Why The Canadian Right’s ‘Defence Lobby’ Wants Another War February 19, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, War.
Tags: afghnaistan war, Canada, canada government, canada military, canadian forces, defence lobby, f-35 fighter, Jack Granatstein, mali civil war, redeau iinstitute, roger hollander, steven harper, steven staples, war profiteers
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By Steven Staples
February 18, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – The generals have a big problem. The fighting in Afghanistan is over for Canada, and the thousands of recruits they armed, and the fleets of planes, helicopters and tanks they bought, have nowhere to go but home.
Since 9/11 the military budget has ballooned to its highest level since the Second World War, surpassing the height of the Cold War in adjusted dollars.
How much longer will Canadians be willing to keep picking up the military’s enormous tab with no war to fight or troops in harm’s way to support?
This might explain why celebrated war historian Jack Granatstein, a well-known supporter of the war in Afghanistan and military interests, used the pages of the Ottawa Citizen recently to berate what he described as “the pacifist left” for not supporting the Harper government’s military role in the war-torn West African country of Mali, the military’s newest mission.
Mr. Granatstein argued that “the Canadian Forces’ role has been a minor one.” The Harper government deployed one of our newest and largest transport planes to aid the French military fighting minority ethnic rebels and al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Mali. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper made clear that there will be no members of the CF in combat in Mali,” he added, and “Islamist terrorism is a threat to democracies everywhere.”
But it comes down to this: who can the public trust?
The fact is the public knows there is a group of people in Canada who benefit from war. It’s ugly, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Prime Minister Chrétien once referred to them as the “defence lobby”: the CEOs and their hired lobbyists, the associations of hawkish academics and retired military officers, even some members of the media. They all benefit when Canada goes to war, through either money, career advancement, or both.
In my 20 years as a defence analyst, I have come to know them well.
Many generals retire from the military to take up well-paid lobbying positions with large, mostly foreign, corporations seeking multi-billion-dollar contracts. Recently one such retired air force general was quoted by the Canadian Press, commenting on the need to replace Canada’s fighter planes. Sounds reasonable, but the reporter neglected to identify him as a registered lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-35 stealth fighter which was in line for the sole-sourced replacement contract.
It gets worse. Many reporters, including the one mentioned above, accept an annual journalism award and cash prize from the Conference of Defence Associations, a group of retired military officers whose funding has come from the Department of National Defence. Mr. Granatstein himself has received a similar award from the CDA. In an unusual twist, their half-million-dollar funding deal with National Defence was contingent on their spokespeople being quoted in the media a specified number of times.
Canadians are right to be wary. Conflicts have been used to justify military projects in the past. The Libya conflict was used by the government to justify their disastrous deal for the underperforming F-35 stealth fighter. The air force tried to use the Libya conflict to fast-track their plan to buy attack drones, the same kind the U.S. is using to carry out assassination missions and kill innocent civilians by the houseful.
Would another conflict like Mali, or the next crisis, provide the political momentum to the defence lobby to advance the military’s floundering weapons projects, and avoid the budget cuts that other departments are experiencing?
Sadly, Mali has many of the hallmarks of Afghanistan: a post–Cold War civil war where tribal and regional grievances are infused by Islamic extremists with their own agenda, both battling a corrupt and illegitimate Western-backed government whose own forces are marginally less abusive than those they are fighting.
Canada could either be engaged in helping the suffering people of Mali, or lured into another fiasco claiming soldiers’ lives, by those with a vested interest in another war. The stakes could not be higher.
Mr. Granatstein noted that both the NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae of the Liberals were supporting the government’s actions. “How fortunate that the Opposition parties had better sense in this instance than the Rideau Institute and Ceasefire.ca,” he wrote, naming two organizations I am intimately involved with.
If opposition parties are indeed supporting the Conservatives, then it seems to me that the “pacifist left” is needed now more than ever to inform the public about the choices this government is making, to end wasteful military spending, and to keep the defence lobby from luring Canada into another reckless war.
Steven Staples is the President of the Rideau Institute and co-founder of Ceasefire.ca, a network of 20,000 people who want Canada to be a peace leader.
This article was originally posted atRabble.ca
Tags: afghan police, Afghanistan War, Canada, canada military, canadian forces, detainees, geneva convention, richard colvin, roger hollander, torture, war crime
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Canadian Press, May 7, 2010
OTTAWA — A military board of inquiry says Afghan authorities regularly beat enemy prisoners “in the street and elsewhere” and most Canadian soldiers were well aware of the fact.
