Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why We Need Capital Punishment

The following open letter was sent to Andrew Coyne in response to his June 12, 2001 column titled "Opposed: It weakens our collective safety", published by the National Post.  The letter was not published and I received no response from the columnist.  I am posting here as it provides good summary of why I support the intelligent use of capital punishment.
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Ottawa Jun 13, 2001

I have a long-standing intellectual interest in the subject of capital punishment and would like to comment on your June 12, 2001  column (Opposed: It weakens our collective safety) in the National Post.
 
First, let me make a personal observation on the heading chosen for your short essay. When I arrived in Canada thirty some years ago, I learned about the mystical belief of the locals in their gendarmes which struck me strange because where I came from the cops had generally bad reputation. The local lore which said that 'the Mounties always get their man' implied a sense of security about the country's law enforcement such that I had not known. The Mounties had exemplified professional state force, tough, implacable and yet disciplined and fair. 'Getting their man' did not imply that he was going to be hacked to pieces or even mistreated once they had him in custody. Their job was to deliver their man to the justice system. The people who were telling me about with pride about the Mounties were sighing, or flushed with anger when talking about the Liberal government which suspended executing the country's most depraved criminals. It seemed to me then as it seems to me now that for the common man or woman on the street having the death penalty on the books (and used, from time to time), confers a distinct sense of security. So, difficult as it may be for the pony-tailed lawyer or the psychiatrist with a facial tick to understand, the simple-minded folks understand justice as 'what comes around'. The most sobering comment about our collective psyche is that 78% of Americans supported the state euthanazing Timothy McVeigh.

To answer your 'important' question about the surgical needles which were used to kill Mr McVeigh: yes, you are probably right, they were sterilized. If that seems absurd to you, perhaps you should allow that the sterilization in this case was for the benefit of the staff administering the euthanasia. Strange that you would not think of that.

I have a problem with the train of your reasoning here. I am in favour of capital punishment but I belong to those who advocate a restricted use of it in exemplary cases of wanton destruction of life. I believe that the form of execution that MrVeigh underwent is the correct one, and that while the state has the obligation to execute death warrants for crimes such as his it also has the duty to do so in a most humane way at its disposal. I don't understand your complaint.

If it must, the state should dispatch the prisoner by inflicting minimum of physical suffering on him or her. This principle hes been scrupulously observed since the dawn of civil society. Inspired by the Enlightement philosophes, Catherine the Great prohibited the scourging of captured Emmelian Pugachev, her great rival and an exceptionally brutal mass murderer and terrorist. The chivalry codes, both Occidental and Oriental, expressly denied the knight 'the pleasure in killing'. It was an act of necessity, which should be executed without anger or glee. The code of honour also forbade the killing of fools. From this moral dictum the 'insanity plea' has arisen. Interestingly, it was first sucessfuly argued in England in a case of attempted regicide.

G.B.Shaw's view that capital punishment equals the murder it sanctions is obviously flawed both logically and morally. I have already observed that killing humans does not imply derogation of them as human beings. Indeed the law, in its painful slowness, is coming to realize that unauthorized euthanasia cannot be equated with murder, since murder implies hostility towards the victim and euthanasia does not. Whatever Dr Kworkian is, he is not a murderer. All cultures around the world recognized in the past the need for the state to kill dispassionately in order to prevent acts of spontaneous revenge which almost always carry a risk of escalating violence. On the moral side, I simply do not understand a posture which equates the act of lethal aggression with a desire for the destruction of the one who has inflicted it. The aggressor's act is that of volition, motivated specifically by malevolence, or reckless disregard for life. It is that act which has been "tabooed" by all moral codes. The Old Testament makes it clear that "Thou shalt not kill' means "woe to the aggressor !" (e.g.Exodus 21:12). In contrast, the state's lawful killing in response is a defensive measure, one uniquely concerned with discharging justice as a means of restoring peace in the community. An ancient legal principle states that the killing of a tyrant is not a crime. That would give the friends or kin of a slain victim the legal grounds to kill the perpetrator but these must be routinely ceded to the state, if a society is to remain civilized. The state then has an obligation to act on the complaint, i.e. to examine the act in order to determine if the offence was capital. If it decides beforehand that no matter what happened, a capital crime was not committed, then it is not a just state. As long as people kill each other, the state has a duty to consider a capital punishment an option. It should be used correctly, that is to say with restraint, but must be used for the system to retain credibility as an even-handed, competent arbiter.

In one of the most moving essays on capital punishment George Orwell observed a condemned prisoner nimbly side-stepping a puddle on his way to the gallows. The idea of killing a healthy human being, of course, can be maddening. I do not accept the argument which says that because capital punishment is non-reversible, it is unjust. We drive cars and fly planes knowing full well that we are taking risks with our lives. Yet the anguish of the condemned man needs to be grasped and contemplated, and the risks of inflicting such agonies on innocent people properly weighed. Such exercise will reduce the margin by which Justice prevails over Pity.

There is of course another, much more powerful element, that assures me that the pro-capital stance is moral and necessary. Strangely, important as the 'self-inclusive morality' in the debate is, it does not get discussed much. In saying that I believe in death penalty I am saying that if - God forbid - I ever was to kill unlawfully, then I know I could forfeit my own life. So, what I am saying is that I know that the life of another human is as precious as my own. In my stated belief in capital punishment then there is a pledge to respect human life and the collateral here is my own license to breathe. Now I often wonder how the abolitionist moralists fly past this one ! Help me out, will you ? Are you saying that you could never murder yourself, that there is no such possibility ? Or are you simply saying: 'you could not possibly do unto me as I would do unto others' ? Now, I would admit I am terribly mistaken if you can show me that this is not the ethical crux of the matter !

Friday, September 28, 2012

Confusion Reigns

In the good old days of the Cold War things were simpler. There were two superpowers each had enough nukes to wipe out each other, allies and the non-aligned fakers included, several times over. Noone doubted the reality of  MAD, a mutually assured destruction.  Everyone understood and was prepared to tolerate bad jokes, such as when Ronald Reagan in 1984 publicly announced he "outlawed Russia forever", or when Brezhnev told the visiting president Pompidou of France that he had "just destroyed Paris" after pressing a button on a panel at a space centre in Baikonur.   In neither case were there large demonstrations, and attacks on embassies with cries for the statesmen to be tried for crimes against humanity, or killed outright. Everyone understood they had the power to destroy the life on the planet. In that context everyone was relieved they were only kidding.  You might say that the context of a nuclear threat gave us a sense of reality which sorted out the substantive ideas in political speech from bad jokes. Even if the posturing was sometimes hostile, the politics of both sides were deeply rooted in the common interest of survival. 

     No such luck today. When ayatollah Khamenei or president Ahmanidejad threaten Israel with annihilation, it cannot be taken as a tasteless joke.  They are religious fanatics believing themselves to be have been appointed in a God-ordained commission to usher in the reign of the Mahdi. They live in the end of times and read the political events of the day as unravelling to fulfil prophecies of the Twelfth Imam's return. Their spat with Israel is not a regional rivalry like that of India and Pakistan. Since the revolution of 1979, Iran does not recognize Israel as a state.  Its leaders refer to a sitting member of the United Nations as a Zionist entity which must be destroyed.  Iran denies Israel the right to exist. The rhetoric duplicates Nasser's threats of 1963 which immediately preceded hostilities.  None of the bloggers scoffing at Netanyahu's UN address yesterday lives in Tel Aviv or Haifa. They can afford the luxury of waxing philosophic over the cartoonish shape of the bomb used by the Israeli PM to drive home his point. It's not their bacon that is going to get fried.  They are not within the range of the Shahab 3 missiles paraded through Tehran promising to wipe them off from history.

