Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rick Hillier and Stephen Harper Have Some 'Splainin' to Do!

Stephen Harper may have put the brakes on the Afghan Detainee issue when he prorogued Parliament, but with the House set to resume next week, the issue will definitely be back in the news.

And despite the fact that he has been working behind the scenes to stall the process, I don't think even he can simply make this go away.

Nor should he be able to. Canada's honour is at stake here, and if we don't start taking this seriously, the International Courts, who have already opened a file, will step in; and no amount of gold medal victories at the Olympics, will erase our shame.

This is what will define the mission, and our troops will wear this.

In his column yesterday, James Travers reminds us that Rick Hillier has some explaining to do.

As chief of defence staff, Rick Hillier was a hero to the troops and an irrepressible force Liberals and then Conservatives struggled to contain. Now in his second retirement year, Hillier still casts a long shadow over a military worried about its future and a federal government desperate to control Afghan prisoner-abuse damage.

For better and worse, Hillier remains synonymous with the Armed Forces. On his watch, it regained lost stature as a national icon and became a fountainhead of public pride. On his watch, it also slipped into a controversy so politically threatening that the Prime Minister suspended Parliament rather than answer questions or release documents.

I've been going over some of my old postings and putting things together to try to make some sense of this. As a person who was against getting into this war, I was lulled into a sense of complacency by both Rick Hillier and the PR campaign that sold it as a noble mission.

But looking back now, I believe I was duped, as many people were. The warning signs were there all along and I chose to ignore them. I never trusted Stephen Harper's military fervour, especially since he fought against defense spending when he was in opposition; but thought Hillier was a stand up guy. Now, not so much.

"Our Job is to Kill People"

When Rick Hillier showed up on Parliament Hill to convince then prime minister Paul Martin to intensify our involvement in Afghanistan; he was armed with maps, charts and an excitement that was infectious.

According to Billy Schiller in the Toronto Star, Hillier used this March 21, 2005 meeting with then prime minister Martin and his 12-person inner circle, to convince his government to send "a battle group of at least 1,000 soldiers" to the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. He saw it as a way to improve Canada's armed forces and their reputation worldwide.

Hillier had been trained at Fort Hood, under Lt. General Thomas Metz, and had no patience for anyone not ready to climb on board. He stated that the military was not the public service. "Our job is to kill people."

And when Jack Layton called his remarks "disconcerting", he was accused of trying to "bestow the most ennobled status on the Taliban---that of victim".

From that time on, everything changed. We were no longer on a mission ... we were at war!

Mind you Paul Martin was adamant that all of our resources not go into this, and that we maintain enough Peacekeepers for other duties. But when Stephen Harper took over, he aligned himself with George Bush, and those silly notions were thrown out the window.

Demonizing the Enemy

A group that supports the criticism of Israeli aggression, being deemed antisemitism, used a 3-D approach in defining the Palestinian position : Delegitimize, Double Standard and Demonize.

On July 15, 2005; just three months after his meeting with Paul Martin, Rick Hillier was quoted by CBC, in an article entitled Helping Afghanistan will protect Canada, says top soldier:
"It doesn't matter whether we are in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. They want to break our society. I actually believe that," he said.

If Canada is attacked, he says, it will be only because it is a free country. "They detest our freedoms. They detest our society. They detest our liberties," he said.

By sending troops to Afghanistan, Canada is actually protecting itself, at least in the long run .... In time, Hillier said, Afghanistan will develop into a fully functioning country that's not a haven for people like al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the man believed to be responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.

He would also refer to the Taliban as "detestable murderers and scumbags."

It's certainly not a new concept during war time to demonize an enemy, so you can convince yourself that their deaths are justifiable, but "They detest our freedoms. They detest our society. They detest our liberties," where have we heard that before? Fort Hood Texas trained him well.


They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes one word in a thousand can paint a very vivid picture.

When General Metz, (who was the commander of Fort Hood when Hillier took his training there), spoke to an audience of senior Canadian military officers, soldiers, defence analysts and lobbyists; on a Saturday morning in Toronto, he laid it all out.
The general notes that there are almost a billion people in the Islamic world, and that if only one per cent of them are radical, "that's ten million radicals." He then shows a chart depicting the military challenges America faces, measured in terms of level of danger and level of likelihood. At the very apex—the most dangerous and the most likely—sits just one: radical Islamic terrorism. "Radical Islam wants to reestablish the Caliphate," says Metz. "Just as Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, you can read what they want to do." (Holding the Bully's Coat, Canada and the U.S. Empire, Linda McQuaig, Doubleday Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9, pg. 67-68)
And there's that word in a thousand - Caliphate. Funny he should bring that up.

Much like the proposals of a North American Union, so revered by those free marketeers; a Caliphate simply put, is a union of the Muslim world.

However, there are two words that describe this initiative, that scare the west, or more specifically neocons, the most. No they are not "Islamic Terrorists", but "Welfare State".

Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when they throw water on the witch and she melts? Next time you see a neoconservative, look them in the eye and mutter those two words: 'welfare state', and I swear they'll be reduced to a puddle of sweat.

The Caliphate was the first political philosophy that adopted the notion of using their natural resources to look after their people. It wasn't communism, or socialism, it was just a belief in something bigger than they were. God or Allah, and they believed that this is what he wanted them to do. Historically, it is a continuation of political authority, first introduced by Muhammad's disciples.

Most Christians who share the same God, but a different prophet; agree. So why not western governments?

In the midst of his talk about the dangers of Islamic terrorism, Lt.-Gen. Metz abruptly shifts gears and starts talking about America's dependence on oil. In his southern drawl, the general notes how much oil the U.S. consumes—roughly 25 per cent of the world's consumption, even though Americans make up only 5 per cent of the world's population—and how central this is to the country's high standard of living.

