to colonialism. The institutionalization of military corporate agenda along with alienation, destruction of culture, families and community and the stark absence of trust sew up the success of war culture. Dwindling privilege still keeps too many far removed from the desperation creeping ever closer. Time is short.

We certainly won’t see the de-institutionalization of the military corporate agenda with the Harper in control. Darity’s piece goes very deep connecting the dots between the isms in her documentation of deaths in Iraq, Saskatoon, Alaska, Mexico, and beyond.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Safe and Secure in Our Beds?

Below is an article a little longer than I tend to post, but well worth the read. It puts together the pieces of the story of the Toronto Terrorist [sic] arrests in a way that the mainstream media has not.

Dr. John F. Conway is a University of Regina political sociologist and the author of Debts to Pay: The Future of Federalism in Quebec and The West: The History of a Region in Confederation. He is a regular contributor to the Prairie Dog. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

Safe and Secure in Our Beds?

by J. F. Conway

On the weekend of June 3, a combined task force of 400 police officers and security agents raided a number of homes and a storage facility in Toronto, scooping up 15 alleged terrorists involved in a plot they had named Operation Badr. In case things deteriorated, a JTF-2 squad of commandos and a helicopter gun ship were on standby just minutes away. Police reported that the evidence collected included weapons and bomb-making materials.

In subsequent days further information about the plot, the alleged terrorists, and the evidence seized appeared in dribs and drabs in the press, accompanied by sensational headlines. The suspects – the 15 plus two already in jail for gun smuggling – were charged with a variety of offences: smuggling weapons, training terrorists, and conspiracy to commit a variety of terrorist acts including the assassination of politicians and truck-bombing targets in Toronto. The raids were triggered by the delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the main ingredient used by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building in 1995.

The public reacted with shock, fear, and, finally, gratitude at the decisive actions of our protectors.

Then the credibility of the circus began to unravel. The suspects are all Canadians – “home-grown terrorists” – and all but two are very young. Five of them are teenagers young enough to come under young offenders provisions, two are 19, eight are in their early 20s, one is 30 and one is 43. The alleged ring leader is a 21 year old father of two. A 43 year old school bus driver is alleged to have been the ideological leader and mentor of the group. Apparently the conspiracy is two years old and began on the Mississauga Meadowvale Secondary School soccer field.

The suspects became radicalized and began to visit radical Islamic internet sites and to post blogs in “jihad rap” (a fad among alienated Islamic youth, the equivalent of “gangsta rap”). They began to fantasize about joining the holy war and dying for the cause. CSIS agents visited the home of the ringleader and allegedly got into a shoving match with his 19 year old wife. The earlier arrest of two of the 17 for trying to smuggle two hand guns and some ammunition (including one bullet secreted in a sock for some reason), across the border, as well as further interviews of family members by CSIS made it clear to the group that they were under close surveillance.

Despite this the suspects continued in their delusional behaviour. They went off to a campground to do some training with paintball guns and for target practice with a handgun. They continued discussion of an increasingly bizarre and elaborate plot. They would storm the House of Commons and behead the primer minister. One of them fantasized about sitting in the Speaker’s Chair and beheading one MP every 30 minutes until those held on security certificates were released and Canada’s troops in Afghanistan were withdrawn. They discussed bombing the Peace Tower, the Toronto Stock Exchange, and the CSIS office in Toronto, the CN Tower, and the Toronto CBC Broadcast Centre. Another alternative discussed was to open fire in a public space, killing as many as possible until they were killed.

Then they abandoned the Ottawa plans since they didn’t know enough about the city’s layout (apparently none of them had a CAA membership entitling them to free maps, nor were they aware of all the detailed maps freely available to tourists and the general public). The group split over the issue of a willingness to die, and those willing proceeded to pose as student farmers to buy the fertilizer for $4000. The RCMP, in a “sting” operation, obliged them by selling and delivering what was purported to be ammonium nitrate (but was in fact a harmless substance). This “overt act” triggered the raids and charges.