     In the blogosphere and the western MSM, the hostility towards Israel has never been greater.  It is now generally believed that if not for this shitty little country, we would live in a paradise on Earth. To such mindset,  it naturally appears that it is Bibi Netanyahu is a nuke-mongering maniac who wants to restore greater Israel from the Pyrenees to the Himalayas.  It is he who is crazy or wacky.  Justin Raimondo has convinced himself that Israel is just as medieval in its political system and world outlook as the ayatollahs.  In his idiocy, he thinks that the belief of some religious Jews in the imminent coming of the Messiah directs Israeli politics the same way that the theocratic regime manages the return of the Mahdi.  Somehow, the fact that in hundred-fifteen seat Knesset, the messianists seem to be terribly absent, doesn't seem to faze Raimondo. Shas, the strongest of Israel's religious parties (currently fifteen seats) and member of the Likud-led coalition in fact does not base its programme and politics in any way on religious speculations about the future. As for a Jewish state right to be where it is, Raimondo only needs to pickup a 101-history of the region, to grasp that there has been a Jewish presence there well before any other modern national entity such as the Palestinians.

Failure of US Foreign Policy in the Region 

    That Israel is a lynchpin of US foreign policy in the region cannot be a point of contention, if  the United States are to retain any influence in the Middle East. Israel as America most trusted ally must not be deprecated in the plain view of the fact that the existence of the Jewish state does not threaten anyone. The carefully staged laments over the mistreatment of the Palestinians, are in reality a smokescreen for the intent to annihilate Israel.  The Israelis know that they are not negotiating with an entity (or two) who are on the level and who have accepted the existence of Israel as a bona-fide state.  It is because of this that a political solution eludes the region.  One cannot accept to make deals with people who feel justified in double-dealing. There is no other reason that I can see for the failure of the peace process.  I am sure the Israelis would have found a solution to the offending settlements (as they had done in Sinai) and come to a reasonable terms on East Jerusalem (see eg here).   The Palestinians would have to waive the right of return (perhaps for compensation) which ought to be no problem for a party sincere about its intentions vis-a-vis its one-time adversary.  Problem is that currently is that any Palestinian politician sincerely wishing peace with Israel and open to realistic, mutually acceptable terms, is thereby signing his or her political death warrant.  

    The shift in the US standing in the conflict from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama could be succintly described as the upgrade from chicken salad to chicken shit.  After Camp David and Carter managing to convince Egypt to normalize its relations with Israel only debacles followed. Khomeini was allowed to get away with humiliating the US internationally in 1979, and - unbelievably - in a brazen attack on the US peacekeepers in 1983 Beirut via Hezbollah.  That the US could not find a way to smash dead the vile bare-assed Tehran proxy in Lebanon and assert itself in the region via its democratic ally Israel (nota bene : at a time that the Soviet decay became manifest) will be the stuff of nightmares for true Americans in ages to come.  Over the circa thirty years the US foerign policy in the Middle East has become so aimless and incoherent and plain dumb that it will take a miracle to put it back together again.  I am saying that in the view that the political prostitutes in Washington who used to do the bidding of US Steel or General Motors might these day work for clients in the Chinese Politburo and the members of the Saudi royal family who are not overtly hostile. I may not be the greatest fan of Michael Moore but I found his account of Bush and prince Bandar dining two nights after September 11, 2001 a good summary of the morass and plutocratic corruption the US has become. 

   It has also become obvious over the last presidential term that Barack Obama is just as clueless as his predecessors.  Not only the rhetoric with leftist shibboleths of peace-loving, gay-loving, Netanyahu-noise-ignoring, anti-Islamophobic America solve nothing, they only further exarcebate the problem.  As the Australian historian Keith Windschuttle observed in mid-nineties,

[The cultural relativists] endorse as legitimate other cultures that do not return the compliment. ...Islam will have no truck with relativism of any kind. The devout are totally confident of the universalism of their own beliefs which derive from dictates of God, an absolute authority who is external to the world and its cultures.  They regard a position such as the post-modern cultural relativism as profoundly mistaken and , moreover, debasing. Relativism devalues their faith because it reduces it to merely one of many equally valid systems of meaning. So, entailed within cultural relativism is first, an endorsement of absolutisms that deny it, and, second, a demeaning attitude to cultures it claims to respect.   (in Killing History, Free Press, Toronto, p 272)

President Obama does not know this. This is why he tries to placate the Muslim angry mobs all over the world, and the politics that feed off them.  It will not work. Appeals to logic assume that the addressees understand, or that at any rate, are willing to underwrite, the sentiments of the U.S. Constitution which places "We the people" above any authority, secular or religious. Muslims will not do that. They will not do that because ~80% of mosques in the United States are preaching a seditious, radical version of Islam which denies the very liberty under which American Muslims are allowed to practice alongside other religions. It will not work because the radical Islamists the world over sense a fatal weakness in the foreign policies of the United States, above all an intelligent articulation of self-interest in a way that is understandable to them.

If Obama is serious about what he said in the UN the other day, he will get together with Congress on a legislation prohibiting the preaching of doctrines on US soil which advocate a single ideology or religious schemas replacing traditional American governance .  There are strong constitutional grounds for such a bill.  Muslims understand well the term "sedition".  It also needs to be made clear - crystally clear - Israel is the closest ally in the Middle East !  If a Turkey ship runs a Gaza blockade, US will have to make nasty noise to make sure Erdogan gets the message.  Forget about harrassing Putin; he is not a disguised Soviet imperialist. Take off the ABM-shield from Eastern Europe in exchange for his agreement on containing the Tehran lunatics. The Russians are more worried about them than they let on.   But nothing that the next prez does abroad will resonate unless he and the Congress shows willingness to deal with the problem on the home front first ! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cui Bono ?

        Two nights ago, CNN published the picture of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, which I presume was out of a deeply-felt sense of public duty, in order to prevent an indiscriminate massacre at the filmmaker's house.  It is obviously necessary to publish the pictures of those who are under multiple fatwas, threats and summons by foreign jurisdictions lest innocent people and American diplomats get hurt by the Muslim multitudes and its legally appointed leaders. Evidently  CNN doesn't want Americans who did not have anything to do with DaVideo to suffer through a case of mistaken identity.  By publishing the pictures of the culprits, and disclosong the hideouts of the miscreants who dare to mock Islam and its prpphet they ensure that in the righteous indignation of one and a half billion offended, the wrong people do not get beheaded. Makes sense, right ?

       No it does not make sense to someone who understands the word civilized.  The media (not sure it was CNN first) did reveal the identity of  Nakoula as the producer and director of The Innocence of Muslims. Fine, so far so good. Not so fine was the outing of his address. It added nothing to the story.  But the CNN's self-advertized caper removing Nakoula's burqa for all to see his face is nothing if not bad and incivil.  Surely, the news network's people know full well that this news increases the probabibility of a lethal assault on him. In view of this knowledge, the publishing of the picture was motivated by malice.

