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The Militarization of Canada: Chrystia Freeland’s Budgetary Coup June 13, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Canada, Imperialism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals formed a majority government with less than 40 percent of the vote, more or less the same as the previous ultra-right Tory government of Stephen Harper.  He already has reneged on his commitment to re-structure elections in some form of proportional representation.  Now he comes forth with a military budget in response to Trump’s bullying that looks a lot like something Harper would have done.  Regardless of its image as a peacemaker nation, the military industrial complex is alive and well in Canada.

 2017-05-26

The arrogance of power could scarcely be more dramatically demonstrated than by the tag team of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announcing that Canada was going to cave in to Donald Trump’s demand that we spend two percent of GDP on defence. We will be increasing military spending by 70 percent over ten years – an obscenity when so many social needs go unmet.

Not only does this make a mockery of Trudeau’s election pledge to return to Canada’s historic peace-keeping role but surrenders to the absurd one-size-fits-all NATO imperative. Nothing has changed internationally to justify such an increase. There are no existential threats to Canada on any horizon. As Trudeau said in March, Canada more than pulls its weight in NATO: we are the sixth-highest spender in NATO and 16th in the world.

It seems clear that it Chrystia Freeland is driving this militarization of Canada’s foreign policy. Her contradiction-filled foreign policy speech in the House of Commons last week – suggesting that Canada is going to somehow fill the vacuum left by an allegedly isolationist US – just confirms what I suggested a few months back. In the Trudeau government the tail is wagging the dog. Justin Trudeau is so lazy intellectually, so devoid of any personal vision of the country that anyone in his cabinet willing to forcefully pursue a personal agenda gets their way. And Freeland is if nothing if not forceful when it comes to one issue: her obsession with so-called Russian “adventurism.”

In her statement Freeland declared: “The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.” Really? Just how do we do that by caving into Trump’s demand that all NATO members pony up? In fact the increase in spending – $14 billion over 10 years; 62 billion over 20 –  represents a clear loss of sovereignty, abandoning our sovereign right to make decisions in our national interest to please a rogue US president.

Exactly what kind of global leadership does Freeland think we are now missing? Given that she spoke almost exclusively about defence spending presumably she thinks that a less military-interventionist Trump requires more intervention from Canada. But intervention where, exactly? Our last enthusiastic intervention – celebrated by our last Prime Minister – was in Libya. That “humanitarian” project resulted not only in a failed state but in the creation and arming of ISIS, the flood of desperate refugees to Europe and indirectly the terror attacks Freeland rightly describes as “monstrous.”

US “leadership” is known by another name in scores of countries around the globe: US imperialism. In fact in the last decade that term has gained widespread acceptance by the US political elite where it used to be righteously denied. Does Freeland believe that the illegal war on Iraq is an example of US leadership? Would she, unlike Jean Chretien, have joined in? What about the slaughter in Yemen? Going back a bit further, would Freeland see the literally dozens of US interventions to overthrow democratic governments and install dictators the epitome of US leadership?

The notion that anything Trump says can be taken as rock-solid American foreign or defence policy is laughable. The man is willfully ignorant of anything outside his New York penthouse and incapable of formulating let alone implementing a coherent policy. While he twitter-rants, real decisions are made by others. The US has not announced the closing of any of its 800 military installations around the world. Trump is going to go along with the military’s request for 1,000s of more troops for Afghanistan. And what kind of isolationist president increases military spending – already at $600 billion – by $54 billion?

The increase in military spending announced Wednesday will turn the Defence Department into an unabashed War Department with Harjit Sajjan playing second fiddle to the militant Freeland. Just what existential threats does Canada face? The terrorist threat is handled by our intelligence agencies and police. Russia and the US are the only two countries in close proximity and whether we have 65 jet fighters (Stephen Harper’s plan) or 88 (Freeland’s plan) will make absolutely not one iota of difference. With respect to the Arctic, where there are conflicting interests, it is obvious to all parties that negotiation is the only possible strategy.

But, of course, it’s not about defence. It’s about war. If we look at the planned spending it seems clear that we are gearing up for more Western adventurism, using NATO to prop up a failing finance capitalism by military threats. Freeland stated: “Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes requires the backing of hard power.” She has a duty to explain exactly what that means in the areas she listed as the focus of hard power: North Korea, the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State, Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Baltic states.   Freeland’s stated goal of “peace and stability” will not benefit in any way from an additional $14 billion in war materiel.

