11.30.2009

dr dawg on the yellow crescent

Don't miss this excellent post by Dr Dawg on the next phase of Islamophobia in Europe.

This bit from the Times (UK)
The 'yes' vote, if confirmed, shows the strength of feeling against a Muslim population which has grown over the past 20 years to 350,000 or four per cent of the population. The majority are not regular practitioners of their faith. Most are from Turkey and the Balkans.

Only four modest-sized minarets exist in Switzerland, where there are 150 prayer houses. None are used to call the faithful to prayer.

reminded me of something I read long ago, in one of Studs Terkel's oral histories. A police officer in a midwestern US city talks about how "coloureds" are "taking over" the department. Terkel's footnote says that three percent of the department is now non-white.

Further back, from a university psychology class, I remember a researcher investigating what percentage of people of colour could be present in a social setting before the majority of white people in the room felt uncomfortable. It was under 10%. The study was done in 1970s United States, but you can make your own substitutions for hijabs and mosques.

you can lead a tory to the bank but you can't make him spend (on anything but corporate welfare)

Less than 1 per cent of a $1.9-billion federal fund for social housing has actually been spent – more than a year after it was announced by the Harper government in the midst of the 2008 election campaign.

Another $1.5-billion of social-housing money allotted in February's budget is also only trickling out the door, according to newly released government data.

The figures suggest Canadians who are hardest hit by the recession won't benefit from the flood of stimulus cash until the economy is well on its way to recovery.

. . .

On Sept. 17, 2008, in an unusual use of government business during an election campaign, then-human resources minister Monte Solberg announced the $1.9-billion housing fund with then-environment minister John Baird in Mr. Baird's Ottawa riding. The ministers said it was a government announcement and not an election pledge.

It was later confirmed in the February, 2009, budget, along with three other new funds for social housing.

But as of Sept. 30, 2009, only 0.4 per cent of the $1.9-billion announced for housing and homelessness programs for low-income Canadians had actually been spent.

Gee, what a surprise.

Every day the flacks in the mainstream media tell us that recovery is just around the corner. In the US, for millions of Americans, there'll be no recovery, ever. One out of 10 Americans have lost their homes; one in four homeowners are "underwater" - they owe more than their homes are worth. These are not people who made bad decisions about bad mortgages. They're ordinary people who lost their jobs, or got ill, or both (the two go hand-in-hand) and couldn't keep up their payments.

I was heartened and impressed by the way Canadians expected - demanded - that their government do more to help unemployed people. We understand that that is what government is for. We understand that having a large segment of society struggling in poverty, or teetering on the brink of survival, hurts us all. We understand that sitting back and saying, "I got mine," is both inhumane and short-sighted. Even on a purely selfish level, we understand that our society is stronger when people are prospering - or at least getting by.

So what's being done? Squat.

I dream of a day when the Liberal Party gets its act together and capitalizes on the ever-growing list of Conservative transparent lies, arrogant obfuscation and barely-disguised indifference. At this point, I can't imagine what a vigorous Liberal Party would look like. I'll never vote for them, yet I dream of them forming a government.

Here we are at the end of 2009, and I'm still dreaming.

11.29.2009

amy goodman: "dissent is what will save us"

On this link from Rabble, you can hear Amy Goodman speak at some length about her detention and questioning by Canadian border guards last week - what happened, what it means, why we must continue to speak out at every opportunity.

Thanks to MR for sending. As she said, I'm in good company!

11.28.2009

we're back

Many people have expressed concern about our getting back into our country of choice. So this is to say: we are back.

We expected no trouble and had none. On the weekend after US Thanksgiving, there's always a wait at the border as Canadians declare their conspicuous consumption. The guy in the toll booth said, "Here, take this and go," as he handed us our change. It was amusing.

It was a long drive and I am still fighting a stupid cold. But we had a great time with family and friends, and both pups are fine. Tala will miss Sora, the Boston Terrier puppy who was camping out here with our dogsitter.

I'm home tomorrow, and on Monday Allan will... drumroll... begin moving his stuff back into the basement! Yes, after four long months, the flood repairs and basement reno are finally done. Nothing like an ongoing rent rebate to suddenly concentrate a landlord's time.

11.26.2009

things are great here

I have a cold and some weird laryngitis, no doubt aided by this recent stress at the border. But other than that minor difficulty, everything is great.

We got to my mom's house around 10:00 on Monday night, exactly two hours later than usual. My mom made a joke about our delay: "Allan, they wouldn't let you through with your Red Sox cap?" And I said, "Ma, they had me in an interrogation room. I was questioned and harassed for two hours." Her eyes went wide, and we sat down and told her the whole story. She was appalled, and she might have been worried, but she could see I wasn't upset, and we were making light of it, so I think that helped.

Tuesday we spent the day in the City. New York City and I have such a beautiful long-distance relationship now. I was sitting on a cross-town bus, going through Central Park, drinking it in, thinking, omigod I love this place. I love being here, and I never have to put up with any of the bad things about New York, it's just always fun and beautiful.

I had lunch with NN, as always, then we walked around talking... and I saw Woody Allen. No shit. Walking down Park Avenue, by himself. I tugged on NN's sleeve, but she didn't look in time. After he passed, I said, "That was Woody Allen! Right there." We turned around to watch him amble down the sidewalk, and NN waved to his back.

