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Edging Toward Anarchy With Drones September 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: kudos to the Star for taking a stand, but in typical liberal fashion they weasel out at the end by calling for “guidelines.”  Guidelines for a weapon that kills civilians on a wholesale basis, that is used against potentially dozens of countries without their consent?  Good for the Star for using the word “anarchy,” for that is exactly what it is.  But the weapon and the single country that uses it and thereby commits blatant war crimes should be condemned, and drones should be banned outright.  Period.
And that is not to mentioned the fact that the use of drone missiles is one of al Qaeda’s primary recruiting boons.
Published on Saturday, September 24, 2011 by the Toronto Star

  Toronto Star Editorial

They are a lethal bolt out of the blue, and under U.S. President Barack Obama those bolts are coming with ever greater frequency.

Since 9/11, strikes by Predator and Reaper drone aircraft have killed as many as 2,000 Al Qaeda, Taliban and other militants in Pakistan alone, the New America Foundation reports. They have also left as many as 500 innocent civilians dead, fanning anti-American hostility and debate about the legitimacy of such tactics.

Remotely controlled by American military and spy operators, drones can fly hundreds of kilometres and circle targets for hours before firing light but lethal Hellfire missiles. Under Obama, Washington has stepped up their use because it’s a cheap, low-risk way of taking out enemies. And Pakistan isn’t the only theatre of operations. Drones have seen combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and increasingly in Somalia and Yemen.

Indeed the Washington Post reports that the U.S. is negotiating a whole new web of secret bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to strike at Al Qaeda offshoots in the region.

Yet, as the United Nations has warned, drone strikes are at the heart of a contentious, clandestine American policy of “targeted killings” — including that of Osama bin Laden earlier this year by U.S. special forces — that would lead to anarchy if other countries were to claim the same sweeping authority to target people anywhere, at any time. That worry is feeding demands for agreed-on rules of the road.

It’s a concern that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government should share, given Canada’s role in founding the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and in shaping the landmine ban. The world can use some creative diplomacy on this issue.

Some guidelines were suggested by Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in a report last year. Countries that resort to targeted killings should publicly justify their actions under international law. They should also explain how and why individual targets are selected, and why they must be killed rather than captured. They should explain what efforts they make to avoid civilian casualties. And the countries involved should disclose whether they consented, and why. When civilians are killed, that too should be made known.

Bottom line? Countries that invoke self-defence to legitimize targeted killings should not throw such a veil of secrecy over operations that they can’t be held accountable for the results.

© 2011 Toronto Star

Barack Obama: More ” Plus ça change… You Can Believe In” January 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, Barack Obama.
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Several weeks ago I coined the phrase “plus ça change… you can believe in.”  (http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/2008/12/14/plus-ca-change-we-can-believe-in/?)  It is an obvious take-off on the Obama slogan that twists the meaning 180 degrees via the classic French dictum, which translates to English more or less as “the more things change the more they stay the same.” (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose)

Today’s Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/news/uselection/article/572960) has published an article it had run nineteen years ago in 1990 on the occasion of Barack Obama’s election as the first ever elected president of the Harvard Law Review.  The article is eerily prescient; and it provides grounds both for those who believe he will bring meaningful change as well as for those, like me, who based upon both his words and actions, have lost most of what hope we may have had.

(Full disclosure: I voted for Obama but my heart was with Ralph Nader)

The article confirms that as early as nineteen years ago, Barack Obama had already clearly demonstrated his brilliant mind, a social conscience, formidable personal drive, and magnificent diplomatic skills.  In an uncanny way we see in this article almost a carbon copy of the Barack Obama that we have watched as a presidential candidate and now President-elect.Those of you pragmatists out there will thrill by the account of how he was able to relate positively to conservatives along with those of his more natural constituency to achieve his historic election as the Law Review president.  From your adulatory postings on the article’s Comment section, however, you must have either missed or ignored that paragraph that jumped out at me.

“‘He’s willing to talk to them (the conservatives) and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don’t have and don’t care to have,’ said Christine Lee, a second-year law student who is black. ‘His election was significant at the time, but now it’s meaningless because he’s becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment).'”  (my emphasis)

If this isn’t prescient, I don’t know what is.

In a recent article in politico.com (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17532.html) entitled “Obama Tries to Seduce Republicans” we read about not only Obama’s selection of the notorious Rick Warren for the inauguration invocation prayer, but also of  his dinner with right-of-center writers at George F. Will’s home and the transition team’s reaching out “to other prominent figures atop the Southern Baptist Church, Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministry and the Jewish Orthodox Union.”  We read of his cozying up to McCain and others in the Republican leadership, and he has been eulogized by everyone from Condoleezza Rice to Pat Robertson (from Robertson’s CNN interview with Larry King: “I must say, this is the most amazing campaign that I think we’ve seen in our life time or maybe in this century. Obama is absolutely brilliant. I would like to make a prediction. He can one of the great presidents of the United States if he doesn’t get pulled too far off of center and gets over into some of the things the American people don’t want. If he governs the way he said he is going to do, as I say, he has the smarts and the charisma to pull this nation together and be an outstanding president.” (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0811/05/lkl.01.html)

I have no problem “reaching out” to the neo-Fascists who control the Republican Party, but what had set him apart from the others in the campaign was his initial indication that he would “reach out” to the likes of Cuba’s Castro, Chávez in Venezuela and Iran’s Ahmadinejad.  That would take courage and show leadership, but unfortunately he has backpedalled on this commitment since he won the election. 

