It’s time to end the Korean War March 13, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, North/South Korea, War.
Tags: history, korea, korea armistice, korea ceasefire, korea history, korea nuclear, korea peace treaty, korea sanctions, korea truce, korean war, north korea, roger hollander, south korea, thomas walkom
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Roger’s note: it is refreshing to see a columnist in a mainstream publication give a relatively balanced analysis of the situation on the Korean peninsula. Unfortunately, I don’t expect we are likely to see this kind of reporting in the North Korea demonizing US media.
Forget sanctions against Pyongyang. Until a real peace treaty is signed with North Korea, nothing will be solved.
Hulton Archive / GETTY IMAGES file photo
The ceasefire of 1953 called for all foreign troops to be withdrawn from the Korean peninsula. The Chinese withdrew, as did the Canadians, British and most other UN forces. But the Americans, at the behest of the South Korean government, stayed.
There is a way to defuse the standoff with North Korea. It will not be easy. But short of going to war again in the Korean peninsula, it is probably the only solution.
That solution is to negotiate and sign a real peace treaty with Pyongyang.
The great secret of the Korean War is that it has never ended. An armistice was signed in 1953 to halt the fighting and let belligerents begin talks on a final peace treaty.
But those talks never occurred.
This history — of what happened and what did not happen in 1953 — is crucial for an understanding of North Korea’s almost pathological approach to the world.
It also helps to explain why North Korea announced Monday that it is, in effect, tearing up the armistice.
The ceasefire of 1953 was not a deal between North and South Korea. South Korean president Syngman Rhee refused to sign on.
Rather it was an arrangement signed by commanders of the main military forces at war in the peninsula — the Americans on behalf of the United Nations Command (which included Canadian troops) and the North Koreans on behalf of their own soldiers and so-called Chinese volunteers.
The armistice set the demarcation line between territory controlled by the North Koreans and territory controlled by the UN Command.
That dividing line was supposed to be temporary. The armistice called for negotiations to begin within three months on a comprehensive political settlement for the peninsula.
And it called for all foreign troops — UN and Chinese — to be eventually withdrawn.
The Chinese did withdraw, as did the Canadians, British and most other UN forces. But the Americans, at the behest of the South Korean government they had set up, stayed. They are still there.
In violation of the armistice, the U.S. arbitrarily set the maritime boundary between the two Koreas. Between 1958 and 1991, the U.S. armed its forces in South Korea with nuclear weapons, another violation.
So when Pyongyang says, as it did this week, that the terms of that armistice have been breached by the UN side, it is not entirely inaccurate.
To assign blame for the standoff on the Korean peninsula is a mug’s game. Most historians agree that the Northern troops did invade the South in 1950. But they also agree that both North and South had been conducting raids into one another’s territory during the months before.
During the war, both sides committed unspeakable atrocities. Both lost hundreds of thousands of civilians although, thanks to UN bombing raids, the North lost markedly more.
The North has been a dictatorship since its inception. The South, while a military dictatorship for most of the post-war period, embraced democracy in 1987.
The UN side may have broken the armistice by keeping U.S. troops in the South. But the North broke the ceasefire in even more outrageous ways — from its assassination forays to its 2010 shelling of South Korean civilians.
The real question now is what to do next.
Washington’s insistence that the North give up its nuclear weapons is almost certainly a non-starter. The North’s leaders saw what happened when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Ghadafi abandoned their nuclear programs. They are unlikely to make the same mistake.
Sanctions against the North haven’t worked. And even with China agreeing to enforce them, they are unlikely to work in the future. North Korea has proven itself both stubborn and resilient.
Only two choices are left: Reignite the war that never ended or make peace. War against a nuclear-armed North Korea is madness. Peace talks on the basis of the 1953 armistice would surely make more sense.
North Korea has long insisted it wants normal relations with the U.S. and others. Why not call Pyongyang’s bluff?
As a country that, in a roundabout way, was a party to the 1953 armistice, Canada is in a good position to make the case.
Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Tags: Bush Doctrine, Canada, canada government, foreign policy, security council, Stephen Harper, thomas walkom, United Nations
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(Roger’s note: This article describes Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s taking the Canadian government into the world of the Bush Doctrine. Unfortunately, this will be irreversible [at least in the short run]. The reason for this is that the only possible successor to the Harper government is a Liberal government led by Michael Ignatieff, who is no less hawkish or slavishly beholden to US foreign policy than is Harper. We have seen in the US, the transition for the Bush government to the fraudulent Obama has not changed its foreign policy one iota . An NDP government in Canada is perhaps the only possible means of altering the course of Canadian foreign policy, but that would take a minor miracle to happen.)
By Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist, Toronto Star, October 13, 2010
Free beer and maple syrup aren’t enough. By denying Canada a seat on the United Nations Security Council, the rest of the world has served notice that – in its view – this country’s foreign policy is bankrupt.
That’s not because the 192 other nations that make up the UN General Assembly particularly dislike Canada. They don’t.
But clearly, a vast majority prefer the Canada they thought they knew, a Canada that strove to defuse international tensions by focusing not just on who was right or wrong but on what was fair and reasonable.
In that sense, Tuesday’s vote was the world’s response to Prime Minister Stephen Harper – a great, big raspberry for the man who has attempted to introduce what he calls a new morality into the realm of Canadian foreign affairs.
The theory of this new morality was outlined by Harper in a 2003 magazine article.
Writing at a time when many thought George W. Bush’s Iraq War defensible, Harper excoriated Canada’s then-Liberal government for not taking part in that conflict – a reluctance that he said stemmed from the “moral relativism, moral neutrality and moral equivalency” of the left.
A truly conservative government, he pledged, would sweep away this “moral nihilism” and base its foreign policy on rock-ribbed values.
Once in office, Harper attempted to do just that. His stubborn defence of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen imprisoned in China, threatened trade relations with Beijing. But the prime minister held firm, vowing that Canada’s foreign policy would note be governed by “the almighty dollar.”
This repudiation of dollar diplomacy didn’t last long. Under business pressure, Harper soon moved to improve relations with China’s dictators. These days, the prime minister rarely mentions Celil’s name.
But the so-called new morality lived on in a different form, focusing less on abstract principles like human rights, and more on choosing sides.
In this view of the world, there are few grey areas. If Colombia’s government is fighting terrorists, then it is right – no matter how vicious its own death squads.
If Israel is fighting suicide bombers, then its actions – however dubious in terms of international law – are justified.
With Harper, Canada’s more measured approach to the Middle East came to an abrupt end. Under the new morality, Israel was right, period.
Harper lauded both its 2006 incursion into Lebanon and its later attack on Gaza. When a Canadian soldier on duty as a UN observer in Lebanon was targeted and killed by Israeli forces, the prime minister made little fuss.
In the new, Conservative moral universe, Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener was merely collateral damage in an apocalyptic battle between good and evil
Indeed, the Harper government’s new morality applied to the UN itself. To those looking for certainty in foreign affairs, the UN – an organization based on compromise – is by definition corrupt, a haven of moral relativists.
Last year, Harper showed his disdain for the world body by skipping out of a meeting of the UN General Assembly to attend a photo op at an Oakville doughnut shop.
This year Canada cut off its aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (which works in Hamas-controlled Gaza and is deemed suspect by Israel), channeling it instead to the anti-Hamas Palestinian Authority.
Belatedly, when he recognized the political embarrassment he could suffer from failing to win a security council seat, Harper switched his approach. He spoke of his respect for the world body. He lobbied the leaders of small countries.
In New York, Canadian diplomats reportedly tried to woo their counterparts with cases of free beer and maple syrup.
But it was too late. The world had seen enough of Canada’s new, I’m-right-you’re-wrong approach to foreign affairs. And it decided it preferred us the way we used to be.
Tags: afghan prisoners, Afghanistan, Canada, canada democracy, canada parliament, canada politics, canadian democracy, democracy, Iacobucci, Michael Ignatieff, parliament, rendition, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, thomas walkom, torture
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(Roger’s note: twice in the recent past Canadian Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has shut down the nation’s Parliament. On both occasions, he achieved this quintessential anti-democratic prerogative with the complicity of the Governor General. The latter is an anachronistic throwback to the days of royalty, supposedly a figure-head representing the British (!) monarchy, but with the power to shut down the nation’s very political process. In the first instance, Harper had been faced with a coalition made up of a parliamentary majority that was about to replace his minority government. Rather than go quietly, he silenced his opponents by gagging the Parliament. In the current situation, the Conservative government faces charges of being complicit with torture in Afghanistan. Again, rather than face the music, Harper put the lid on Parliament, and it remains to see if he will get away with it again.)
By Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist
www.thestar.com, March 10, 2010
Politically, Ottawa’s decision to hand off the Afghan prisoner scandal to retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci serves both Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals.