After that, I met Allan and our niece E. E said we would meet at Stumptown Coffee, her favourite coffee roasters from her Portland days, now with a place in New York. I was imagining a little coffee bar. Little did I know Stumptown is part of this massive, hip scene going on in a hot, new (that is, new to me) boutique hotel.

The Ace Hotel, on West 29th Street, is some wildly hip digs, and they've created a whole new take on the hotel lobby bar. A huge ground-floor space is entirely open, loft style, and full of cushy couches, mismatched chairs, coffee tables, bars, and whatever else. It's very hip, but also very friendly and non-snooty. After our coffees, we ended up with a bottle of prosecco and a charcuterie plate, and after E had to leave, Allan and I had another round.

Allan and I met our great friends AW1L & F for a late dinner at Raoul's, a Paris-style bistro that's been in business forever and shows no signs of slowing down. A&F have lived in London (UK) and have done a lot of trans-Atlantic travel. AW1L has also traveled a lot to Africa, so both men are well familiar with border difficulties. F is African-American, and he is frequently stopped by British guards. AW1L is Muslim, but is white and has an American-sounding last name (he converted as an adult), and is never stopped. AW1L says the guards in London don't even make an attempt to cover it up: everyone they stop is brown.

In general, we ate and drank too much, and had a great day.

Yesterday, Wednesday, we had to make a shiva call - that's the Jewish post-funeral visit to a family in mourning. Being long distance, I haven't been physically present for several funerals and shivas, which is hard. I was glad we happened to be around for this one, and I was able to pay my respects and wish people well. The man who died was such a sweetheart, someone everyone loved, and there was more celebration of his life than anything else. But I know his family will miss him so much. And here's a woman who has lost her life partner of more than 50 years. That's just brutal to think about.

Allan and I had dinner at home with my mom, and today we just hang out until having a small, quiet Thanksgiving with my sister and brother-in-law. It was my BIL's dad who died, so it's a subuded Thanksgiving this year. (I have known my brother-in-law and his family since I'm 15 years old, but that's coincidental to my sister being married to him.)

Tomorrow is our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving with our nieces, nephews and their partners at my brother and sister-in-law's house, the highlight of this annual trip. We spend all day with them then always end up talking late into the night, then Saturday Allan and I hit the road at dawn.

Happy Thanksgiving to US readers. I'm having a great time and I can't wait to get back to Canada.

11.25.2009

"the gray area": in which i am detained, harassed and threatened at the border

In October, I helped a war-resister friend of mine take care of some paperwork. Unable to obtain his birth certificate, he needed a friend with a US passport to attest to certain facts. As I slid my passport under the window at the US Consulate, I thought to myself, I wonder what will happen the next time I use my passport...? I was aware I was taking a slight risk. I didn't think it was a big deal. I still don't.

Two days ago, on Monday, November 23, Allan and I drove our usual route down the QEW to the Buffalo border crossing. The female border guard in the booth asked us the usual questions - where we're going, reason for our visit, how long we're planning to stay. Then she swiped our passports, and that's when things changed.

We saw her writing - a lot of writing. She asked Allan for the keys and to pop the hatchback (which was already unlocked). A group of guards descended on the car with mirrored devices used to check under the car. I was in the passenger seat. Someone tapped on the window. I turned around to see a border guard in full paramilitary get-up motioning for me to get out and come with him. Without a word of explanation, he led me across the parking area into a building. I asked, "Can you tell me what this is about?" He said, "If I knew, I would tell you. I was only instructed to bring you in."

He led me through a waiting area with numbered wickets - like at a Motor Vehicles or other kind of processing centre - and into a separate, more secure waiting area, behind a plexiglass wall, that he had to get buzzed into. He asked if there was anything in my pockets; there was not, because my cell phone was in the car. Had I been carrying anything, I would have had to surrender it to him. He told me have a seat. I sat.

So I sat there, by myself. No ID, no phone. Just sitting there by myself. At that point I was a little nervous. After a while, I saw guards escorting Allan into the outer waiting area, which I could see through the glass. We nodded and smiled to each other, and I felt a little better.

I waited in this inner waiting room for quite a while. Eventually a guard came out - a big tall guy, shaved head, reflecto glasses - and walked me to the far corner of the room. He said they were short on space and he would question me right there. He stood directly under the TV, which was blasting the whole time, and had me sit in a chair in front of him, so I had to crane my neck to see his face, and try to hear over the TV noise.

"Do you want to tell me about some of the trouble you've been in?"

That was his first question.

"I haven't been in any--"

"Do you want to tell me about some of the trouble you've caused?"

"I haven't caused--"

"Did you try to cause trouble at the US Consulate?"

"I went with a friend--"

And that's how it went. He would ask me a question, I would say three words, and he would interrupt with his next question. After a few rounds I realized he wasn't interested in what I had to say, and I just sat there while he delivered a lecture in question form.

"The US government doesn't look kindly on military deserters, or on people who help them. Did you think you were just going to waltz into a US facility and help a military deserter? You could be in a lot of trouble. You can't just break the law and think that because you're in Canada it won't matter."

"I didn't break the law--"

"You were aiding and abetting a felon, that's a federal offense."

Now, none of the war resisters in Canada are felons. They have not been charged, tried, or convicted of any offense. There are arrest warrants out for some of them, but none of them are felons.