It is difficult to see these individuals as hardened, dangerous terrorists. Delusional, yes. Suicidal, obviously (I mean, to continue after visits by CSIS!). Alienated and angry, clearly. They were obviously swept up into a terrorist fantasy with delusions of grandeur. They needed to be dealt with, deflected, and stopped. But it appears they were allowed to continue in their fantasies and allowed to cross the line into an “overt act,” obligingly facilitated by the RCMP. Quite frankly, the plots they fantasized appear to be informed by a mixture of grade B terrorist movies and some vague awareness of past terrorist attacks.

What about the physical evidence (besides the “ammonium nitrate”)? Were there automatic weapons, grenade launchers, machine guns, AK 47s? The following is the list gleaned from the press: a barbecue grill, tongs, duct tape, eight Duracell ‘D’ batteries, a dismantled cell phone described as “a crude cell phone detonator,” one 9 mm Luger, one air rife, one paintball gun (where are the others?), one “Rambo-style” hunting knife (for the beheadings?), camouflage clothing, flashlights, two-way radios. Let’s face it, the average serious hunter in Saskatchewan has a more substantial arsenal than all 17 “home-grown terrorists” combined. If the two handguns stopped at the border in the smuggling bust had been added, our conspirators would have had an arsenal of three handguns with which to storm the House of Commons.

Why the huge operation, costing millions – and with long, expensive show trials to follow? This can only be understood as a political event. An operation of this magnitude had to have had the approval of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day. Their fingerprints are all over it and both have made comments clearly presuming the guilt of the 17 suspects. What possible political objectives are served by this circus?

First, CSIS and the government have egg on their faces over the failure of two busts of alleged domestic terrorist cells since September 11. Both busts were given sensational press coverage and both fell apart before charges were laid. They also involved claims of fantastic plots by al-Qaeda “sleeper cells” to blow up a Pickering nuclear power station, the CN Tower, the U.S. embassy and Parliament. Since the alleged terrorists were not citizens most were deported, while others have been held for years under security certificates without charge or trial. CSIS and the government needed a bust that leads to real charges and real trials – and perhaps convictions (hence the facilitation of the “overt act” by the RCMP). CSIS, the government, and all other security forces badly need a success.

Second, the Canadian public was turning against participation by Canadian troops in the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, with a growing majority favouring bringing the troops home. By bringing the “war on terror” home to our front door step, public opinion might be swayed back to support the Afghan adventure.

What has been the political fallout of the Toronto busts? According to the polls, fear of terrorism here at home has increased dramatically among Canadians. More significantly, support for Canadian participation in the Afghan war has turned around on a dime – now 48 per cent support Canadian participation while 44 per cent oppose it.

A third political objective has also been served. The Harper government is upset about continuing American charges that Canada is “soft on terrorism” and “a terrorist haven,” charges Harper supported against the Martin government. This bust proves Canada is tough on terror, right up there in the big leagues. Both Condoleezza Rice and George Bush have personally congratulated Harper on the Toronto raids. Canada under Harper has turned a corner, decisively proving we are loyal allies in the American-led “war on terror,” including against terrorists at home.

Tommy Douglas once accused Trudeau of using a sledgehammer to crush a peanut by imposing the War Measures Act on Quebec after the 1970 FLQ kidnapping of a British diplomat and the Quebec labour minister (Pierre Laporte was murdered when his kidnappers panicked after the invocation of the War Measures Act). Stephen Harper has used maximum military force to crush what one commentator referred to as “The Homer Simpson Gang.”

My question is: who will protect us from our protectors? It is a question that needs repeated asking in any democracy with a secret police that gets out of control. And, by the way, the media failed to critically investigate this event, choosing to serve as a loyal propaganda arm of the police and the government, whipping up public hysteria.

Dr. J. F. (John) Conway
Professor and Chair
Department of Sociology and Social Studies
University of Regina
Wascana Parkway
Regina, SK S4S 0A2