It is interesting yet most disturbing to note that right wing Republican presidents like Reagan and W. tend to be aggressive in promoting their agenda and thereby achieve results (which unfortunately are disastrous for most Americans), while Democrat compromisers like Clinton and Obama tend to be diplomatic and achieve little of their own agenda while advancing that of their opposition (in Clinton’s case, for example, welfare “reform,” free trade, reduced social spending, etc.).

I am still more than pleased that Obama won over McCain, that the United States elected its first Afro-American President, and I have confidence that the Obama presidency and the Democratic controlled Congress will undo some of the most horrendous crimes of the Bush Administration.  I believe that Obama will outlaw torture, eventually close Guantanamo, and make some necessary changes with respect to women’s health care, domestic spying, stem cell research and other important areas.  And it cannot be too soon for some of our existing Supreme Court Justices to move on to that even higher court up in the sky so that Obama will have the opportunity to make appointments to that will serve to detoxify the Court, which has become contaminated with the likes of Thomas, Alioto and Roberts.

But by his policy statements (slower troop reduction in Iraq; troop build-up in Afghanistan; at least tacit support of the Israeli massacre in Gaza; no immediate doing away with the tax cuts to the rich, etc.) and his appointments (Gates of Iran-Contra fame, Rahm the unabashed Israel apologist, Clinton the cheerleader for the Iraq Invasion; Lawrence Summers the wolf to guard the economic chicken coop), Obama has shown us what we can expect in the most critical areas: change that is pretty much the same thing.

 

Coalition Deserves a Chance December 3, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canadan Coalition.
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Toronto Star Editorial
Dec 02, 2008 04:30 AM

The Conservatives’ reaction was fast and furious to news that the opposition parties have signed off on a historic deal to kick them out of office and replace them with a coalition government.

His voice dripping with scorn, Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of playing “the biggest political game in Canadian history” and of relying on “socialists” (New Democrats) and “separatists” (Bloc Québécois) to vault himself into power. Harper’s ministers and MPs used language like “deal with the devil” and “secret cabal” to describe the arrangement.

The suggestion was that the coalition deal was illegitimate and undemocratic, a coup d’etat.

It is nothing of the sort. It is the way our parliamentary system works, especially in the immediate aftermath of the election of a minority Parliament. Furthermore, the Harper government created an opening for the opposition parties last week by tabling a provocative “economic statement” that failed to address the economic crisis but contained poison pills it must have known they could not swallow.

Harper and his government took some steps away from those toxic measures last weekend, but it was too late. The opposition had made up its collective mind that Harper could not be trusted.

With their demise perhaps less than a week away (a non-confidence vote is scheduled for next Monday evening), the Conservatives are arguing that a change of government at this moment would be “very destabilizing” for the economy. As if to underscore that point, the markets plunged yesterday (although most analysts attributed the bulk of the losses to bad economic news from the U.S.).

But consider the alternatives to a change in government: either there would be another election (which would leave the affairs of state suspended for the duration) or Harper would remain in office with the opposition ready to pounce and defeat his government at every opportunity. That is as unstable as it gets.

The coalition, meanwhile, has agreed to hold off elections until at least June 30, 2011 – 2 1/2 years from now. (The Bloc, which would not have a cabinet seat, has signed on until June 30, 2010.) That should provide the stability needed for the government to grapple with the economic challenges facing Canada.

And grapple they promise to do in their accord, which features an economic stimulus package that includes “substantial new investments” in infrastructure and housing, support for the forestry and auto sectors, and enhancements in Employment Insurance. All this should have been included in last week’s economic statement.

To be sure, there are questions to be answered about the coalition. Canadians will want to know whether there are any worrisome side deals with the Bloc. (Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said yesterday there is no agreement on “concrete” measures to enhance Quebec sovereignty.) And what about the coalition’s foreign policy, notably on Afghanistan, where the Liberals and New Democrats have differed sharply in the past?

Also problematic is the fact that, under the deal, Dion, the Liberals’ lame-duck leader, would serve as prime minister, at least until the new party leader is chosen next spring. In the Oct. 14 election, Canadians resoundingly rejected Dion, who finished a poor third behind both Harper and Layton as “best prime minister” in all the opinion polls. A wiser choice for interim prime minister might have been a Liberal stalwart like former finance minister Ralph Goodale.

It is also unclear whether the Liberal leadership candidates – Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc – would be given cabinet posts. Again, it would be wise to keep them out, as they are going to be busy campaigning for the next five months.

Issues like these could still derail the coalition before the crucial vote next Monday.

That being said, a coalition government of Liberals and New Democrats is preferable at this time to a Conservative regime led by Harper, who has demonstrated that ideology and partisanship are more important to him than providing good government.

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