      There is very little that I agree with in the commentaries on the video, its intents and effects.  Both the President of the United States and the Secretary of State denounced the film as an attempt to "denigrate religious beliefs of others",  a phrase which more or less describes an offence under the present Turkish criminal code.  In view of this to say in the next breath that nothing justifies the attacks on US diplomats and our sovereign territory, is like saying 'but we protest being beaten too much !'   The Left generally sees the incident as a loony conspiracy of the Right to unseat Obama in  the upcoming election by stirring up trouble with Muslims.  Max Blumenthal writing in the Guardian professes to belief in a mystical connection of Nakoula to Anders Breivik, via the known "Islamophobes"  of the ultra-conservative strand of the American Copts, and the omnipresent spectre of the two-headed avenger of the Twin Towers, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.  Alas, Blumenthal thesis of a American Coptic conspiracy to destabilize "post-Mubarak Egypt" is now in tatters as the chief logistical support in the melodrama, Joseph Nasrallah, revealed he was deceived by Nakoula about the project and pointed to the clean record of his org, Media for Christ, in respecting Islam's religious symbols.
   
     For its part, most of the commentary on the Right is stuck on the image of Nakoula as a martyr for free speech unjustly harrassed by authorities.  Pamela Geller expressed the opinion that if Nakoula is sent to prison for violating terms of his parole he will be a political prisoner.  The ever-clever Mark Steyn noted that Nakoula was rushed to a midnight interview mere 72 hours after Morsi demanded the arrest of the film principals, he was 'rounded up at midnight by brownshirted men [spare me !] for making a movie that embarrasses El Presidente'.   Hell no ! Mr. Nakoula is a convicted meth manufacturer and fraudster, who is on parole. His parole contract prohibits him, among other things, to use false identities. He used a new identity of Sam Bacile and claimed to be an Israeli Jew for the purposes of this movie. If I understand correctly he still denies he is Bacile, even though this moniker resembles half a dozen other aliases he used and even a portion of his real name (Basseley). So if this guy violated his parole he should be in jail, irrespective what Mohammed Morsi wants or David Horowitz does not want done.  Mr. Nakoula has the right to free speech, true. His rights however do not free him from his legal obligations just because someone thinks he is a hero.

     It is interesting to observe that because of the opposing partisan obsessions the real story of Nakoula is not getting out.  The single most important factual item about his project is that he is the only one known to be responsible for the content of the video (purporting to be a trailer of a movie). None of the other named actors, and promoters of the drama had any input into writing or editing or creating Arabic subtitles or posting the trailer on Youtube.  On what we know, the movie appears to be Nakoula's own idea and product. He is the architect, editor, and production manager.  He obtained the logistical support of Nasrallah's organization under false pretenses, and sought support for his earth-shattering portrait of Mohammed from bumbling bugs like Terry Jones only when the deed was done.   To this advanced date of  demolition of US diplomatic facilities around the world, no-one has yet had the idea to inquire into the financing of his pathetic amateur movie.  How strange !  How strange no-one has yet asked (or at any rate, informed us) if it is true that imaginary Jew Bacile had a hundred Jewish sponsors doling out five million dollars as Nakoula apparently told Steve Klein.  Huh !  Surely there would be some records for revenue sharing in the anticipated world-wide distribution of the smash hit. No ?

      You see, what gets me about this is not as much that there are no hundred Jewish investors in the film. (I'll bet you my life savings on that.) What gets me is that no-one sees that the fictional Sam Bacile and his hundred Zionist mischiefmakers look suspiciously like a clumsy conspiracy ripoff of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion which we know enjoys undying popularity in the Muslim world, especially in Egypt.  Now the question of all questions here is : cui bono ?  Who would find political comfort in an incendiary anti-Mohammed collection of skits which obligingly identifies Jews, Copts and Terry Jones as a stand-in for all Catholics and Protestants as perpetrators of a heinous crime against Islam on the territory of the U.S.A. ? Any ideas ?  

       I don't say that I know the answer to that question. I simply want the media asking it.  Maybe, Mr. Nakoula is just a lone straggler, whose idiocies are innocent of a design and unconnected to anyone. But maybe, just maybe, he is touch too dumb to be so clever that he or his handlers can play everyone for fool in his latest fraud.

      Now if you thinking what I am thinking: i.e. that The Innocence of Muslims is a nasty provocation by the Muslim Brotherhood, do not be scared off by their love for the prophet. It would not be an impediment to a devout Muslim to orchestrate hatefests of Jews, Copts and Americans any more than for the Nazis to use Van der Lubbe to accuse his fellow communists of burning down the Reichstag.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Befuddling Bazookas in Benghazi

Hillary Rodham Clinton has a special talent. She makes people angry without necessarily intending to. She manages to sound arrogant and incompetent at the same time and that more than anything in her politics excites all sorts of people. It could be the hijab-clad young women in Cairo who dissed her with the cries of "Monica". It could be Russia's foreign ministry officionados who relish in telling stories of her naivete. It could be Putin who in 2008 retorted to her gratuitous insult of him as a man "without a soul" that one would expect someone aspiring to be a leader of a state to have at least "brains in the head".   In her superior-but-dumb view of the world a former KGB man could not have soul, and that's that. Where that leaves the first Bush who became president after serving as a director of the CIA, would be an impertinent question. Quod licet jovi non licet bovi, as they used to say in one former super-power. But does Hillary actually understand what she is saying ? 

video
 

       I have a lot of sympathy for the Russian view of Hillary as a self-righteous twit out of her depths, someone who just does not get it.  It is not just the lack of diligence that leads her astray. In one underreported gaffe, she presented her counterpart Sergei Lavrov a button intending to say in Russian "reset" but in reality said "overload".  How could that happen ?  Isn't there anyone in the US State Department who speaks Russian well enough to point out such an embarrassing mistake?  But it is her utter lack of finesse or ability to present a compelling argument which really jars the diplomats the most. In February, speaking in Bulgaria, she described the blocked vote on Syria in the UN Security Council as "travesty".  Both Russia and China presented crisp analysis of the situation, refusing to be bullied into accepting one-sided, and in their mind simple-minded, solutioning of the Syrian crisis.  The country was on the brink of civil war.  The world would be ill-served if the UN, contrary to its charter, were to take up one-sided point of view, demanding the unconditional surrender of one side (ie. the one the US does not like)  to the other.  Whether the affected neutrality of the dissenters is real or not:  the position that Russia an China have taken up demands an intelligent, reasoned response, not characterizations.  One will not win friends and influence people if one cannot deal with a dissenting point of view except by denouncing it and suppressing it.  The former Soviets know this better than anyone.
  
   The Russians have been droning on about the short-sightedness of the US policies in the Near and Middle East since the air strikes of last year. It is unwise, they say to use force to topple ugly, but in the bigger picture, harmless dictatorships. Ghaddafi, for all his domestic nastiness and bizzare clowning, was long past running terrorist hotels and fitness centres. Americans knew that and kept sending him captured Libyan al-Qaeda operators.  So what would be the motivations of the US State Department to have his corpse dragged through the streets by fighters led by one of the terrorists they sent to Libya  just a few years earlier to be kept under lock ?  A befuddling mystery ?  Probably not to the Moscow analysts who note the uncanny loss of memory in American foreign policy which basically operates with a world-view that last followed the Russians at the time when Brezhnev was still somewhat lucid. Will they wake up and start operating in the century which started with a most dramatic declaration that the Islamist supremacists mean business and are determined to destroy the once proud people with the most advanced civilization on the planet ? 

Tales told by the State Department in the times of Huma Abedin

The official US view is that the assault in Benghazi was the work of  "a small, savage group".  There is of course an eleven-year tradition at the State Department to view gross assaults on the people and territory of the United States as the work of extremists abusing the great peaceable religion of Islam.  This "denial" mindset planted immediately after 9/11 is unwilling to come to practical terms with the new challenge and find an effective policy capable of controling it. Instead, it will deny radical Islam exists. It will deny it presents today the greatest peril to the traditional values of the Republic ! It will chastise as "islamophobes" all those who say it does ! 