It’s hard to say which is the most outrageous aspect of this budgetary coup by the foreign affairs and defence bureaucracies. The transparent rationalization for the spending is simply shocking. Equally disturbing is the complete lack of a mandate for such an increase: it was never mentioned in the election and erases the Liberal election commitment to peace-keeping, it doubles down on Harper’s aggressive foreign policy, and was done with no consultation with Canadians.

There will be blowback to this military build-up. Young people played a major role in electing Sunny Ways Trudeau, and they have the political clout and passion to put him on notice that this is a deal-breaker. Let’s hope they use it.

MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years.  He can be reached at murraydobbin@shaw.ca

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The Berlin Wall: Another Cold War Myth October 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Germany, History.
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Roger’s note: I cannot vouch for the historical credibility of this, but it rings true for me.  The East German Communist government was a brutal dictatorship and its secret police, the Stasi, was known for its ruthlessness.  Nevertheless, from the mainstream media and North American academic world we get a highly propagandized narrative about the Berlin Wall, and there is always another side to the story.  William Blum present one here.  I think this is relevant now because we are experiencing the same phenomenon with the rise of Isis/Isil in Iraq and Syria, that is, a narrative that is virtually ahistorical and free of the U.S. provocations that in fact created and armed Isis/Isil.  

I came across the following this morning in an article by Murray Dobbin analyzing the attack yesterday in Ottawa:

We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A monstrous and catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski one of the key architects of the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the US armed, financed and trained the then-handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in CounterPunch in 1998   Brzezinski revealed his limited imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

The answer is in.

 

OCTOBER 22, 2014

A Response to Economic Sabotage

by WILLIAM BLUM

 

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November 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The extravagant hoopla began months ago in Berlin. In the United States we can expect all the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny to be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom. Why? Because commies don’t like people to be free, to learn the “truth”. What other reason could there have been?

First of all, before the wall went up in 1961 thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returning to the East in the evening; many others went back and forth for shopping or other reasons. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. Why then was the wall built? There were two major reasons:

1) The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: “West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.”

It should be noted that in 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled [1989], East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.”   Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners [in Berlin] say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.”

It was in the post-unification period that a new Russian and eastern Europe proverb was born: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.”

It should be further noted that the division of Germany into two states in 1949 – setting the stage for 40 years of Cold War hostility – was an American decision, not a Soviet one.

2) During the 1950s, American cold-warriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country’s economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from juvenile delinquency to terrorism; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad.

It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions … all this and much more.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, of Washington, DC, conservative coldwarriors, in one of their Cold War International History Project Working Papers (#58, p.9) states: “The open border in Berlin exposed the GDR [East Germany] to massive espionage and subversion and, as the two documents in the appendices show, its closure gave the Communist state greater security.”

Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets’ erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West, leading eventually to the infamous wall. However, even after the wall was built there was regular, albeit limited, legal emigration from east to west. In 1984, for example, East Germany allowed 40,000 people to leave. In 1985, East German newspapers claimed that more than 20,000 former citizens who had settled in the West wanted to return home after becoming disillusioned with the capitalist system. The West German government said that 14,300 East Germans had gone back over the previous 10 years.

Let’s also not forget that while East Germany completely denazified, in West Germany for more than a decade after the war, the highest government positions in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches contained numerous former and “former” Nazis.

Finally, it must be remembered, that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever, and that the Russians in World War I and II, lost about 40 million people because the West had used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviet Union was determined to close down the highway.

For an additional and very interesting view of the Berlin Wall anniversary, see the article “Humpty Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin’s Wall” by Victor Grossman. Grossman (née Steve Wechsler) fled the US Army in Germany under pressure from McCarthy-era threats and became a journalist and author during his years in the (East) German Democratic Republic. He still lives in Berlin and mails out his “Berlin Bulletin” on German developments on an irregular basis. You can subscribe to it at wechsler_grossman@yahoo.de. His autobiography: “Crossing the River: a Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War and Life in East Germany” was published by University of Massachusetts Press. He claims to be the only person in the world with diplomas from both Harvard University and Karl Marx University in Leipzig.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

Afghan Politics: Let’s Be Real April 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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karzaiAfghanistan president Karzai: ‘blowback’ puppet?

How US promoted corruption while locking out true democracy.

By Murray Dobbin
Published: April 22, 2009

TheTyee.ca

The outpouring of Western anger and shock earlier this month over a new Afghan law that legalizes marital rape and confines women to their homes demonstrates how out of touch Western countries are with the monster they have created in that benighted country.