Also, Reflecto Guard pronounced this supposed crime "aiding and abedding". Allan and I had a good chuckle about that later. "What? You've been a-bedding war resisters?"

But I wasn't chuckling just then. I was nodding, and occasionally trying to speak but being interrupted. Reflecto never mentioned the war resister's name, but he clearly had personal information about him. He asked, "This individual must have deserted right after he signed up?" I said I wouldn't know about that. He said, "Well, he was born in 1985, I was born in 1985, so I'm thinking he probably joined when he was 19 years old, and that means..." I didn't follow his logic. I just waited for him to finish and said, "You'd have to ask him about that, I don't know the details."

"Why were you helping him?"

"Because he's my friend and he needed a favour."

"He's your friend? This individual is your friend?"

"Yes."

"He's much younger than you."

"Yes."

"Who is the gentleman who are traveling with?"

I told him. He asked the same question later, and again after that. He seemed generally unsatisfied with the answer.

This went on for a while. I'm not sure how long, but well past the point of amusement. Then he said, "I'll have to get another officer to adjudicate your case. You're not going anywhere for a while."

I asked him if I could use the washroom.

He said, very roughly, "You can't leave this room."

I went back to where I had been sitting, farther away from the TV. Allan, who could see me through the glass so he knew the "interview" was finished, came over to the glass, and we mouthed a few words to each other.

Allan said the name of the war resister who I helped -- meaning, is that why we're here. I nodded yes.

"Are you under arrest?"

"Not yet."

"Are they going to let us in?" (Meaning, to the US.)

"I don't know."

One or two exchanges later, a different guard came over and ordered Allan to move away from the glass and sit at the other end of the room.

They left me sitting in the inner waiting room for a while, and by this time I really had to use the washroom! One of the border services employees behind the computers was female, so I motioned to her and said, "I have to pee." She walked me to a washroom, waited outside until I was finished, then walked me back. I passed Allan along the way. It was nice to see each other for a moment.

Then back to the inner waiting area, for more waiting.

Eventually two men showed up. One was my old pal Reflecto. The other was an older, more senior-looking officer wearing a baseball cap. He was carrying my notebook. My notebook which had been in my backpack, in the car. I thought to myself, That's my notebook. That man is carrying my notebook. A very strange feeling.

The older man said, "Come with us." They led me through a door behind the waiting area and opened a door to what I can only describe as an interrogation room: a tiny, bare room, with a desk and three chairs. At this point my heart raced a bit.

This is it. This is the room you've seen and heard about. The little room. I have no ID, no phone, no anything. I'm alone. I'm powerless. I don't wish to sound overly dramatic, but it was unnerving.

I thought, I'm sure glad I'm wearing my white skin and my non-Muslim-sounding last name. I'd hate to be walking in here without those protective devices.

In addition, the only time I have ever sat alone with police in a room like that was the night I was raped. So I felt little triggers flashing in my brain, old triggers but real, and for a split-second I thought I might cry, or faint - not from the present situation, but from August, 1982. I breathed deeply, and it passed.

Most of my brain knew that everything would be fine. Another part knew that having done nothing wrong is no guarantee of anything.

So I sat down on one side of the table, with the more senior officer across from me and Reflecto on the side of the table. Officer Baseball Cap showed me his ID. It's amazing how when your brain is stressed, you can't process information. I saw and immediately forgot his name.

Officer Baseball Cap said, "Do you want to tell us about some of the activities you're involved with up in Canada?"

He seemed to want me to speak, so I did. I told him, very matter-of-factly, that I work with a group of people, we campaign the Canadian government, trying to persuade them to allow these men and women to stay legally in Canada.

He said, "What you do in Canada is your own business, but as a U.S. citizen, you have to be careful. You're in a gray area, and you have to watch what you do."

Here are some things he told me.

That I have to watch what I say and do, because I'm a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. government does not approve of military deserters or people who help them.

That I have to watch what I do, because I want to be able to travel to the U.S. in the future to see my family.

That I should be careful of what I say, because he could make trouble for me.

At one point, he leaned over the desk and said, "I could call the U.S. Attorney's office right now and have you arrested."

Inside, I thought, Have me arrested for what? Hello, US Attorney? I have a woman here who signed a paper attesting that she's known someone for two years, come on in and pick her up. But I didn't respond. It wasn't a question. I just nodded.

Sometimes he gave me space to speak. I said things like, "We're not some kind of shadowy, underground organization. We're very public and above-board. We meet with our Members of Parliament, we have a bill in Parliament now. We hold public events. It's very legal and open."

I told him, "I have no wish to break the law. I've never broken the law in Canada, and have no intentions of doing so. Had I known that filling out that form in the US Consulate was illegal--"

Before I could finish he said, "It's not, but something else you do might be..."

Oh man, it was everything I could do to keep myself from turning to Reflecto and rolling my eyes at him. See that, Mr Reflecto? Officer Baseball Cap has just admitted that you are full of shit.

Baseball Cap seemed to be playing good cop and bad cop all by himself. He allowed me to talk, and he nodded his head and listened, and said, "Yes, I believe you." And he also growled and threatened to arrest me or not allow me to cross the border.

I felt very calm and unafraid.

At one point, early on, Baseball Cap went off on a little political rant. "I don't know who these guys think they are. They think they can join the military and then when they don't like some policy or something, they can just get up and leave. It doesn't work that way!"

