Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

edney dinner poster

Almost unnoticed amidst the hoopla and the protests associated with the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was a dinner held at the Grand Mosque Community Centre last Friday in honour of Edmonton-based human rights lawyer Dennis Edney, QC.

Sept. 19, 2014: Human rights advocate Dennis Edney, QC, speaking in Winnipeg on the case of Omar Khadr. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Sept. 19, 2014: Human rights advocate Dennis Edney, QC, speaking in Winnipeg on the case of Omar Khadr. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Edney is the recipient of the National Pro Bono Award (2008) and the Human Rights Medal (British Columbia, 2009). He was honoured in Winnipeg for his decade-long pro bono defence of Omar Khadr and presented with a sculpture created by local artist Margaret Glavina.

Omar Khadr is probably Canada’s best-known, least understood prisoner. In 2002, at the age of 15, he was severely wounded in an American assault on a compound in Afghanistan, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, tortured and coerced into confessing to “war crimes.” Following his conviction by a US military tribunal he was returned to Canada and is currently held at the federal Bowden Correctional Institution in Edmonton. While respected human rights advocates, such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have called for Khadr’s release, the federal government continues to resist demands that he be set free.

The Khadr case is controversial to say the least. In this video report, Dennis Edney recounts his experience defending Omar Khadr and discusses what this affair says about the state of human rights in Canada.

The dinner, the proceeds of which were donated to cover Omar Khadr’s legal defense costs, was sponsored by:

Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk Photo: Jake Wright, The Canadian Press

This interview with Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff says more about the psychopathology of militarism than I would have believed could be found in a daily newspaper. Read along with me and ask yourself what kind of madness are we allowing to develop in this country.

My thoughts are in the right hand column. I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Canada’s top soldier says troops ready and eager for new overseas missions

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Free Press, July 7, 2012

CALGARY – When it comes to future missions for the Canadian Forces, Canada’s top soldier has to battle to keep his eager troops satisfied with staying out of major combat zones for now.

Our military exists, or should exist, to defend this country from aggressors while occasionally helping Torontonians dig out of blizzards and Manitobans fight floods. However, it seems that rather than guardians of national sovereignty and security we have a pack of blood thirsty attack dogs on a leash, restrained only by the herculean efforts of Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk.

Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan will come to an end once the current training mission concludes in 2014 and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk acknowledges that’s a disappointment for many soldiers, sailors and air personnel.

If Natynczyk is correct in his assessment, we have allowed our military to become a haven for a large number of homicidal psychopaths. Is this what happens after a decade of war?

“We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they’re telling me is ‘Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?’” Natynczyk said in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press in Calgary.

These men and women need help. Failing that, they should never be allowed to own anything sharper than soup spoons.

“You also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where’s it going to be? They all want to serve.”

I like it when our troops are on hand to fight floods and forest fires. I’d prefer not paying taxes to help them make their bones overseas. If they are really that eager to kill people, our American cousins seem to have an insatiable appetite for cannon fodder.

But Natynczyk is unsure about what is in store for the Canadian Forces or even himself for that matter.

If you believe that, I have some prime muskeg, suitable for agriculture, that you won’t be able to resist.

He has been on the job for four years, which is past the normal tenure for someone in his position, and if he knows what is going to happen next, he isn’t providing any details.

“I’ll just keep on sprinting in this job until I’m told to get off the playing field and recognizing that I’m living in a pretty good time to be in the military,” he said.

Ah, so many people to kill, so little time!

“I never aspired to this job. I just serve. I serve Canadians and the country and look on every day as an opportunity to make a contribution.”

If you really want to serve, Walt, there’s a Starbuck’s near you that is always looking for talent.

Natynczyk said he is telling Canadian troops to keep their “kit packed up” because the world is an unpredictable place right now.

Iran? Syria? Northern BC, if the First Nations don’t allow Enbridge to build it’s Northern Gateway Pipeline?

“The world is turbulent right now and the fact is our allies want more of Canada, more of the men and women who wear Canadian uniforms,” he said.

Our allies want us to kill more brown people who have the misfortune to be in some proximity to undeveloped fossil fuels. We happen to be good at it, I guess.

“I’ve told them all to catch up on that training that lapsed while we had this high operational tempo between Afghanistan and the Olympics and Haiti and Libya, and let’s make sure we have all qualifications and training up to date so when we’re called upon we’re ready to go.”

We’re learning new ways to kill people every day.