       But reality comes pinching, my friends. The president or the State Department do not know who is behind the Benghazi attack or wehther it was coordinated with the raising of the shehada (the black flag of jihad) over the US embassy in Cairo.  They have no way of knowing what is brewing under the surface in those two countries.  Yet, the tale of Lybians and Americans fighting side by side is told even as the dispatches agree that most of the Libyan security guards fled soon after the assault began. The scope of the assault on the Americans in Benghazi is reduced to a single location even though most of the major media outlets record two assaults against the Americans, the second coming at a "safe house".   It does not take much brain power to figure why this piece of information is withheld by Hillary and Huma. It directly contradicts the "small" in description of the attacking groups. At minimum, the security of the diplomatic facility was compromised beforehand by the hostile fighters or their handlers.    

      Then there is the soap about the friendly Libyans carrying the dying ambassador to the hospital. Oh, puh....leeze !  First, the body was not carried but delivered at the facility by a vehicle. The pictures that surfaced on the Web show Mr Stevens was dragged or carried by a single person and his distress (if he indeed was still alive) the object of necrophiliac curiosity by the crowd.  Certainly, the images are not consistent with a show of concern for the ambassador's well being:



 A disinterested analyst would conclude that in all probability the people who abducted the ambassador and later delivered him at a hospital were the attackers. To assume friendly strangers  awoke in the night, and rushed selflessly in the direction of  the gunfire and flames to help the besieged Amerians seems more like a bad Hollywood script than anything resembling reality.  Most likely, the captors were ordered by their command to deposit the body at the hospital and a story was concocted (perhaps via threats to the hospital personnel) that he was still alive on arrival. 

Defending Free Speech and Rejecting Free Speech in one Breath

   The administration initial response to the attack is a study in double-think.  I am sure the media would have a heyday with a judge who would begin his sentencing speech of a rapist by saying : "this court rejects all efforts to denigrate the moral sensibilities of the pious, by women who wear short skirts and appear in public unescorted and with uncovered head.  But there is no justification in this type of senseless violence....". Wolf Blitzer or Christiane Amanpour would see right away where such rhetoric contradicts itself.  If there is no justification for senseless violence, why name the pretext under which this outrage is being perpetrated ? No civilized person of whatever confession would agree to an assailant's point of view in justifying sexual assault.  Why then would we agree to link some obscure video and vicious mayhem ? If there is no justification (none!) for the gratuitous violence against the US (and now the West generally !), one cannot preface it with a "but".   It immediately sends the wrong signals !

How then do I think Obama and Clinton should have worded their anger ?  Maybe by saying something like this: 

This administration and the American people condemn without reservation the unprovoked outrage against our diplomats and the symbols of our sovereignity.  There is no justication for the barbarous violence we have been subjected to in Libya and Egypt yesterday.  None !  We categorically reject the attempts of those who fuel hatred against the United States to justify it by pointing to some obscure video on the Internet.   Those who who stir the cauldron of hate against America know full well this is not the view of the Administration or the American people.   They know the great majority of us do not hate Muslims or seek to to harm them.  They use this pretext in their desire to deny us the right to hear all points of view, even those with which most of us disagree, and some of us find morally reprehensible.  Do not be misled ! America will never accept to be dominated by a single religious belief in place of its Constitution which separates matters of one's faith from those of the state.  I beseech you do not be misled about the resolve of the American people to protect its way of life and its interests in the world !

Surely, something like this would stand a better chance to calm the hotheads, and assure those who are the true friends of the US that there are still some brains at work in the US foreign policy.   But this would assume that the State Department advising the president knows what shat she is doing.  And there of course is the problem, considering the current intellectual capacity of the State Department and its self-admitted confusion over the effect of policies which she herself put in place.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

To Quebec, With Love

    I had tons of debates with Quebec souveranistes in the eighties and nineties. What I remember most is their exasperated reaction to my theory that  sovereignity in their rendition was not a political goal but a way to express resentment over their state of dependency.  They went bonkers over that. They called me names.  In one case it nearly came to blows, mind you, not between myself and a proud Quebecois, but between two of them, over the merit of my insight.  Not that either of my interlocutors agreed with me.  It was clearly over a fault line in the Quebec political consensus.

    To an outsider, Parti Quebecois are separatists, but this can be very misleading. Most péquistes want some sort of continued association with Canada, at minimum common currency and defense. Commonly, they envision a trade and tariff union, and a free passage of goods between the two future countries. They do not see issues arising from people in Quebec wanting to retain Canadian Citizenship and vice versa.  This sort of associationist dreamer's paradise goes as far as imagining that where there are federal public services presently, these would continue to be provided out of Quebec as sort of an outsource.  This idea actually has a wide currency in the Outaouais region adjoining Ottawa, and doubtless played out in the federal Public Service union's support of Parti Quebecois in the last election. 

    There is of course a much harsher version of the Quebec separation from Canada.  Unlike the souveranistes, the minority independentistes don't care much about the future of the bilateral relations with Canada; they will take care of themselves. To the hard core separatists, the independence of Quebec is the equivalent of the second coming.  Achieving it guarantees love and better chances of winning a lottery for everyone. It is not necessary to plan for something that by definition provides solution for everything. Jacques Parizeau, the Quebec premier who almost delivered on the dream in the second referendum in 1995, had a plan which he described Quebers in the advent of a "Yes" vote as lobsters thrown in hot water.  A few days before the referendum Parizeau boasted on a radio show that after the win in the referendum he will appropriate 30% of Canadian federal assets outside Quebec. That by the same logic Canada would have a right to 70% of its assets in Quebec, was passed in silence.  It is that kind of a crazy mindset that almost broke up the country. But as I said, the independence maniacs are rare these days and recruit chiefly in the bucolic verdure of Quebec among those who will never learn English even though they have watched American TV channels daily since childhood.

   Stephane Dion's Clarity Act removed much of the base legal uncertainty about Quebec's right to secede from Canada but the issue is evidently not closed.  The Parliament of Canada recognizing Quebec formally as a nation within Canada in 2006, did not do it either. The newly-elected PQ premier Mme Marois has already made it clear that she wants more powers under Quebec jurisdiction.  Her party remains committed to sovereignity in the long run.  

Nip PSAC bosses in the bud

    In view of the obvious surge in popularity for the PQ, its agressive tone and some of its projects (a petition by 15% of Quebec voters will obligate the government to hold a referendum on any subject - including sovereignity), the Harper's government needs to be vigilant. It cannot afford to pass over political provocations or allow free ride to the naysayers to Canada.  It needs to take initiative and show it is in control of what it has the mandate to control. 

    Public Service Union leaders cannot be engaged in provincial electoral process on behalf of their membership who are federal employees.  If there is no bill to that effect on the books, there needs to be one, pdq.  The calls for busting the union seem disproportionate but we need a firm response to the kind of PSAC activities seen during the recent election in Quebec.  One would expect Rona Ambrose's office to issue a memorandum to inform PWGSC employees of the perils of Quebec going independent.  There would be enormous pressure on the Government of Canada to relocate all its offices from Quebec and remove all Quebec residents from Canada's federal public service.  Anyone offering assurances to PSAC members in the Outaouais region that their jobs and careers would continue as before, is irresponsible and clearly has special agenda.  The breakup of Canada would almost certainly lead to losses of tens of thousands federal jobs in Montreal and Western Quebec.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reading the Riot Act to Pussy Riot ®

     Back a few years during a strange war waged by a tie-chewing clown from Tbilisi on people he thought he owned, the Russian president (Medvedev) prayed for the West to drop their Sovietologists and get some Russologists, instead. Judging by the press and media reaction to the Moscow court verdict over three members of the psychos who call themselves Pussy Riot four years later, it has not happened yet.