I waited for a pause, then said, very neutrally, "I have a different perspective, but you don't really want us to discuss that, do you? You're very entitled to your opinion, and I respect that--"

His face softened. "Yes, yes, and I was about to say the same to you, you are very entitled to your opinion and I respect that right. And you're right, we're not here to discuss that. We're here to discuss what you may or may not have done to help military deserters."

I also managed to get in a little political jab. When I described our "activities" in Canada, I said, "We want the Canada to accept these men and women, like during the Vietnam War - because you know, not all of those were draft dodgers. Many of those guys were deserters, too." I don't know if he got that, but at least I said it.

If he wanted information, he was going about it very badly. And clearly, in retrospect, we realize that he didn't want information and had no intention of even trying to get it. (Perhaps he's not authorized to.) He never said, for example, Do you know where [specific war resister] lives? How long have you known him? Who runs the organization? Where is it based? And so forth.

On the contrary, he seemed determined not to follow up on anything that could lead to actual information. For example, here's an exchange.

"Do you know military deserters in Canada?"

"Yes."

"You do? You know them?"

"Yes. Lots of people do. They live in apartments, have jobs, talk to the media."

"But you're an American. Do you know other U.S. citizens who also know military deserters?"

"Yes."

"Have you ever helped a military deserter?"

"I support their cause."

"Have you ever housed a military deserter or given money to one?"

"No one is living with me now."

"Who is the gentleman you are traveling with?"

See what I mean? "No one is living with me now" is not exactly a full response. But he never followed up.

Between Reflecto and Baseball Cap, I was asked a total of six times about "the gentleman" I was traveling with. They had Allan's passport, too. They can easily see that we travel together, and anything else they need. I later learned they spoke to Allan for about one minute. (He can report on that later.) I felt like saying, "If he was a war resister, would I be bringing him into the country???"

Baseball Cap said, "What about this notebook?"

I said, "It's my notebook."

"What do you use it for?"

"I take notes. I go to meetings and events, and I take notes."

"What do you use the notes for?"

"I'm a writer, sometimes I use the notes for writing and blogging, sometimes just to help me focus in a meeting."

[As an aside, I've always made it a point not to take notes on anything highly confidential about a resister's case. Anything we don't talk about by phone or email does not go in my notebook. Now I feel vindicated in my discipline.]

Baseball Cap flipped through the book and opened to a page with some numbers. He turned it towards me and said, "What are these numbers?"

I did my absolute best to suppress a smile and answered, "Those are course numbers at the University of Toronto. I'm in graduate school and those are courses I'm considering taking next term."

There are many names of war resisters in that notebook - including my friend who I helped at the consulate. But he asked no questions about that.

This went on for a while, Baseball Cap alternating between threatening - "You don't want to have any trouble when you visit your family" - and matter of fact. Several times, he said I was in a "gray area" and I'd better "watch what I do" - and I should tell other U.S. citizens in Canada to watch what they do.

Then he said, "Well, I don't want to keep you any longer than I have to, you have a long drive ahead of you." He started to slide my notebook across the table to me, then stopped. I didn't reach for it.

The two men led me back to the inner waiting area. I stood by the door, expecting someone to buzz me out, but instead someone shouted, "Sit down! You're not done yet!"

I sat. In a few minutes, the first guard, the one who had escorted me from the car, appeared. He handed me my notebook and both passports, and motioned to follow him. As he led me out to the car, he said, "I'm sorry, I didn't work on your case, so I have no information for you."

I said, "No, that's ok, I'm good."

He said, "Yeah, you're ok?" and smiled. Strange, eh?

I said, "Yes, thank you, I'm fine, have a good day."

In the car, everything had been opened and searched, of course. The whole experience took about two hours.

A first for me. Something I've now seen a bit from the inside.

We took off down the highway, and I called the Campaign.

* * * *

In case it's not crystal clear, I've done nothing illegal. Going to the US Consulate with my friend was not illegal. And my friend is not a felon.

Driving from Buffalo to New Jersey, Allan and I had ample opportunity to talk about this adventure, with each other and with some campaigners. The more we talked, the more obvious it became that this was simply harrassment and an attempt at intimidation. And why? Because of my political beliefs and the people with whom I associate. Good old USA, freedom on the march.

11.23.2009

annual u.s. thanksgiving road trip

I am so enjoying the shitstorm swirling around Richard Colvin's courageous revelations, and the predictably cowardly Government smear campaign, the Conservatives as always more interested in protecting themselves politically than any semblance of doing the right thing. As corroborations pour in from various sources, it will be interesting to watch these slimy bastards squirm. As entertaining as the political show can be, let's not forget what we (re)learned about the war in Afghanistan.

Last year while we were gone for US Thanksgiving, democracy broke out! RIP Coalition, one year ago. Then came the Demonize Quebec campaign, then the prorogue. What will happen while we're away this year??

I will leave you with one thought. During a speech yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged journalists to "shine light into dark corners" of government affairs. Then he refused to take questions from reporters.

Now we're off for our annual 10-hour drive which ends at my mom's place. I can't wait to see everyone! Sadly, this trip includes a shiva call, as a member of our extended family passed away this weekend. It was not a shock (cancer), but he was a great guy, much loved. Other than that, the trip should be great, and I'm also glad I can be there for to pay respects.