The general said outside of Afghanistan, Canada has a number of other smaller missions underway including in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

Oh, and guess what! We’re opening up seven new military bases on foreign soil in Senegal, South Korea, Kenya, Singapore, Kuwait, Jamaica and Singapore.

Natynczyk said he is satisfied with the success of the Canadian mission to Afghanistan and pointed out that he flew into Kabul on a commercial airliner for the first time when he visited troops in the city last month.

Let’s see now . . . at great cost to ourselves and and a much greater cost to the Afghan people, we’ve helped a gang of drug lords maintain some control of a couple of urban centres which, when NATO leaves, will undoubtedly revert to Taliban control. The good news is, however, when the dust finally settles, commercial airlines will still fly into Kabul – just like they did before we invaded.

He said the departure of Canadian and U.S. troops will give the Afghan forces the little push that they need to succeed.

“It has helped the Afghans in a sense, taking ownership of their own security. One of the real challenges was the sense that NATO and our allies were going to stay there forever. (That) actually was not helpful in terms of their own culture and own atmosphere,” he said.

Natynczyk is a master of understatement.

Natynczyk is focusing much of his efforts now in making sure more attention is being paid to injured soldiers and their families, especially those suffering from the psychological effects of war.

Shattered bodies and broken minds are the inevitable outcomes of war. Why is Natynczyk so eager to get into another one?

“It’s almost easier to handle people with physical injuries, with physical wounds. People can see it. They can understand it, whether it be shrapnel, a broken leg, even these horrific amputations,” he said.

“It’s much more difficult in the mental injury, whether it be post traumatic stress, operational stress injury, traumatic brain injury because we’re just understanding the beginning of a process of understanding the complex nature of this.”

According to The Department of National Defence, 19 men and one woman died by suicide in the Canadian Forces in 2011, up from 12 in 2010. Since 1996, 187 soldiers have committed suicide. How many more suicides are we going to tolerate while the military is figuring out the “complex nature of this”?

Natynczyk said he talked about mental health on his last visit to Kabul, especially about overcoming the “stigma” of mental issues and making sure people come forward if they have a problem.

And how’s that workin’ for ya, Walt?

As the world marks ten years of war in Afghanistan, it is instructive to remember, as Michel Chossudovsky has observed, that the war started long before, in 1979, when the United States sponsored an insurgency against the Afghan government. Chossudovsky calls it “genocide”; I think he’s understating the situation.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter, known these days for good works such as Habitat for Humanity and defending Palestinian rights (oh the irony!!), on the advice of Zbigniew Brezinski, turned the CIA loose upon the Afghans, trained and bankrolled the Mujaheddin and drew the Russians into a bloody quagmire as it sought, unsuccessfully, to defend the progressive, pro-Soviet Afghan government.

The rest, as they say, is history.

As an antidote to main-stream media mythologizing, take 20 minutes to watch this excellent report by James Corbett at Global Research TV. Then curse the war criminals and mourn the lives needlessly sacrificed to satisfy imperial greed. Then organize.

Video: Afghans for Peace

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Afghanistan, Peace, War

afghans4peace | December 18, 2010

Afghans for Peace (AFP) is an alliance of Afghans from various ethnic, religious, socio-economic, cultural, and political backgrounds with a united vision for a democratic, all inclusive, just and peaceful Afghanistan. They demand an end to U.S. and NATO military operations within Afghanistan. More info:

Inspired by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Afghans For Peace this GLOBAL DAY of LISTENING will allow everyone to listen to the stories told by the Afghan People of what it is like to live now in Afghanistan.  Anyone interested in talking with those gathered in Kabul and Bamiyan may now request a time to speak during this Day of Listening.  You may listen at any time via conference call-in or Skype!  Reference the Details Page and request a time to speak through email.

The Purpose of the day-long teleconference is for LISTENING:

1. To the PEOPLE : to ordinary Afghans, to ordinary internationals, including others from war-torn countries, and to world public opinion.

2. To the PAIN (anger, grief, disappointment) of the people :

– the world public whose opinion is swinging against the Afghan War

– read the Open Letter to our World Leaders,

– and We Want You Out – you may sign the petition here.

– the pro-war people who have their concerns, with the understanding that most Afghans are now anti-war.

3. To The People’s Afghanistan December Review

The Afghan people know the expected military outcome of the Obama administration’s Afghanistan December Review.  Afghans want those willing to LISTEN to hear the Afghan People’s Review.



Go to the Playlist

Over the past 2 weeks, George Galloway spoke to packed halls from Halifax to Yellowknife. Winnipeg was no exception, with more than 400 people crowding into the Broadway Disciples United Church on Nov. 26 to hear Galloway’s passionate plea on behalf of Free Speech, Free Afghanistan and Free Palestine.