          The Western media coverage of the incident and trial has been abysmal. To begin with, there is the obssessive thought that Putin is Stalin just about to unleash a war on kulaks and starving millions to death. If  the boss feels threatened by a bunch of punk artists and orders them into gulag  (as is intimated in Forbes, e.g.) then things are getting really bad in Russia led by a former KGB killer. Of course, to people who don't know Russian history, language, culture, this makes perfect sense.  The girls were praying to Virgin Mary for Putin's removal before his re-election, so the maniac ordered two years of  hard labour for them. That is all you need (to know), as per one famously accused wife beater.  "Shame (on Putin)", for trying to take away the freedom of screaming obscenities in a church, masturbating with poultry in a supermarket and having sexual intercourse in a museum.  
 
         Another idee fixe about Pussy Riot, is that the verdict is not sanctioned by law, or that it is somehow legally faulty. Again, this is a clumsy attempt to indict Putin for practicing the Soviet era justice in construing a false link to real dissidents like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov, who were fighting real lawlessness of the Soviet system.  This interview from The Economist insinuates that the punk band members were actually victims of "various changes in Russian law that have made life harder for the Russian opposition". As we will see in a moment this is not so.

        Finally, the Western media misrepresent facts.  The incident is mostly described as "performance", i.e. a staged act which has an audience, whether in a planned, advertized event or  an impromptu "flash mob" happening which attracts casual passers-by or onlookers.  Carol Rumens of  The Guardian expresses solidarity with the singers, calls the their prayer "poetry" and opines that the event only shocks believers because they are unused to "trendy vicars putting on rock concerts".   That is an interesting take, given of course, a trendy vicar failed to materialize in this sorry tale.  Then there is a nasty attempt to forge a testimony of the malicious act for which the band found itself indicted under the law, and by the Russian public opinion.  The version of the "Prayer" carried by The Telegraph shows the infamous video and asks if it "was this worth two years in jails". The problem is that the tape as presented by the outlet has Nixon-like erasures on it, precisely at the spots of  the ugliest, hateful  utterances against the object of worship that the building has been dedicated to.  Incidentally, Carol Rumens's translation of the prayer also forgets to insert the "punchline" into text the second time and renders the sratj, sratj, sratj gospodin  (repeated four times in each instance) as  'crap, crap, this godlines; crap, crap, this holiness'. The Guardian blogger seems to overdo her linguistic naivete. The phrase uses the commonest Russian obscenity which shows idiomatic preference for scatology (like the Germans).  In English, the nearest idiomatic equivalent would probably be 'fuck, fuck, fuck the Lord !'.  Why can't they admit it without dancing euphemistic around it, or deny it happened ?

The Pussy Riot Mongering No Problem for Putin 

    Perhaps we are in the terminal stage of cultural insanity which blinds us to the obvious.  The existing political system in Russia is far from that repressive regime that was the Soviet Union, or for that matter, the Tsarist Russia. It may not be not the democracy that most of us in the fondly remember once existed in the West. But neither it is the rapidly decaying, self-destructing, democracy (in name only) that rules in the West today.  It is Russia that is trying to hold its own in a rapidly changing world.  Whatever faults one may find with Putin, he is not Ivan the Terrible or Stalin or, for that matter Brezhnev.  He is not a mass murderer or a senile idiot.  He knows what he wants, and knows how to get it when it is doable. And because what he wants and his accomplishments appeal to most Russians, he happens to be a popular guy. He is not popular in some circles, especially among people who think they could do better than he does. They often exaggerate his faults or accuse him absurdly of monstrous crimes and lawlessness (I will deal with the Khodorovsky, Litvinenko and Politkovskaya affairs in another post). But first thing a bright and informed observer would not that Putin does not need extravagant intimidation and lawlessness. He understands and respects the game of numbers in politics. He grasps the art of public relations (though IMO he should fire the PR manager who counsels him to outdo the photo-op adventures of princes William and Harry). He also has something that is relatively rare in contemporary world politics  - brains.

    People who believe that Putin would feel threatened by the type of political protest that expresses itself in punk rock shrieks as a rule do not have brains.  They are easily persuaded by stupidities they read (if they can read) or hear from the talking heads in the media.  As a rule, they are clueless as to what is going on in their own neighbourhoods, let alone what is going on Moscow, Ekaterinburg or Vladivostok. Anyone who watched the Russian TV and social media debates on the incident and its aftermath,  knows that the principal issue that has exercised most intelligent Russians about this forgettable media storm is precisely the one ignored by Pussy Riot supporters, in Russia and the West. It is the idea that animates the bolshevizing tyrants, from Lenin to Emmanuel Rahm.  Liberty and civil rights do not cover people who believe something else than we believe. Only Pussy Rioters have rights. They can do whatever they please. No one else has rights ! How can anyone but a reactionary monster oppose gay marriage or screaming obscenities at God in a church ?  Naturally, the first casualty of such a way of thinking will be that base ingredient without which democracy - a social order worthy of that name - is impossible.  It is something called civility. People who worship the narcissism of identity politics simply don't get democracy as a social order.

The legal grounds

The charge or implied narrative that Pussy Riot have been victims of a new anti-rioting legislation designed to stifle political opposition to Putin is false. They have been prosecuted under an article first defined in the  Soviet penal code under a heading of  khuliganstvo (though the description from the English "hooliganism" dates from the Tsarist times). It is a clumsy catch-all legal category, describing wilful attacks on public order and common standards of decency, ranging from provocations (e.g. public nudity, sex acts), to vandalism, to simple assault, to attacks on monuments or authoritative symbols of the state, and offenses commonly labelled mischief in Anglo-saxon jurisprudence.  Despite the wide-spread misapprehension, the statute was not devised to suppress political dissidents, who, for the most part, would take great care to present their plight within the accepted norms of behaviour. Indeed the credibility of the Soviet dissidents and the justness of their cause was recognized by their great personal dignity.
   
   The specific incident was deemed to fall under a subcategory zlostnoye khuliganstvo (malicious hooliganism). The charge presumes that the acts were fully intended to cause harm to either a specific person or persons or society at large. The Russian penal code carries penalties for this offense (if committed by more than one person) for up to seven years. The prosecutor asked for three years; the judge gave two years. (In comparison, Canada's Criminal Code's penalty for 'anyone who obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property' (CC 430 (1) (c)) is a sentence of not more than ten years. No minimum.)

   Two years seems a harsh sentence given that the harms in this case were wholly dignitary. But this is for the Russian legal system to ponder. The country has by tradition higher expectations of individuals to conform to behavioural norms as it considers its well-being rooted in a large consensus.  There is no evidence that I am aware of, that the court proceeded against the accused in a prejudicial manner.

Western Hypocrisy

      Russia Today quizzed a New York-based journalist and activist Don De Bar, who believes that the concerns expressed by Washington regarding the Pussy Riot legal case are phoney and selective. The State Department dragged its feet on legitimate dissent in Bahrain (which hosts its fleet), where recently a prominent anti-government activist was sentenced for three years for activities on social media. Note the markedly different attitude of State Department's spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in that case, saying that the US government does not comment on sentences "in the middle of the process".  Of course that handy "rule" would not apply to Russia, where the lawyers for the three women from the singer group indicated immediately they would appeal the court's verdict.
     