Speaking of predictable and cowardly (not my friend, the Conservatives!), cue the trolls exhorting me to stay out of the country. Yes, after all these years, they're still at it. Nothing ever new in those peabrains. My apologies to peas.

11.21.2009

arkansas boy won't say pledge to the flag until all americans have equal rights

One cool ten-year-old.

"i'm fried and i can't get out"

How the US supports its troops.
Marines treated at Camp Lejeune for post-traumatic stress had to undergo therapy for months in temporary trailers where they could hear bomb blasts, machine-gun fire and war cries through the thin walls, according to servicemen and their former psychiatrist.

The eight trailers were used for nearly two years, until a permanent clinic was completed in September in another location on the base, said a Camp Lejeune medical spokesman, Navy Lt. Mark Jean-Pierre.

The noise from training exercises "shook me up real bad. I couldn't take it. I almost ran out of there a couple of times," said a Marine patient who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media. "My mind couldn't focus on the treatment. I couldn't tell the difference between the combat zone and the non-combat zone."

The allegations became public after the dismissal of Dr. Kernan Manion, a civilian psychiatrist who says he was fired for writing memos to his military superiors complaining of shoddy care of Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a condition that can make patients jumpy, fearful of loud noises and prone to flashbacks.

"These guys are saying, 'I'm fried and I can't get out,'" Manion said in an interview. Referring to the Fort Hood shooting rampage in which an Army psychiatrist who counseled PTSD victims allegedly killed 13 people earlier this month, he said: "Is there potential for another blowup? Yes, indeed."

when you don't see a poppy, don't assume ignorance or apathy

Someone else who chooses not to wear a poppy: Impudent Strumpet on Remembrance Day. A great personal-is-political post.

new mexico photos

We've finally got our photos from New Mexico up, a small selection of the gazillion photos we took of the desert, petroglyphs and crazy rock formations.

Flickr collection here.

F1000005


For anyone interested, these posts are now linked to the corresponding Flickr sets:

Santa Fe

Farmington part 1

Farmington part 2

Farmington to Chaco to Grant part 1

Farmington to Chaco to Grants part 2

Grants to Acoma Pueblo to Albuquerque part 1

Grants to Acoma Pueblo to Albuquerque part 2

salutin: the abu ghraib effect with the imprint of a maple leaf

Bravo Rick Salutin!
Our own little Abu Ghraib?

The nauseating component in current claims and reactions about Canada's role in turning Afghan detainees over for torture does not lie in the betrayal of some mythic Canadian role as an idealistic actor on the world stage – as opposition questions implied in the House of Commons yesterday. We have always played an ambiguous, often duplicitous, role in international conflict. It began with our original peacekeeping foray at Suez in Lester Pearson's days, and continued in Vietnam, Haiti and now Afghanistan. Foreign policy equals deceit.

It doesn't lie in the Conservative refusal to call an inquiry. They simply learned from Jean Chr├ętien, who shut one down (on Somalia) and stonewalled others.

Nor does it lie in the odd absence from the debate of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, Mr. Human Rights. It's true his own writing on torture led to charges he was ready to accept versions of it, and he might like to avoid the predictable Tory gibes. But in that case, he may as well resign altogether.

Nor is the disgust due mainly to Defence Minister Peter MacKay's loutish claims that critics were accepting the word of "the Taliban," by which he seems to mean prisoners turned over. The sorest point in allegations by Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin isn't that "bad guys" were sent for torture but that a lot "were picked up ... during routine military operations, and on the basis typically not of intelligence [reports] but suspicion or unproven denunciation. ... Many were just local people: farmers; truck drivers; tailors, peasants – random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The truly sickening part is that it provides one more proof, a uniquely Canadian one, that the war on terror has become the chief incubator of terror, and recruitment for it, post-9/11.

In this respect, it isn't crucial what is proven about Richard Colvin's accusations, though it's hard to imagine what reason he had for lying about any of it, especially his attempts to convey the truth and being told to shut up. The story is out there: A Canadian official says our soldiers handed over Afghans, innocent or not, for what they knew would be torture. It's like painting a fresh bull's eye on the backs of our troops, in addition to the ones already on them. Whatever good may have been accomplished by helping to build a school or road is counteracted. To the extent the charges are true, innocent people who have been tortured get out with a new grudge against Canadians, and pass that on to their families and communities.

The damage doesn't end there. These stories spread globally and spur reactions. The obvious comparison is Fort Hood. As Patrick Cockburn wrote, "Interrogation of would-be suicide bombers captured before they could blow themselves up reveals that their prime motive since 9/11 has been opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was evidently the motive of Major Nidal Malik Hasan." The strategic intent of al-Qaeda was explicitly to cause these Western responses, and the backlash to them in the Muslim world. It is the Abu Ghraib effect, but now it has the imprint of a Maple Leaf.

By attacking and occupying two Muslim countries instead of selectively pursuing a small band of terrorists, decision-makers caused great, mounting danger to their own people, as well as devastating two societies. They must have known these would be the results. I have never been able to believe they didn't realize it. They went ahead because the gains to be made outweighed in their minds the costs.

In the case of the United States, the gains might have been in terms of oil, as well as ideology. In the case of Canada, the stakes may be pettier: to curry favour with the U.S. or rebuild what was seen as a wrecked military.

Who really cares? It ought to have been foreseen and probably was. No good could come of this war.