Galloway repeated his pledge to donate “every cent” of the compensation he expects to result from his defamation suit against the Canadian government to the Canadian anti-war movement. He also announced plans to launch a Canadian wing of Viva Palestina, in Calgary, next year. Viva Palestina is a registered UK charity that Galloway helped found that has raised millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.

Galloway is a frighteningly talented orator. It is easy to understand why Immigration Minister Jason Kenney would want to keep him out of the country. He spoke knowledgeably, passionately, with great warmth and biting wit, without notes for just over an hour. (My favourite example of his savage wit was a passing reference to Harper and Ignatieff as “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum . . .two cheeks of the same backside” — but I digress.)

Here are only a few of the highlights.

On Kenney’s attempt to keep Galloway out of Canada

“As any bookseller could have told Mr. Kenney, any book that you try to ban usually ends up on the best-seller list.”
“Though the offence against me was considerable, the offence against you was much, much more serious, because what it established and what Justice Mosley’s 60-page caning of Kenney — across a 60-page judgement — what was established was that you have a government of liars and deceivers who are planning to take your rights away.”
On racism, Antisemitism and Zionism
“It is unconscionable to exercise freedom of speech to whip up racial or religious hatred – to whip up hatred of people because of what they are – not for what they’ve done, not for what they believe in, but because of who and what they are. That’s called racism.”
“That somehow I might be a hater of Jews, or in other words, a racist, is as absurd as it is insulting and offensive.”
“We are against the racist, apartheid ideology of Zionism and its practise in the apartheid state of Israel.”
“When people campaigned to end communism in Russia it didn’t mean they wanted to end the people of Russia. It didn’t mean they wanted to eliminate the country of Russia.They were against a political ideology which they believed was wrong and harmful. And that’s the spirit in which we say we are against Zionism. We’re not against the Jewish peiople who live in the land they call Israel and we call Palestine. We’re against the idea that there can be an apartheid state created there where the non-Jews are second class citizens and where the state illegally occupies and controls every aspect of the lives of three million Palestinian people living under occupation in the West Bank, in Gaza and in East Jerusalem.”
On Afghanistan
“Has anyone in Canada ever asked the question how come the Afghan army needs quite so much training? For ten years they’ve been trained by the occupation armies that invaded and occupied Afghanistan . . . The cost of training Hamid Karzai’s puppet regime, paid for by western taxpayers including every one of you,  is $1 billion per month . . . with no noticeable improvement in their performance. Nobody’s training the Taliban and they’re doing quite well.”
“Nobody has every successfully occupied Afghanistan. Even Alexander the Great did not succeed in occupying Afghanistan and Stephen Harper is not Alexander the Great.”
“The Afghans are quite good at fighting. They don’t need much training. And they will never accept the foreign occupation of their country. Full stop.”
“We have to get out of Afghanistan, not just because we can’t afford it, not just because our own young men are being killed, but because we’re achieving the opposite of what needs to be done. We’re deepening that swamp [of bitterness], rather than draining that swamp.”
“Bush and Blair and Harper and, I dare say Kenney, are willing to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood and that’s just immoral.”
On Democracy
“I’m not a supporter of Hamas. It doesn’t matter how many times these raving bloggers in Canada or these raving ministers in Ottawa contend it, the judge has already opined on this point and his decision is final.  I’m not a supporter of Hamas but I am a supporter of democracy. And the only people entitled to choose the leadership of the Palestinian people are the Palestinian people themselves. This is surely ABC. I mean how else could it be?
“I don’t like Stephen Harper. I wouldn’t have voted for him. But I can’t pretend that he’s not the Prime Minister of Canada. I can’t appoint somebody else as the Prime Minister of Canada though the vision of Michael Ignatieff just flitted across my mind. Talk about Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Two cheeks of the same backside. I can’t appoint Ignatieff or Layton of anyone else as the leader of Canada. I have to accept the outcome of the elections in Canada.
“Well, as we say we’re fighting for democracy every time we go to war, the Palestinians had democracy. They had an election. It was the only, only, free, democratic election ever held in any Arab country, ever, in all history. It was described by Jimmy Carter, no less, as pristine. Pristine. Chrystal clear. Transparent. Perfect. We just didn’t like the result. So what did we do? We immediately imposed a siege to starve the children of the votes, to punish them for how their parents had voted.
“How democratic is that? That’s hypocrisy, not democracy. But that’s exactly what we did and that siege has now lasted for four long years.”