The probe into an incident involving a suspected Taliban fighter who was beaten in the street in front of Canadian troops says soldiers on the ground had ongoing concerns about the Afghan police.
The report says the “practice of corporal punishment being meted out on an apparent whim in the street and elsewhere was common and was observed and commented upon by most Canadian Forces members.”
The investigators say the suspected Taliban fighter who was beaten in June 2006 after he was turned over by the Canadians wasn’t deemed a detainee so the incident wasn’t reported to military brass.
The board found that while a detainee-reporting process was in place during the incident, it fell to soldiers and commanders to determine when someone was actually in Canadian custody.
In this case, the troops on the ground didn’t consider the suspected insurgent a Canadian detainee.
The probe made no recommendations because it found the military now has a clearly defined process of documenting and reporting detainees.
The investigation stems from an incident in which Canadian soldiers captured a suspected Taliban fighter and handed him over to local police.
The Afghan police then beat the man to the point where the Canadians had to intervene.
A report on the incident was apparently uncovered only in December, leaving egg on the face of the country’s top military commander.
Gen. Walt Natynczyk, chief of the defence staff, told the Commons defence committee that Canadian troops had questioned the suspected insurgent, but never detained him.
But Natynczyk corrected himself a day later, saying Canadian troops did indeed capture the man and gave him to Afghan police before taking him back into custody when they saw him being beaten.
Natynczyk then ordered an investigation to determine why the information did not get to him or Rick Hillier, the general who served before him.
Rear-Admiral Paul Maddison, commander of the navy’s East Coast operation, headed the board of inquiry.
Opposition parties say the episode shows the governing Conservatives had credible proof of torture and knew of the dangers of transferring prisoners as far back as 2006.
The Tories insist they had no solid evidence of Canadian-captured prisoners being abused by the Afghans before November 2007.
Diplomat Richard Colvin told a Commons committee last fall that Canadian officials were warned about possible torture in 2006, but took little or no action to halt the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities.
Colvin said all prisoners turned over by Canadian troops to the Afghans were probably then abused by their captors.
Knowingly transferring a prisoner into a situation where they may face a risk of torture is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime.
A Commons committee and the quasi-judicial Military Police Complaints Commission have been looking into the issue of alleged detainee abuse for months.
Canada’s Project Hero Highlights the Unsung April 8, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, Canada, Canada Conservatives, canadian forces, democracy, jasmin ramsey, john conway, militarism, project hero, rick hillier, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, university regina, war
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There has been a recent stir of controversy in Canadian media over a public letter signed by 15 Professors from the University of Regina opposing their university’s participation in a scholarship program reserved exclusively for the offspring of soldiers that died in war. 46 other colleges and universities from all over Canada are currently participating in the program. The professors’ stance make U of R the only university so far to express public criticism of the program, and the professors have accordingly come under hot fire from government representatives, Canadian veterans, and other individuals for opposing their university’s support of the program. They have yet to back down.
The signatories believe that:
… support for “Project Hero” represents a dangerous cultural turn. It associates “heroism” with the act of military intervention. It erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices. In signing on to “Project Hero”, the university is implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military- and state-elites as the “good war” of our epoch. We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics.
The professors also encourage public debate on their position and call for:
A public forum on the war in Afghanistan and Canadian imperialism more generally to be held this semester before exams begin.
Professor Garson Hunter, a former soldier, argues that the scholarship program (cofounded by former Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier who encouraged increased military funding upon leaving his position in 2005) uses the memory of fallen soldiers to “aggrandize military endeavours in Afghanistan” and “If they really want to help then they should provide help for soldiers affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Project Hero is part of the ongoing propaganda offensive from the militaristic, pro-war cabal led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the former chief of defence, retired general Rick Hillier. From the beginning, this propaganda offensive sought to silence criticism of the war by equating it with a failure to support our troops. Efforts to turn this into a heroic battle will fail. Many Canadians are ashamed of Canada’s role in this dirty, savage war which pits the random techno-barbarism of advanced warfare against a poorly armed insurgency. For this the blame lies with the government and our spineless Parliament, not our troops carrying out their orders.
We did not win our democracy, thanks to the military. The military was among the dominant forces from which Canadians had to wrest democracy. All too often the price exacted was paid in Canadian blood on Canadian soil.