11.20.2009

malalai joya in toronto: report, part two

Initial thoughts here.

Part one here.

Joya speaks with great strength and forcefulness. And she talks fast. Allan said when she spoke in Pashto, you could practically see the words tumbling out of her mouth, and you were half-expecting the words to start tripping and falling on each other, but they never did.

I'm a great notetaker, but this time my notebook is a bunch of crazy fragments. Here are some of them.

* * * *

First Joya explained why she wrote the book. She became famous, she said, for standing up to the warlords and drug lords, who are just a copy of the Taliban, wearing the mask of democracy. "And sometimes through your own life, you can write about other lives." She noted that in a war, the first casualty is truth, and she wrote the book to tear the mask off the warlords who are deceiving people with propaganda, and to shine a light on the tragedy of Afghanistan's 30 years of war.

She is part of the pro-democracy, anti-misogynist, anti-fascist movement in Afghanistan, and this movement wants the withdrawal of all foreign troops. Since October 2001, 65,000 Afghanistan civilians have been killed, according to Human Rights Watch.

In some big cities, women have access to education and to jobs. But the vast majority of Afghan women live "in hell," with rape, abuse, violence, suicide and poverty as facts of everyday live. And it's worse than it was under the Taliban, because now democracy has made these crimes legal.

Karzai is a "shameless puppet" who passes misogynist laws. Women cannot see a doctor without their husbands' permission. Marital rape is legal. If a woman refuses her husband's sexual demands, he can legally withold food and shelter from her. [Remember, Canada knew about this law before it was passed.]

Young women have been raped by the sons of MPs, with complete immunity. Joya gave many examples, including the rape of girls as young as 8 and 10 years old.

She said: "Most women in my country are living in hell." There is widespread rape and other violence against women, and the laws make it legal.

There are some female members of Parliament, but they are "dinosaurs" who accept and internalize the oppression. These women say, "The Taliban is my father, the Taliban is my brother". So their presence is window dressing, if that.

NATO says now, for the first time, women in Afghanistan have rights. THIS IS A LIE. Women may not be wearing burqas, but they'd rather wear the burqa and be alive.

Women and men in Afghanistan suffer from the same horrors: poverty, injustice, violence, joblessness. And in addition to those, women suffer rape and violence on a daily basis.

Joya mentioned the revelations, only that morning, that Canadian troops were complicit in the torture of prisoners. [The Harper Government has already said it will not order an investigation, but that may change.] As bad as that is, she said, this is what women and all civilians in Afghanistan face, all the time.

The money that pours into Afghanistan - our tax money - lines the pockets of warlords and drug lords, while Kabul has become a city of beggars. People are now squashed between two powerful oppressors: the occupying forces led by the US and NATO on one hand, and the warlords on the other.

Since October 2001, about 2,000 Taliban fighters have been killed. 65,000 civilians have been killed.

Joya expressed deep condolences to Canadian mothers who have lost sons and daughters in Afghanistan. She said, "Your tears are not enough. You must raise your voices to stop the war!"

She recounted ceaseless bombings by NATO forces: bombing of wedding parties, more than once, where even the bride and groom were killed. "The White House apologized, and Karzai the mafia puppet said, that's okay. But people don't want apologies. They want the occupying armies OUT!"

In foreign policy, Joya said, Mr Obama is much like war criminal Bush. "If Mr Obama stood for peace, he would bring George Bush to international criminal court. But one of the first things he did when he took power was to rain more war upon my people."

Joya said the recent election in Afghanistan was "the most fraudulent and most ridiculous election in the world. It was nothing but a showcase of the US government's puppet regime. Everyone knew the winner would be picked by the White House. There is a saying in my country: it's the same donkey with a different saddle. And I hope that is not an insult to those very good and hard-working animals.

"Of course the US puppets won. Most people wanted nothing to do with the ridiculous election, knowing it was not real, they wanted no part in it. Because it's not important who is voting, it's important who is counting the votes."

The Western media, Joya reminds us, presents Abdullah Abdullah as an independent, and a rival to Hamid Karzai. But in reality Abdullah and Karzai are both puppets, both misogynists, both mouthpieces for the corrupt drug lord mafia. There is no different in policy between them. Their "competition" is only about power.

Over and over, Joya referred to the "corrupt misogynist warlord drug lord mafia", often describing them as "photocopies of the Taliban". She told of rapes and murders of women, not punished, not even considered crimes. Women denied health care, education, jobs, and all basic human rights.

She said the picture she painted for us was but the tip of the iceberg of the sorrows and tragedies of her country. "We need your help. But not by occupation. Occupation has never brought about liberation."

Joya emphasized that education is a key component to the Afghan liberation struggle. Now, people who are not educated, who have low literacy and few skills, are still out there in the streets, doing struggle, making resistance. But with education, they could do so much more!

"We know what to do with our own destiny. Our freedom is our own responsibility. Canada says it will leave in two years. But we don't need this kind of so-called help. If Canada wants to help us, it must leave my country NOW!"

* * * *

Tip of the iceberg, indeed. That's all these notes are.

After Joya finished, she asked her co-author, Canadian peace activist Derrick O'Keefe to speak.