Today is the day the Canadian Peace Alliance has asked Canadians who oppose extending the stay of Canadian troops in Afghanistan to phone, fax, write, email their MPs, party leads, the PM, etc. If you haven’t, please get to it. More details at

Stuck for ideas? Just tell them how you feel. Here’s mine:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper <>

Gilles Duceppe <>

Michael Ignatieff <>

Jack Layton <>


I am one of the overwhelming majority of Canadians who are opposed to any continuation of our military involvement in Afghanistan. This includes providing military training of any kind.

I am deeply disturbed at the appalling waste of human life (Canadian, NATO, Afghans on all sides). I feel morally compromised that my tax dollars are helping to pay for this carnage.

In my view, Canada’s involvement was wrong from the beginning. Despite the tiny fig leaf of legality afforded by the UN after the invasion, the invasion was a “crime of aggression” under international law; the ongoing occupation is a crime against humanity, committed to further the imperial designs of the United States and multinational corporate interests who have reaped the huge benefits of multi-billion dollar war spending. History will not look kindly on the Liberal and Conservative Party leaders who have brought us to this point.

Make no mistake, continuing to support this war and the hideously corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai under the guise of “training” fools no one.

Mr. Harper: you lied to the people about ending Canada’s military participation in 2011 and you lied when you said any extension would be subject to a debate in  the House of Commons. You have developed a habit of hiding from Parliament when it suits your purpose and you will pay a huge price in the coming election.

Mr. Ignatieff: your complicity in defying the will of the Canadian people can only lead to the growing cynicism that Canadians feel when faced with politicians who will not listen to the people on important issues. It is astounding that you continue to squander opportunities to do the right thing and to lead Canada onto a principled, peaceful path. And you expect to become Prime Minister?

Mr. Duceppe: opposition to this war is stronger in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada. I hope you will act accordingly and oppose any further support for this madness.

Mr. Layton: I appreciate your opposition to the extension of this so-called “mission.” Remain strong and steadfast and be confident that the majority of Canadians support you when you call for the return of all Canadian troops. You may be the only national political leader who understands the need for peace, but, in this, you have millions of followers.

In summary, I insist that you bring ALL of our troops home from Afghanistan by July 2011, if not sooner.


Paul S. Graham
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Three months before Canada announced it would remain in Afghanistan to train troops, the Afghan National Army announced “it reached the benchmark strength of 134,000 soldiers two months ahead of schedule.”  (Big hat tip to Dr. Dawg and Prof. Amir Attaran) Another NATO document reports great strides in training and operational capability. With most, if not all of the heavy lifting in the training department accomplished, what will our Canadian troops have to do? It turns out, we’ve been buying Afghan real estate. Really expensive real estate.

According to the National Post, Foreign Affairs Canada has been on a real estate spending spree,with a “410% increase in its spending on real estate and capital works since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power.”

Afghan real estate has been a high priority. Last year, Foreign Affairs spent $24.5 million on real estate or renovations in Afghanistan; the year before, Afghan real estate cost us $23.6 million. According to the National Post,

“Much of the money is being spent on Canada’s chancery in Kabul. Public accounts reports show an estimated $18.5 million of the spending over the past two years is related to the chancery, including architectural work, construction-site development, mine clearing, a seismic upgrade and installation of an elevator. Another $14.3 million was spent on buying staff quarters and additional chancery spaces in Kabul. Canada paid Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs $11.7 million for land in Kabul. And $1.7 million went to Canada’s Defence Department to buy additional offices and accommodations in Kandahar in 2008-09.”
With investments like these, do you think they ever intend to leave?

This, just in, from the Canadian Peace Alliance . . .

On November 18, Call your MP and the Party Leaders and demand…. Don’t Extend It. End It.

The Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals are about to extend Canada’s war in Afghanistan. The Prime Minster says there is no need to debate the issue. Evidently he believes that keeping 1000 Canadian troops in Afghanistan, at a cost of $3 billion and against the will of 80 per cent of Canadians is an issue that needs no further discussion.

Stephen Harper is expected to announce the details of the extension of the Canadian deployment at the this week. He needs to hear from you!

Let the Prime Minister and the Party Leaders know that Canadians are against any extension of the war in Afghanistan and want the troops brought home now.

What can you do?

1- Join the virtual march on Ottawa this Thursday November 18. Phone, E-mail, fax and write your your MP and the Party leaders and call on them to end the war.