He then tells the story of a big strong man not being able to cut as much wood as a chainsaw with a bit of gasoline. Point taken.
The general's little discourse on the importance of energy to America is certainly interesting. But what is it doing in a speech about military threats to the United States', The connection between America's voracious oil consumption and the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism are never explicitly stated by Lt.-Gen. Metz; he simply notes that the Islamic world has a lot of oil and what happens there has an impact on energy markets. (McQuaig, Doubleday, Pg. 68-69)
George Bush once asked, when he was criticized for using so many soldiers to guard Iraq's oilfields, "can you imagine what would happen if the terrorists got their hands on all that oil"? Loosely translated that means, can you imagine what would happen if we allowed the Iraqi people to keep their oil?

They can't risk having the Arab world unite on any level, not necessarily because they would pose a united front in battle, but because they would nationalize their resources, and then they would decide who gets to buy them.

Double Standard

In Warrior's honour, Michael Ignatieff says that 'War is always at the most unrestrained when religion vests it with holy purpose.'

Many will associate that to a Jihad or a holy war, but that's a double standard.

According to Jason Kenney's buddy, John Hagee; America is at war with radical Islam ... Jihad has come to America. If we lose the war to Islamic fascism, it will change the world as we know it .... They hate us because we are free. They hate us because it is their religious duty to hate us."

Stephen Harper's buddy Link Byfield suggests that the future will be dark if "Islam Prevails because although Muslims share the Christian notion of family, Islam also demands submission. Democracy is a Christian philosophy and, therefore, does not exist or, at best, is only a peripheral force in most Muslim countries."

And Rick Hillier's buddy, Thomas Metz says: "The Islamic faith is not evil but it's been hijacked by thugs ... there are almost a billion people in the Islamic world, and that if only one per cent of them are radical, that's ten million radicals."

Yet there are between two and three billion Christians in the world, so if only 1% are fundamentalists, that's twenty to thirty million Christian extremists. But the general doesn't mention that.

So maybe they don't hate us because we're free. Maybe if they hate us, it's because we want their stuff, and they fear we also want their souls.

We Were Warned

In December of 2005, while Canada was in the middle of the election campaign that brought Stephen Harper to power, then-Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier signed a deal establishing our detainee transfer protocol — an arrangement that did not provide for Canadians to monitor their prisoners (Stephen Maher, Chronicle Herald)

Before the Globe and Mail picked up the story, and before Richard Colvin revealed what our government knew of the torture of detainees, Linda McQuaig wrote:

... the likelihood of torture is actually higher for detainees who are not transferred but who remain in the custody of Afghanistan, which has a notorious human rights record. Even the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission—an agency of the Afghan government—reports that Afghanistan routinely tortures its prisoners. There have been bone-chilling reports of Afghanistan housing prisoners in steel shipping containers, with only a hole cut in the bottom for them to defecate. Yet, despite widespread reports of horrendous abuses in Afghan prisons, Ottawa's arrangement with the Afghan government contains only the most minimal protections. [quoting Michael Byers]

...Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, describes the Canadian arrangement as a "detainee laundering agreement" that "has no adequate safeguards to prevent torture from occurring. In an interview, Lieutenant Carole Brown, a spokesperson for Canada's Department of National Defence, acknowledged that Canada doesn't follow up on what happens to its detainees. "It would not be our mandate to track them in any way." She also refused to reveal any information about Canada's detainees, including even how many there have been.'In fact, Canada has left its detainees in a particularly dangerous situation.

Attaran notes that, by refusing to reveal any information about these people, Canada is actually making their situation even more perilous than those held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon at least lists the names of Guantanamo prisoners on its website. By not revealing the names of those it hands over to Afghanistan, Ottawa makes it impossible for lawyers or human rights organizations to contact them or their relatives or to in any way take up their cause, thereby denying them any hope of access to the courts. They simply disappear into a black hole, beyond any possible legal protection. Says Attaran: -We are doing something [denying them access to the courts] that has not been done in the common law in centuries."This alone should make our involvement in Afghanistan intolerable. (HOLDING THE BULLY'S COAT, Canada and the U.S. Empire, Linda McQuaig, Doubleday Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9, Pg. 20-21)

I don't know how this is going to play out. Stephen Harper has already fired the head of the Military Police and cut off Richard Colvin's funding, making it almost impossible for a committee to start this up again.

He has also been distributing taxpayer funded attack ads suggesting that the opposition Liberals are accusing our soldiers of war crimes.

Of course that's not rue. The only one who has tried to pass this off on our troops, is Stephen Harper himself.


A Few Related Stories

Harper's Meddling in Military Affairs Reveals That He Knew About Detainee Abuse

Stephen Harper's Cowardice Has Reached New Heights

The Conservatives Are Not at War, They are on a Crusade

Afghanistan and Detainee Abuse up to and Including 2006

By 2009 Harper's Spin on Detainees Was Stopped in it's Tracks

Why Do We Never Include Peace as a Strategy for Afghanistan?

Luis Moreno Ocampo of the International Criminal Court Could Charge Canada With War Crimes
Military Spending and Other Costs Associated With the Invasion

The Shah of Iran and the Birth of Terrorists

Peacekeeping is Not For Wimps and Canadians Are Not Wimps

The Manley Report Gave New Direction But Failed to Answer the Question: Why Are We There?

A Country's Shame and a Nation's Heartache

How Did we Get Here From There? The Afghanistan Call to Arms

Paul Martin, Rick Hillier and a New Direction For Afghanistan

Selling the War Invoked a Buying Frenzy But Was the Product Shoddy?

No comments:

Post a Comment