O'Keefe reminded us that this extraordinary woman, who became a secret teacher of girls at age 15, and the director of a women's health clinic at age 25, was donating all the proceeds of this book to humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Joya herself cannot return to her home province, because of the extreme danger to her life. The Afghan puppet government cut off her security budget before expelling her from Parliament. Stephen Harper was in Afghanistan at the time. He said nothing about it then. He has said nothing about it since.

The drug lords have Blackwater security and well-organized armed guards. Supporters of Joya's raise money for her guards, and a trusted uncle vets them. Her life is in constant danger.

During the question-and-answer portion, Joya said, "I do not fear death. I fear political silence."

Meanwhile, our tax dollars build mansions for drug lords, and pay staff salaries for phony NGOs who are puppet-fronts for the warlords.

O'Keefe said that the Canadian Peace Alliance is raising money for Joya's health clinic. On her last trip to Canada in 2006, Canadians sent her home with $20,000. This time they are trying to double that. (You can send a cheque with "Malalai Joya" in the memo area.)

"We have two choices. We can sit in silence. Or we can do struggle. Raise our voices. Make resistance."

* * * *

Recommended by Malalai Joya:

I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan by Kathy Gannon

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Alex Berenson

Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence by Sonali Kolhatkar

RAWA: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.

Her most recent book:

A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice by Malalai Joya

malalai joya in toronto: report, part one

I've been putting off writing about Malalai Joya's talk in Toronto. You can read my initial impressions here, but anything further is eluding me. Hearing Joya was such an intense experience that I am struggling to articulate it, knowing whatever I write will not even come close to portraying it for you.

But knowing it's better to try than to do nothing, I will use my scribbled notes to at least get something down.

* * * *

A few other speakers, all women, preceded Joya*. A huge banner served as a backdrop: BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW - CANADA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN.

First Vicki Obedkoff, a minister from Trinity St Paul's, welcomed us to the church and briefly mentioned the church's strong history of multifaith work for peace. Although I am an atheist, I always feel honoured to be among those who view working for peace and justice as inextricable with their faith.

Next, Neela Zamani, an Afghan-Canadian activist, helped us welcome Joya in Farsi. Zamani spoke of the terrible irony of Canada supposedly waging war for women's rights, when the new laws and policies in Afghanistan are like the Taliban or worse and the Harper government dismantled the Office of the Status of Women here at home. She asked: If the Canadian government is so concerned with the rights of Afghan woman, where was Canada in 1992 when Afghan women were suffering under the mujahideen? Where was Canada all the years before September 11, 2001, when the Taliban was oppressing Afghan women? Nowhere, because the war has nothing to do with women's rights.

Zamani urged Afghan-Canadians and Iranian-Canadians to become more politically active. She was in Iran during the protests earlier this year, and compared her two communities. "Here is a country where you can be killed for protesting, and not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of people took to the street to demand justice and democracy. Here in Canada, we are free, but we are also quiet."

Next war resister (and my dear friend) Kimberly Rivera told her story. Kim spoke a little about why a girl from a suburban Texas town might join the military - the lies she was told, the dead-end job prospects available to her, the pride in being part of something larger than herself, and doing something important: helping to liberate an oppressed people.

Then she told us two experiences she had while serving in Iraq. First, the little Iraqi girl, probably two years old, clutching her daddy's hand, her eyes wide, tears streaming down her little face. Kim wondered what that little girl had witnessed to freeze her features in trauma. She wondered where the girl's mother was. She wondered how she, in full combat gear with a loaded rifle, must appear to that little girl. The Iraqi girl was about the same age as Kim's daughter, back at home in Texas.

Another time, when Kim normally would have been asleep, she felt compelled to skip bed and call Mario, her husband. While she was on the phone with him, there was a mortar attack. She later found shrapnel in her bed, right where her head would have been.

Kim realized that she couldn't leave any child motherless - not Iraqi children, and not her own. Home on leave, Kim and Mario packed the children and everything they could fit into their little compact car and started driving, not knowing what to do or where to go. Eventually they realized that the reasons to stay were mostly material, plus the comfort of their known world. The reasons to leave were more important.

It's often difficult for Kim to speak about her experience, and her obvious emotion affects the audience. For my part, I don't think I ever hear a war resister speak in public without my eyes welling with tears. When Kim re-took her seat, Joya clasped her hand and the women embraced.

Next, Member of Parliament Olivia Chow recalled Malalai Joya's address to the 2006 NDP Convention, how the delegates rose to their feet with thunderous applause, how Joya "motivated us all to stand strong," and how the NDP overwhelmingly passed the resolution calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan.

Olivia, referring to the money Canadians have already spent on the war in Afghanistan, asked, "Eighteen billion dollars, and for what?" and reminded us that for every dollar spent on development, nine is spent on war. She referred to an Oxfam report that found appalling rates of poverty, rape, suicide and torture in the land Canada has supposedly liberated.

Then chairperson extraordinaire Nadine MacKinnon introduced Malalai Joya. She said:
Malalai Joya has been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan." At a constitutional assembly in Kabul in 2003, she stood up and denounced her country's powerful NATO-backed warlords. She was twenty-five years old. Two years later, she became the youngest person elected to Afghanistan's new Parliament. In 2007, she was suspended from Parliament for her persistent criticism of the warlords and drug barons and their cronies. She has survived four assassination attempts to date, is accompanied at all times by armed guards, and sleeps only in safe houses.