     I have shown the problem with the facts about the incidents in the above quotes from Forbes, the Economist, The Guardian and The Telegraph. The coverage has a marked spin and interest to show the Russian authorities as unfair towards the women, and driven by the interest to stifle public protest.  This narrative simply does not play out and significant distortions have to be deployed to sustain the phoney outrage.

     There are, finally at long last, some voices now emerging  trying to inject reality into our understanding of the Pussy Riot trial and sentence. An intelligent view was registered yesterday by Simon Jenkins who understands the hypocritical white-washing the convicted Russian women in the West.  Former New York mayor Ed Koch stood up for the rights of the Russian Orthodox Church in Huff Post. Finally today, National Post's Chris Selley weighed in with some much needed field-levelling comments.

    No civilized society can tolerate an attack on the beliefs of a religious community in its own house. One may criticize religion, and its beliefs, but one cannot deny the right of people to confess, or appropriate from the believers a sanctuary that is theirs,  for acts hurtful to them. Few nations know this better than the Russians.

     We have noted in the title of this post that Pussy Riot ® is now a registered trademark.  As their lawyer explained, it is not for the money. "On the contrary", the communique said, "the group wishes to discourage attempts to use its name to derive profits or promote questionable projects that contradict its ideals and aspirations."   Really ?  Who would have thunk ?!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Lying Nun of Lebanon


The picture above was published by Reuters on Aug.15, 2012. It purports to show the effects of a missile attack from a Syrian jet on a residential home in a  rebel-held town of Azaz, near Aleppo. 
Hmmmm...anything suspicious about the scene ?  Oh, you don't see it ?! All right, we'll get back to it.   
 
We in the West are bombarded daily with information and visual images from war-torn Syria which are to testify to acts of extreme brutality of the regime on its peaceable people. Ok, they are not peaceable now but that is a detail lost in the increasingly disjointed narrative.  It is just that in the beginning, no-one could say in clear conscience that the Syrian security's response to the initial spontaneous, non-violent street protests aginst the Assad regime was measured or justifiable. The sorties by the network of spies and paramilitary assassins working for the regime, dubbed shabihah (or 'ghost' to stress its covert, sinister character) were real and had the single purpose to intimidate the public voice of opposition. That the army, called to disperse larger demonstrations, fired on people in the streets (on orders to keep the casualties low, as has been credibly reported by defectors) also will not be doubted except by the pro-Assad spin doctors. The West was quite right in denouncing Assad and support the political opposition against him.

  However, all has changed with the emergence of an foreign-sponsored and financed armed rebellion in Syria. It was an extremely dubious card to play for a number of reasons.  First, the Syrian Army is a much more cohesive force than Ghadafi's and despite the exaggerated media reports of defections (eg. claimining one thousand officers in a camp on the Turkish side of the border), it remains a largely a force loyal to the regime.  Second, the political landscape is much more favourable to Assad at the moment than anyone else and he clearly is the preferred choice of a large segment of the population. This is not because he is particularly popular but because most Syrians prefer the devil they know to the mayhem and destruction of civil order (however imperfect) that this war surely delivers day in and day out.  Ironically, despite the recent defections, Assad's position may have been consolidated to a degree by the fighting, as large segments of population who actually despise his regime see in his army the only protection they have against the lawlessness the sectarian warfare foists on Syria from the outside by the Saudis, Qatar, the US and its allies.  The view of the rebellion as a Zionist conspiracy, orchestrated by the US and Israel to break up Syria into sectarian cantons in permanent war with each other prevails as the most popular rendering of the conflict inside the country.  The third element conspiring against the conspirators, is the existing infrastructure which provides social and administrative services. The public service workforce remains loyal to Assad since he provides livelihood. A very potent incentive, which puts all other considerations in perspective.  This is why reports now abound that the opposition forces are systematically destroying existing facilities (and sometimes their personnel) and trying to supplant them by their own version  of humanitarian aid financed from abroad.

   The Free Syrian Army looks like a bad joke.  It was claimed in the early days of its puported existence (eg. as on this report by al Jazeera) that it was an exclusively Syrian fighting corps composed from Syrian Army deserters.  Again, as in the picture on top this post, such factoid is belied by the rebels themselves. The cri de guerre 'Allahu akhbar' featured in nearly all videos showing FSA's succesful hits or demolition jobs blows the cover. That the jihadi trademark should have been so quickly adopted by the Syrian patriots and freedom fighters is strange, especially since the same 'God-is-great' oath is vocalized also by rag-tag gangs of degenerate homicidal maniacs when killing and mutilating their captives.  So, I for one, am not at all surprised when John Rosenthal questions the reality of an organized force called the FSA.  It appears to be a political and media fantasy. Yes, sure, there are defectors from the Syrian army, but the stockpiles of  Russian-made weapons in Turkey for the rebels (supplied by the Saudis) are a big hint that it is not what it seems but what it can be made to look like.

The Nun from the Borderland

Among those who would not be marching to Hillary Clinton's and Bill Hague's drumbeat, towers one tough Melkite nun.  Her name is Agnès-Mariam de la Croix, and she is the Mother Superior of a convent at Qara, on the Syrian side of the Lebanese border.  She lives now in Beirut, saying she is the target of wrath of both sides in the conflict.  Agnès-Mariam has incurred the wrath of the western media because she accuses western journalists of distorting the facts of the conflict, exaggerating Assad's misdeeds in lapping up naively provocations staged by the rebels, and ignoring the mounting evidence of their large scale intimidations of the population at large, and despicable acts of blood-curdling terrorism.  This of course makes Mother Superior a very unwelcome witness.  As anyone who disagrees with the project of immediate removing Assad regardless of human and material costs, she has become the object of a media jihad, and stands accused of crimes ranging from acting as a blowhorn for the regime to being a murderous conspirator on its behalf.  She is better known in France, as she conducts most of her interviews in French (though she speaks her mind fluently also in in English and Arabic).  The vitriol of the French mass media against her is a thing to behold. She has been dubbed chabiha médiatique (media shabihah), and her known anti-Assad stance dismissed as a part of her cover.  She wrote an open letter to al-Assad expressing her dismay at the mistreatment of people in Syria's hospitals and detention without legal process (i.e. a Syrian Guantanamo). She claims she holds no brief for al-Assad, and calls his pre-insurrectionist regme totalitarian. She admires Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.  Clearly, she could be a secret agent from a conspiracy satire of Ivan Vyskočil, whose cover is so secret she herself is not allowed to know she is an agent. 

     It is not, of course, that Agnès-Mariam's viewpoint is unassailable.  Her political stance is markedly anti-Israel, something given by her conscious Arab identity.  (I have known several Syrian Christians personally and this seems a common trait). Her father was a Palestinian.  The politics she subscribes to on the Israel-Palestinian strife (a shade off the official Vatican line), sometimes leave her in the company of dubious propagandists. Chief among them, Thierry Meyssan of the Voltaire Network, has made a name for himself as a 9/11 and a Beslan massacre truther.  This naturally calls for caution in appraising her facts, but it does not invalidate them by the mere finding that conspiracy theorists find comfort in them.