Constitutionally, however, it is a disaster. It flies in the face of the bedrock Canadian principle that cabinet is responsible to Parliament and that a government – any government – must accede to the wishes of a majority of elected MPs.
Instead, it brings to the mix a peculiarly American notion, one that sees the executive and legislature as co-equals which, when they are deadlocked, must appeal to a judicial referee.
In this case, the referee is a former judge who – in the end – will merely make recommendations to government in a bitter dispute over Harper’s refusal to give MPs documents that they have demanded.
But first, the politics.
For Harper, the advantages of the Iacobucci gambit are obvious. Politically, the imbroglio over Afghan prisoners has turned into a disaster for his Conservatives.
Ottawa’s insistence that nothing untoward happened to Canadian-captured prisoners after they were handed over to Afghan authorities has been countered by its own diplomats and by the Red Cross.
Even Canada’s top military brass is now trying to distance itself from the government’s blanket denials.
Over the weekend, The Canadian Press reported that, in some cases, agents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service recommended which prisoners should be handed over to the Afghans for possible torture.
In short, Canadian involvement in the mistreatment of Afghan prisoners may have been more deliberate than previously thought.
The government has tried everything to prevent any of this from coming to light. It stonewalled a quasi-judicial inquiry, publicly slagged one of its own diplomats, refused Commons demands to hand over documents to a parliamentary committee, accused critics of treason and finally suspended Parliament itself.
Last Friday, with the issue still refusing to die, it played the Iacobucci card – presumably under the hope that by the time the former judge reports the Afghan torture issue will have finally gone away.
For the Liberals, too, Iacobucci’s appointment provides a respite. Scarborough Liberal MP Derek Lee had planned to bring the confrontation between government and Commons to a head Friday through a procedural manoeuvre that would have formally declared Harper in contempt of Parliament.
But this could have precipitated an immediate election, which low-in-the-polls Ignatieff is desperate to avoid.
Friday’s Iacobucci announcement gave Lee the opportunity to back out gracefully and saved the Liberals from forcing an election they are too fearful to fight.
(For Ignatieff, this may a short-lived victory. Buoyed by an improving economy and backed by a feel-good budget, Harper could still call an early election.)
However, for Canadian democracy, all of this is terrible news. Here, there are few checks on the power of government. But the main one is that, within the broad confines of the Constitution, cabinet must do what elected MPs want.
If a majority of MPs want a bill passed, that bill becomes law. If, as in the Afghan prisoner case, a majority of MPs want to see government documents, these documents must be produced. In a parliamentary democracy, there is little executive privilege because the executive, in effect, serves at the pleasure of the Commons.
As for Iacobucci, he’s no patsy. But that’s not the point.
The point is that there is no room for a judge, retired or otherwise, in this fight. A firm majority of elected MPs, representing a solid majority of Canadians have demanded documents. Constitutionally, the government has no choice but to produce them.
Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday and Saturday.
Walkom: Omar Khadr heading for a kangaroo court November 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, canada justice, canada politics, canadian justice, child soldier, civil liberties, eric holder, Guantanamo, kangaroo court, military commissions, Omar Khadr, roger hollander, shiekh mohammed, thomas walkom, torture, u.s. justice
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Let me get this straight. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, gets a fair trial with all the constitutional trimmings. But Omar Khadr, the Canadian child-soldier accused of killing an American sergeant during battle, will still be tried before a kangaroo court. Incidentally, the kangaroo court label isn’t mine. That’s how U.S. military lawyers describe the commission that is supposed to try the 23-year-old Toronto man. As Lt.-Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a former military commission prosecutor, wrote last month in a letter to the Washington Post, these bodies were designed “to secure convictions where prisoner mistreatment … would otherwise preclude them.” True, President Barack Obama has eliminated some of their worst elements. Under amendments passed into law last month, the military commission that tries Khadr will no longer be able to use information gained under torture. So that’s something. But as the American Civil Liberties Union has pointed out, the law still permits evidence obtained through both hearsay and coercion, as long as this coercion does not involve “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” Neither hearsay nor coercion will be permissible in the civilian trial of alleged mass murderer Mohammed. Neither is permissible in a military court martial. But both may be allowed in the trial of Khadr, who at the age of 15 was sent off by his father to aid pro-Taliban forces resisting the American-led invasion of Afghanistan. Why the difference? U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder insists he merely wants to differentiate between those accused of attacking civilians and those charged with crimes against the military. He says that’s why Mohammed, accused of bringing down the twin towers, will be tried by a civilian court in Manhattan. And he says that’s why Khadr and four others charged with attacking U.S. soldiers will be tried by military commissions. This is the excuse. The real reason, I suspect, is that Washington knows that 9/11 ringleaders like Mohammed will be happy to publicly acknowledge their crimes, thus making their convictions a near certainty. But Khadr is not angling for martyrdom. And in a real court of law, the case against him would almost certainly fail. First there is his age. Fifteen at the time of his capture, he would be considered a child soldier under United Nations conventions (military commissions are specifically entitled to disregard this). Second, as my colleague Michelle Shephard writes in her book, Guantanamo’s Child, Khadr – seriously wounded in the Afghan firefight – was in such bad shape during questioning that even his U.S. interrogator feared he might die. In civilian court, statements obtained under such circumstances would be dismissed as coerced. Lurking behind all of this is the Canadian government’s obdurate refusal, in Parliament and the courts, to request his repatriation. It’s not clear that the U.S. would agree to such a request if one were made. Holder was deliberately opaque when asked yesterday, saying only “we will, as that case proceeds, see how it should be ultimately treated.” What we do know, however, is that after seven years in custody in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, this particular Canadian citizen is heading for a low-level show trial. Shame on Obama for keeping the military commission farce alive. Shame on Canada for failing to object. Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday and Saturday.