Of course Hamid Karzai would support such a law. He wants to be re-elected president in August and to do so he must support his base: Islamic fundamentalists. Both sides of the conflict are fundamentalist Islamic. There is nothing else.

Indeed, while outrage caused Karzai to say he’d withdraw the law, many doubt he’ll follow through.

Virtually everything that now plagues Afghanistan is “blowback” — the CIA term for unintended consequences of previous policies — from the U.S.-sponsored war against the Soviets in the 1990s. So far, there’s no sign the Obama administration, or Stephen Harper’s, gets that. Just yesterday, U.S. Central Command leader Gen. David Petraeus warned of “tough months ahead” as the U.S. ramps up its fight in Afghanistan, explaining (as if bad luck out of the blue) that the resurging Taliban insurgency is fueled by profits from the global illegal narcotics trade.

The supposed bulwark against them? A Karzai government that is corrupt because it could not possibly have been anything else. Karzai, after all, was handpicked by the U.S. to give a democratic sheen to their occupation, then assisted in his effort to get elected president. But now that the U.S. has given up completely on creating a Western-style democracy, Karzai has become the problem, not the solution. It’s hard to get a reliable puppet these days. Once you put one in place, he wants to stay.

The hell that ideology built

The neo-con geniuses behind the invasion of Afghanistan were strong on ideology but utterly ignorant when it came to history and Afghan political culture. They really thought it would be easy and that’s why Karzai seemed a good bet. A former consultant for U.S. oil giant Unocal, Karzai was part of the late 1990s negotiations between the Taliban and Unocal for a gas pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. The U.S. was negotiating with the Taliban until four months before 9-11. They thought a quick victory would put the pipeline back on the agenda.

Karzai, however, had literally no political base amongst the competing tribes in the country. And it is the tribes that fill the “civil society” vacuum in Afghanistan. His support was American money and military force, and Afghan opium producers. Now that the Americans want him out, political support comes almost exclusively from the warlords and opium producers.

But the root of corruption in Afghanistan is not Hamid Karzai. It is the determination of the U.S. to ensure that no future elected government will take democratic governance seriously. While fighting their so-called ”war on terror” and its Islamic fundamentalist ideology, the Americans are even more determined to stop the establishment of a government that would stand for the national interests of the country. That sort of government was entrenched in the articles of the secular constitution established in 1964.

But the U.S. changed that constitution soon after the invasion, and it now states that Islam is supreme: no laws can violate “the sacred religion of Islam.” The new Political Parties Law also states that parties cannot pursue policies that are “contrary to Islam,” which meant that many secular parties were effectively excluded from the 2005 parliamentary elections.

The results were predictable: 133 of the 249 members elected to the House of the People had fought in the vicious internecine Mujahideen war which virtually destroyed Kabul, and fostered the creation of the Taliban. According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, “eighty per cent of winning candidates in the provinces and more than 60 per cent in… Kabul have links to armed groups.”

Anti-communist jihad

Of course it is also the case that the U.S. sponsored Mujahideen war against the Soviets eliminated thousands of former communist government officials. Communist they may have been but they were also secularists and established a functioning national government with actual social programs, education budgets, human rights (including women’s rights) and health care, as well as a professional army. Many of the secular figures involved ended up dead in the cold war fury unleashed by the U.S. through its proxy fanatics. Civil society was effectively destroyed. Any state that followed would, by definition, be radical Islamic.

Given the results of the 2005 election, the absence of any significant secular culture to draw on, and the need for some semblance of security, Karzai ended up appointing some of the most murderous warlords in the country to senior government posts. One of them was the delightfully named “Butcher of the North,” Abdul Rashid Dostum, appointed to the post of army chief of staff. To call this a government at all is misleading.

Daan Everts, the former NATO special representative in Afghanistan, believes that the U.S. consciously sabotaged genuinely democratic government. The result, says Everts, “has been an extremely chaotic parliament. There are 248 talking heads with very little discipline and little organized deliberations that are meant to produce legislation which the country so badly needs. We deliberately did this.”

When you set up government to fail, you get corruption because government is then seen as simply a way of accumulating personal wealth and power. The notion that 21,000 more U.S. troops, backed by social workers, community developers and police trainers, are going to change things is delusional. Corruption and Islamic authoritarianism are now effectively enshrined in the constitution and the culture, courtesy of U.S. foreign policy.