     For example, her charge that the Houla massacre was the work of the rebels, is not as easily refuted as some of the sophisticates (e.g  Jawad al-Tamini and Philip Smyth in the conservative National Review) convinced themselves.  In contrast to the UN report which implicated the Syrian Army in the gruesome killing of 108 men, women and children, there are at least two versions of events which indict the armed groups that are referred to as the Free Syrian Army.  The earlier one, by Reiner Hermann in Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), identified the victims as families of minority Alawites, that recently converted.  The incident occured when a Syrian Army checkpoint was overrun by a group of armed men who then went to the village outskirts and began a slaughter of the local minority loyal to Assad.   Another German paper, Berliner Morgenpost, offered a variant scenario originating with a witness in Agnès-Mariam's Qara compound.  The overrun of the government positions by the rebels, coincided with the FAZ account but the victims were apparently Sunnis known to be Assad loyalists.  

I am not committed to a definite viewpoint on Houla, in the absence of a politically impartial forensic study of the incident. But I tend to discount the official, UN ratified version.  Here are my observations:

1) The area was not controlled by the regime forces at the time of the massacre or immediately after. It is difficult to imagine that in light of such monstrous attack on humanity, the perps simply turned around and ceded the ground to hostile forces without a fight.  There is no credible narrative of expulsion of the perpetrators from the area of the massacre.  The elaborate staging of the display of the dead bodies and their organized burial also bespeaks of the absence of a combat zone in which an opposite side has just perpetrated heinous acts of barbarism.

2) Anyone on either side of the conflict would have instantly recognized the propaganda effect of dozens of massacred non-combatants. It is therefore hard to credit that in effect no mind was paid by the perpetrators to hiding or removing the evidence of the atrocity, when ceding the area to their enemies. 

3) Many of the bodies were mutilated. While there exists no clear evidence that the regime armed forces or even its militias use this kind of intimidation 'technique', this killing style has been the hallmark for at least some of the opposition jihadi fighters.

Of the two Houla counter-narratives, the identity of the victims as Sunnis strikes me as more probable. For the overthrow of Assad to be successful, the opposition forces are crucially dependent on consolidating support and eliminating opposition among their co-religionists. Note that the spiritual leader of Syria's Sunni majority, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassoun is a staunch supporter if not of al-Assad then at least of non-violent transition from his rule. His son Saria was assassinated by unknown gunmen near Idlib in the fall of last year.

What seems clear is that the attempts to discredit Mother Agnès-Mariam, whether they are stupid or sophisticated (a rather crude attemp could be found here - note the dismissive hand-waving of the interviewer.) have one thing in common. They are motivated by the Orwellian dichotomy of us (four legs good) versus them (two legs bad), which makes one impervious to reason and makes it impossible to find a solution to the Syrian crisis before making ordinary people suffer far more than is necessary. 

           The picture at the top of the post speaks to this mentality. Its authors just do not have the wherewithal to see the absurdity of the picture they present: a set of undamaged sofa cushions in a bombed-out building floating above walls and floors crumbled in the explosion.  Surely, someone brought the cushions later and put them on top the spalled masonry to make the point that the building was a civilian dwelling hit by al-Assad's Air Force.  Surely, the scene was staged with the intent of the owners to reclaim the cushions later for their regular use.  But I suppose this would be too hard to see for someone on a warpath. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Loving the Enemy and Other Outrages

Much as I would want to follow Jesus and love my enemies, God gave me me brains that tell me that it is an unrealistic demand. One cannot love one's enemies for if one loves them one would not call them enemies, and if one calls them enemies it is not because one loves them. This does not seem obvious even though it should be.

It follows then that one cannot prosecute a killing on a battlefield as murder. One cannot cannot invent a valid legal process for an idea which is not of this world. Whether one agrees with the US position that Geneva protocols do not cover the type of fighting in Aghanistan, one thing is clear.  People make mistakes in firefights and they cost lives.  That one side stops shooting does not obligate the other side to stop. To take a pause in a combat as a sign the enemy is surrendering is foolishness. To lie in wait and to lob a grenade at an opportune moment cannot become murder as a way of exonerating the commanding officer of the opposite side who let his guard down and exposed his men. It is one thing being chivalrous and another thing being stupid. In war, one gives no quarter except if the enemy asks to surrernder. One needs to appreciate the difference between a civilized conduct of war in which passion is restrained by decency, and the newly politicized quasi-Christology which imposes idiotic formulas and rules that encourage the very terrorist insurgency that the politicians promise to extirpate and to which professed aim they put young men and women in harm's way.

An army that is serious about its mission would not spare an enemy soldier who just exacted a savage, purposeless blood tax on its troops. Not even even if its personnel were to find that the gravely injured enemy soldier was very young and apparently spoke English. True soldiers would have to kill him for this reason: on a battlefield such acts are unpardonable. Briskly dispatching an enemy fighting in unlawful manner reassures to one's own soldiers that they are respected and valued and their leadership will not tolerate their being treated as disposable refuse. There is no other way to communicate to the troops the idea that they are there to win a war, and not, as I hinted, engaging the enemy in silly-bugger playing-at-war designed to waste not just horrendous sums of taxpayers' money but their lives as well. As the veteran Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (Looking for Trouble) said about Omar Khadr "[they] should have killed that punk on the battlefield" after he demonstrated that despite his yound age he was a "hardened killer". They didn't kill him and they restored him to health. Perhaps they hoped he would become an informer. But he didn't turn a traitor like his brother. Evidently he is one tough cookie.

Loving Omar....

The obsessive defending of Khadr, and its handling of facts, is a thing to behold. Despite his own repeated admission to lobbing the grenade which killed Christopher Speer, and his written apology to the widow of the US Army medic, the Khadr truthers have all sorts of ways to deny that is what happened. Typically, they will begin by denying he engaged in any kind of hostility in the skirmish. If that fails, then they deny he threw the grenade that mortally wounded Sgt. Speer. This theory was bolstered for a while by the discovery there was a second survivor in the compound at the time of the explosion. However, the prosecutor admitted the testminoy of the mysterious unnamed witness OC-1, and the Stipulation of Fact signed by Omar Khadr in the deal with the US government in October 2010, duly registered a second combatant in the compound at the time of the grenade throwing incident. It changed nothing on the finding that the grenade was thrown by Omar. But no matter that Khadr admitted to throwing the grenade in a signed statement while represented by a lawyer, i.e. without being coerced to it - in fact he boasted about the act in the early days of his detention. This, in the eyes of the enemy-loving legal experts, means nothing. The Melbourne law professor, Kevin Jon Heller, a specialist in international law (i.a., a defender of Lynne Stewart, the condemned counsel of the Blind Sheikh, and a consulting member of Radovan Karadzic' defense team), opined that Khadr's admission was a move calculated to get him out of Gitmo faster. Well, great ! The problem is: how does one prove a theory, if everyone in it, starting with the one it exculpates, is presumed to lie through their teeth to get what they want ? I am sympathetic, as I have made clear at the start, to the view that the indictment of Khadr is at odds with elemental principles of justice, and the case of "war crimes" against him is phoney baloney. If the facts are as presented, he should have been killed on the spot. The case cooked up against him stinks.  But professor Heller's opinion is clearly over the top as it would make a legal sport out of mind reading. For as Chief Justice Brian observed already in the15th century, "the thought of man shall not be tried, for the devil himself knoweth not the thought of man".
  
The next favourite defense of Omar Khadr is to portray him as a child soldier. Of course there is no running away from the fact that at the time of his capture he was fifteen and his age would be a consideration in any legal proceedings against him by a civilized court. On the other hand, attempts to portray him as an Disney-loving child abducted into service by his fanatical father strike me as naive in the extreme. It misses two important factual points. Despite Senator Romeo D'Allaire's representations, he was not a child soldier by the standards of UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Despite the document general definition of a child being a person under eighteen years of age, Article 38 (3) permits the recruitment of adolescents at the age fifteen.