Democracy is in danger when war is glorified, when the military has a big say in determining government policy, when dissent is met by threats and attacks, when history is rewritten, the role of the military in civil society is elevated, and we are called upon to worship thankfully at its feet.
Even though Canada has a small military and is not nearly as immersed in the culture of war worship as the US, the current Conservative government has implemented significant funding increases to the Canadian Forces with direct attempts to promote it to the population through the education system and the media. During the Bush Administration Harper made obvious moves to enhance relations with the US, increased military support for the US’s war on Afghanistan being one of them. While it was the Liberal Party of Canada that took the Canadian Forces into Afghanistan in 2001 (they also made the important decision not to participate in the war on Iraq), Canada’s military role (as opposed to its involvement in what is often characterized as humanitarian work) was most strengthened with initiatives brought forth by the Conservatives when Harper became Prime Minister in 2006. Since 2001 polls have indicated that a majority of Canadians have supported Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan (there have been some fluctuations) while favouring “nation-building” over military operations. Canadians have also remained committed to withdrawing sooner rather than later. No doubt aware of Canadians’ professed desire to leave Afghanistan, the Conservatives recently reiterated that they will end military operations in Afghanistan in 2011, even despite calls made by the US for Canada to stay.
Canadians have shown decreased involvement in the political process (the 2008 elections resulted in the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history) but as shown by the professors at U of R, dissent is alive and kicking in Canada. Even from a Prairie province where the Conservatives have historically enjoyed widespread support, people are speaking out against the increasing militarization of Canadian society, something which many view as harmful to Canadian culture as a whole. For members of the Canadian academic community to take such a stance in a province dominated by pro-militarism and amidst a political atmosphere of general support for Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan is no small matter. Indeed, these professors have proven that their concern for the youth they are employed to educate goes beyond their desire to advance their career goals or a need to remain silent to avoid criticism. They have been criticized for dishonoring their country with the position they have taken, but many Canadians would agree that they are in fact attempting to preserve the most honorable merits of Canadian culture. In the words of the social critic and feminist activist Barbara Ehrenreich:
No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
To express solidarity please send letters of support for the Regina 15, and against Project Hero and Canadian imperialism, to University of Regina President Vianne Timmons, Vianne.Timmons@uregina.ca and Vice-President Academic, Gary Boire, Gary.Boire@uregina.ca. Please copy firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jasmin Ramsey is a writer, journalist and coeditor of www.pulsemedia.org.
Tags: Afghanistan, Canada, canadian forces, canadian military, detainees, Iacobucci, International law, john ward, roger hollander, torture
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John Ward The Canadian Press
OTTAWA—Detainees handed over to Afghan authorities by Canadian soldiers still face a substantial risk of torture, a civil rights lawyer has told MPs.
Paul Champ, counsel for Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said Wednesday that he’s seen no evidence to suggest that torture in Afghan jails has ended.
“Our concern is that there still remains a risk of torture in Afghanistan with respect to detainees captured by Canadian forces and handed over to Afghan authorities,” he told a special Commons committee investigating the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.
“We have no reason to believe that the situation has improved in Afghan prisons. We have no evidence of that.”
He made similar comments before an informal meeting of the committee in December. But at that time, government MPs boycotted the hearings so they had no official status.
Champ said the focus of the detainee issue has become skewed in recent months around the idea that: “there were problems in Afghanistan in ‘06 with the detainees transfer system and that they were fixed in ‘07 and the focus has been, ‘Why did it take so long to fix the problem?””
But the problem hasn’t been fixed, he argued.
“… it’s our view and our position based on the evidence available that there still remains a serious and substantial risk of torture for detainees in Canadian Forces custody handed over to Afghan authorities.”
That despite agreements allowing unannounced prison inspections by Canadian officials.
Champ said Canadian diplomats have reported claims of torture from detainees and an Afghan rights group has heard similar accusations.
“I can’t see how the Canadian Forces can continue making transfers in a manner that respects international law.”
Amnesty and the B.C. group unsuccessfully sought a Federal Court injunction halting the Canadian transfer of detainees to Afghan prisons.
Champ was asked about the government’s decision to have former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci review secret government documents to see if they can be released to the MPs. He said that amounts to nothing more than a second opinion, which could take a year or more to complete.
Government lawyers spent two years vetting some documents in the case and Iacobucci might have to take the same amount of time.
“If that’s all he is doing, perhaps he could do it in less than two years.”