Step 1
Just cut and paste the following e-mails into the address line: ,,,

Step 2
Find the e-mail for your MP at:

Step 3
Send your e-mail. Please let us know about your efforts by cc’ing

Step 4
Call the party leaders and cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
Telephone: (613) 992-4211

Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon:
Telephone: (819) 441-2510

Gilles Duceppe:
Telephone: (613) 992-6779

Michael Ignatieff:
Telephone: (613) 995-9364

Jack Layton:
Telephone: (613) 995-7224

2- Organize emergency actions in your town. There are a number of groups planning emergency rallies and pickets. In Toronto there will be mass leafleting on November 20 at 1 pm at Dundas Square. In Ottawa there will be a picket at Stephen Harper’s office at 1 pm on the 20th. In many other cities, people are hitting the streets with Don’t Extend It. postcards and petitions.

3- Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Please keep in mind that letters to the editor should be less than 200 words and must be accompanied by your contact information.

Points to consider in your letters and calls:

– Civilian and military casualties are at record levels in Afghanistan. Even with 150,000 troops, the resistance has a heavy presence in most of the country. There is no indication that this will get better with the new extension. In fact, all indicators point to a deteriorating situation that is not being helped with more troops.

– Women’s rights are still being eroded by the NATO backed government and the majority of reconstruction funds disappear into the pockets of Afghan officials and western development agencies.

– The government that Canada supports in Afghanistan is a corrupt warlord led government that hangs onto power through fraudulent “elections”.

– The extension of the war is expected to cost Canadians at least $3 billion according to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

– The notion that Canada can stay in a non-combat role is not true. If our soldiers are training Afghan troops they will still be in harm’s way.

Our Prime Minister continues to promote the fiction that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington justified the illegal invasion of Afghanistan and that Canada’s participation in the occupation is about preventing terrorists from harming Canadians.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean says she is saddened that there is any debate at all over whether Canada should be helping the country’s less fortunate. (Memo to MJ:  Canada is still a democracy, eh. We do debate these things – war and such – from time to time!)

Canadian entertainer Bruce Cockburn was part of a group of entertainers who performed at a forward operating base in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009. After Cockburn sung If I Had a Rocket Launcher Gen. Jonathan Vance jokingly presented him with a rocket launcher of his own.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

And Bruce Cockburn, arguably one of Canada’s most talented and radical singer-songwriters, was presented (briefly) with a rocket launcher the other day following his performance for Canadian troops.

Of the three stories, the last one was the least expected and the most heart-breaking. For Cockburn, the humanitarian, to lend his name and talent to this occupation, was a huge disappointment. He’s always struck me as an intelligent, well-informed, no-bullshit kinda guy.

Contrast his joshing around with the Canadian general who loaned him the rocket launcher with the man who wrote “Call it Democracy.”

Call it Democracy

by Bruce Cockburn

Padded with power here they come
International loan sharks backed by the guns
Of market hungry military profiteers
Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
With the blood of the poor

Who rob life of its quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning countries into labour camps
Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament —
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called “developed” nations’
Idolatry of ideology

North South East West
Kill the best and buy the rest
It’s just spend a buck to make a buck
You don’t really give a flying fuck
About the people in misery

IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there’s one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

See the paid-off local bottom feeders
Passing themselves off as leaders
Kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
Open for business like a cheap bordello

And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy

See the loaded eyes of the children too
Trying to make the best of it the way kids do
One day you’re going to rise from your habitual feast
To find yourself staring down the throat of the beast
They call the revolution

IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there’s one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

Has Cockburn switched sides? Does he now practise the “idolatry of ideology” peddled by the Harpers and Jeans in our country whose actions and words make all Canadians complicit in murder?

Has he joined the “International loan sharks backed by the guns/ Of market hungry military profiteers/ Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared/ With the blood of the poor”?

Has he forgotten why he wrote “If I had a rocket launcher“? Did he appreciate the irony of performing it to part of an invading army whose airstrikes are precisely the kind of outrage that inspired his song?

If I had a rocket launcher

by Bruce Cockburn

Here comes the helicopter — second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they’ve murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher…I’d make somebody pay

I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate
I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher…I would retaliate

On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation — or some less humane fate
Cry for guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher…I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice — at least I’ve got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher…Some son of a bitch would die

Which side are you on, Bruce? What were you thinking?

In the meantime, let’s lighten up a bit with another guy’s 9/11 musings. Deek Jackson is not as polished, musically, as Bruce Cockburn, but you’ll want to sing along. (Warning: This video contains lots of vulgar language and gallows humour – which is part of its charm.)