States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.

Even though Al-Qaeda is not a signatory to the convention, there have not been complaints about child soldiers in their ranks as was the case in the civil wars of Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Uganda or for a while in the PLO of Yasser Arafat. It seems to be  a different military culture.

Two, adolescent hard dicks like Khadr have long been celebrated in martial cultures around the world as a promise of better fighters to come. The idea that a boy of fifteen is a child incapable of executing acts of vicious, calculated violence on his own seems at best ill informed (the great Musashi killed man in a duel at the age of thirteen !) and owing to a distorted sense of reality produced by a life of security and comfort. Often, and the former Canadian general seems himself to be a textbook example of this, the nervous system shaped by our privileged circumstance will not find a competent way to cope with the stresses of the world which rejects the Western idea of civilization. The fact is, and the cited convention recognizes it better than the senator, that some adolescents can become war criminals before they would be allowed to drive a car and drink beer in countries like the US or Canada.  Article 37(a) of the Convention cited above clearly recognizes that some acts of adolescent youths need to be sanctioned severely,  prohibiting only the penalties of death and life imprisonment without parole to be imposed on persons younger than eighteen.

...and Loving to Hate Him

For their part, the commentators on the Right seem to be just as snake-bitten in assessing Omar's crime and punishment. Their spite expresses itself in the initiative to bar Khadr from re-entering Canada. It is a bad tactic because it has "loser" written all over it. There is no legal complaint that Canada has with Omar Khadr. He was born here and he has the right to reside here unless he did something that takes that right away from him. The view that Khadr has forfeited his citizenship has to be demonstrated.  From what I have read and seen, the idea of denying him entry is a gut reaction, not a principled stance.

      The fact of the matter is, the government allowed itself to be played for a fool by the Obama administration in pledging to repatriate Khadr with his US murder sentence not fully served. Given the circumstance, i.e. the Military Commissions Act of 2009 being an instrument allowing the US authorities to conceal evidence on grounds of national security, it was nothing if not foolish for the minister to agree to take Khadr without full disclosure and a negotiated quid pro quo effected in advance of giving assent to the agreement. Interestingly, Coren, Levant, Steyn, etc. have not touched on this "ommission" of Harper's foreign ministry under Maxime Bernier which may be as grave as Major Watt allowing his men to approach the compound at Ayub Kheil without adequate reconnaisance. (And this even after witnessing two of their interpreters shot in cold blood by men in the compound !)

Vic Toews' insisting he wants to see additional tapes and the full record of the Khadr interrogation by Michael Welner, the prosecution psychiatrist, would under normal circumstances be due diligence and perfectly in order. The problem is the Bernier agreement with the US did not stipulate conditions under which it would refuse entry to Khadr prior to serving his full sentence in the U.S. To look for issues now looks bad. What can the records reveal that the government did not know in 2009 ? Why did not the Minister ask for access to Khadr to get a balanced report from a Canadian expert prior to binding itself to early repatriation ? Don't we have any experts on terrorism of our own ? All big questions to me.

Another issue which no-one wishes to touch is Khadr suing the Canadian government for compensation. The Supreme Court of Canada took the position that the Canadian government  breached Omar Khadr's Charter rights by adopting aggressive interrogation style when CSIS agents interviewed him in Guantanamo. At the same time, the justices agreed that the government is under no obligation to repatriate Khadr from US prison. The rulings in effect separates the issue of Khadr's "frequent flier" mistreatment in prison from his right to be in custody of the Government of Canada. I have seen very little in the way public outrage (from the Right) at the nature of this ruling, which in effect asserts that Khadr's rights are being violated continuously by Canadian officials, even though he is not in a Canadian prison. The decision makes the Government of Canada complicit in advance in whatever allegations of mistreatment are claimed on Omar Khadr's behalf. It is saying de facto, "bring him home now or pay him bigger bucks later !" The inability of the high court to gauge the circumstance of Khadr's capture, and appreciate his age development in light of the culture in which he was brought up, is greatly disturbing. Omar Khadr was not deprived of sleep in a case of juvenile swarming of a shopper in a suburban mall.

Be it as it may, to my mind the energy spent in trying to prevent the return of Khadr is misdirected. For one, as noted, it only postpones the inevitable. The delay in acting on the commitment to repatriate Khadr makes look the Conservatives bad, which would not be as much of a problem if they had some good card to play, which of course I don't think they have at the moment.

What Needs to Be Done

We are a secular society governed by laws. By and large, the profound changes in our circumstance due to rapid advances in science and technology, have been reflected in legislative innovations which tackle previously unknown stratagems in the new playing ground. This regrettably has not happened in the parallel dramatical shifts in the social sphere. In the last decade and a half, a new global movement has arisen that seeks to dominate the world under the edicts of a religious faith, a movement whose core values are largely at variance with the traditional values of democracy and the rule of law (as practiced in the West). There are many adherents of this new political creed of islamism in Canada. There are those who do not break Canadian laws in advocating the rule of Islam in the world and of course they should be allowed to advocate any political goals within the established political framework of the country. However, it has become clear over the past decade or so that the islamist political proponents rely on a small groups of militants bent on wreaking havoc and instilling terror into the populace at large. Whether the mosque preachers publicly disown them or not, their goals are identical: to impose the rule of Islam and shariah on everyone, and these goals themselves are a reliable indicator of an ideology which is at sword's point with our traditional governance.  The terrorism in the belief of a caliphate dispensing sharia rulings to everone is implied !

Vic Toews' resources would be much better spent in legislating rather than filibustering. First, the flow of foreign money for building centres of anti-Western agitation, whether mosques or universities needs to be stemmed. And the Saudis and Iranians make that very easy for us to implement. The government should demand full disclosure of financing for Islamic projects and tie the acceptance of them to the reciprocal willingness of the donor's countries to allow the promotion of Western values including unrestricted Christian proselytizing. Is there any other reasonable solution ? I don't see any !

With respect to Khadr, the best way to love the enemy is to forget Khadr, except as an example of our collective incompetence to deal with a clear and present danger to our way of life.
We can't scheme to prevent Khadr from re-entering the country because we would open ourselves to the charge making up rules as we go along, that is abuse of power. That is not smart if you are in power !

What is needed is something like an Act for the Protection of Canada's Interests Abroad, which would spell it out clearly that it is illegal for a holder of a Canadian passport to use the document as a cover, or get-out-of-jail-free card for militant subversion of foreign governments, and/or the planning and execution of terrorist acts on behalf of other states or organizations claiming sovereign rights. Persons convicted of participating in, or planning, insurgency or attacks at large in the acts of terror abroad, would be required by law to serve full term of their incarceration in foreign jurisdictions and be subject to a review of their Canadian citizenship/residency status at the end of their detention. If such person indicates belief in a caliphate and duty as a Muslim which trumps the requirement to behave in a civilized, unprejudiced manner when under protection of Canadian state outside of its territory, then the position of the state should be:  we are ever so sorry but this is not what Canada will tolerate; we are dedicated to an idea of a civilization which allows the freedom of believing and worshipping whatever one wants, as long as one remains a decent human being !

This would be the way to love Khadr, the enemy. Remove our contribution to his schizophrenic sense of identity ! Tell him: you cannot believe as a Canadian that you, as a Muslim, have a duty to fight the infidel, except in demonstrating to the infidel your superiority not just in your courage but also your sense of fairness and generosity. The understanding of, and commitment to the idea that others have rights too even if they disagree with what you believe, is a first step to acquiring that sense.

Anything else we have to consider hopelessly at odds with being a Canadian !