The Crisis: A Canadian’s Perspective October 29, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
Tags: Banking Crisis, Black Friday, Black Monday, economci crisis, economic crisis Canada, economic crisis McCain, economic crisis Obama, great depression, labor, New Deal, regulatory banking, roger hollander, self-regulating markets, stock market crash 1929, thomas walkom, unemployment, wages work, Wall Street
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Nineteen twenty-nine is the year no one wants to mention. We compare what is going on now in world stock markets to 1987′s so-called “Black Monday,” or perhaps to the Asian crisis of the late ’90s.
We desperately don’t want to draw comparisons to the granddaddy of them all, the stock market collapse that occurred 79 years ago this month. The implications are too grave.
The crash of ’29 wasn’t just a stock market bust. It was the trigger for 16 years of misery. In North America, it led to mass unemployment. In Europe and Asia, the depression it sparked laid the foundation for world war.
The lives of an entire generation were scarred.
Yet there are real points of comparison between the events of 1929 and those roiling world markets today. The two are not identical. Indeed, optimists can take heart at the fact that stock declines to date have not yet matched those of the 1930s depression.
Still, there are eerie and unsettling similarities.
Then, as now, the world economy was beset by fundamental imbalances. In the ’20s, the world’s premier imperial power, Britain, was politically strong but economically hobbled. Today, the U.S. plays the role of the weakened imperial lion.
Militarily, America remains ferocious. But in economic terms, it suffers from a multiplicity of weaknesses – a trade deficit that has sent middle-class jobs abroad; a fiscal deficit that relies for financing on the good will and confidence of foreigners; a savings deficit that has encouraged ordinary citizens to borrow beyond their means.
In 1929, like today, the self-regulating markets that were supposed to keep the economy in equilibrium only accentuated the crisis. Then too credit markets froze and commodity prices tanked. In 1929, prices of commodities such as wheat and minerals were already low (a singular difference from today). But as Charles Kindleberger writes in his masterful history of the period, The World in Depression: 1929-1939, the crash of ’29 accentuated this trend, driving down, among other things, the value of the Canadian dollar.
Then, as now, attention focused on the markets. Politicians railed against the greed of speculators and vowed tough new regulations.
But then too, there was too little heed paid to the real economy of wages and work. Political leaders, while acknowledging that the crisis was forcing government finances into deficit, kept trying to balance the fiscal books, thereby making matters worse.
No leader, including then U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt, was immune. Indeed, most historians reckon that it was not Roosevelt’s flawed New Deal recipe of public works that pulled America from depression but World War II.
“Often, no one in authority had any positive idea of what to do and responded to the disaster in … policy clichés,” writes Kindleberger.
And so it seems today. In the U.S., both presidential candidates propose populist non-solutions: Barack Obama wants to save the middle class in some unspecified way; John McCain promises to get tough with greed.
In Canada, the federal government focuses on the country’s financial sector rather than the economy at large, arguing on the one hand that the banks are strong and on the other that they need massive government aid.
Internationally, there are meetings. The great economic powers – Europe, Japan, China and the U.S. – are not yet at odds with one another. Yet neither are they pulling together to mitigate the recessionary forces now careering around the globe.
That too is eerily familiar.