Often compared to democratic leaders such as Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, this extraordinary young woman was raised in the refugee camps of Iran and Pakistan. Inspired in part by her father's activism, Malalai became a teacher in secret girls' schools, holding classes in a series of basements. She hid her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn't find them. She also helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province of Farah. The endless wars of Afghanistan have created a generation of children without parents. Like so many others who have lost people they care about, Malalai lost one of her orphans when the girl's family members sold her into marriage.

Malalai has risked her life to speak out about the violence and poverty brought on by occupation and corruption in Afghanistan. She will speak in Toronto about why we must end the war and let the Afghan people decide their own future.

Her new book, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Speak Out is the account of her fight to liberate Afghanistan after 30 years of war.

About that book, Noam Chomsky said: "Malalai Joya leaves us with hope that the tormented people of Afghanistan can take their fate into their own hands if they are released from the grip of foreign powers... we owe to her, and to her people, to listen carefully, to learn, and to act." Chomsky also said: "The Nobel Peace Prize committee might well have made truly worthy choices, prominent among them the remarkable Afghan activist Malalai Joya."

After the applause died down and Joya stepped to the podium, something extraordinary happened. Joya thanked Kimberly Rivera for refusing to become a war criminal. Facing Kim, Joya choked back tears. Kim tried to speak, then put her hands over her face and cried. My campaign friends and I were all weeping.

For the rest of the night, Joya spoke with strength, power and eloquence about appalling conditions, and never once shed a tear - except for that moment, face to face with one person whose actions said no to war.

Now for the hard part!


------

* I use first names when I know the speaker, and last names when I don't presume that familiarity.

war resister victory in federal court!

From the War Resisters Support Campaign:

Victory! Federal Court rules in favour of lesbian US war resister

Bethany Smith (a.k.a Skyler James) welcomes positive news in her effort to avoid deportation to the US military

OTTAWA — Today a Federal Court in Ottawa ruled that the Refugee Board must re-assess the case from lesbian US war resister Bethany Smith (a.k.a "Skyler James"). Her story was first captured in a feature article by Capital Xtra soon after her arrival in Ottawa over two years ago.

James came to Canada to escape what she describes as "daily humiliations" and "constant threats of physical violence" in the US military. Her lawyer has made a persuasive case against deporting her back to a situation where her very life could be at risk. As of today a Federal Court in Ottawa has compelled the Refugee Board to re-assess James's case based on new criteria. The decision is seen by supporters as major breakthrough in James's efforts to avoid deportation to the US military.

+ + + +

In case it's not clear, the federal court is sending James' case back to the IRB, the same thing that was done for Joshua Key. Thank [something] for an independent judiciary bringing sanity back to this politically tainted IRB process.

Hey CIC, are you still reading?? We are going to win this thing!

please keep rodney watson in your thoughts

This excellent story about war resister Rodney Watson, living in sanctuary in Vancouver, was on the front page of the Vancouver Courier.

Letters in response to it - the majority supportive - are here.

remembrance day the day after, the week after, forever on

Please read this powerful op-ed from the Vancouver Sun - from the city where war resister Rodney Watson lives in sanctuary, trying to find peace, where Malalai Joya spoke a few days before she appeared in Toronto.
This is not about Remembrance Day, this is about the day after, and the week after. This is an invocation to memorialize all those who have suffered and died due to human and corporate greed, military wars and occupations, man-made poverty and environmental devastation. A remembrance to the horrors of the world to jar us from our collective amnesia that seems to set in on certain days.

Scholars such as Reinhart Koselleck and Gilbert Achcar describe war commemorations as sites of political and national mobilization. They conceptualize past memories of warfare and the fallen as powerful tools directed primarily toward building support for current and future military operations. Within this context, it is revealing that the institutions that most vehemently uphold the symbolism of Remembrance Day are the ones that are most eager to create a steady flow of the dead to remember. Mark Steel sardonically writes, "Maybe this is why the Government is so keen on the current war -- it is convenient to have another one in a place full of poppies."

Ironically, a day on which -- according to Veterans Affairs itself -- we are to remember "our responsibility to work for peace," we are bombarded with messages of militaristic glory. In the words of U.S. combat veteran and historian Howard Zinn, "Instead of an occasion for denouncing war, it has become an occasion for bringing out the flags, the uniforms, the martial music, the patriotic speeches...Those who name holidays, playing on our genuine feeling for veterans, have turned a day that celebrated the end of a horror into a day to honour militarism."

Indeed, should Remembrance Day stories not emphasize those soldiers who oppose wars, as conscientious objectors or war resisters?

Today, I am haunted by the faces of those who are being slaughtered by NATO troops in Afghanistan. After we underscore the seemingly unique sacrifice of veterans and selectively grieve for them, where is the indignation and sorrow for the daily dead of Afghanistan? Where is our remembrance of the soaring number of deaths in a country where, just in the past six months alone, more than 2,000 people have been killed?

This week I attended a lecture by former Afghan MP Malalai Joya, dubbed the bravest woman in Afghanistan by the BBC for speaking out against foreign troops as well as Taliban warlords. In her words: "Your government lies that they brought democracy and women's rights to Afghanistan. The U.S. government and its allies have pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. My message to democratic people around the world is to please raise your voice against the wrong policies of your government."

Joya also offered condolences to mothers and soldiers in NATO countries who have lost loved ones during the occupation of her land. How must it feel to always validate the grief of an occupying country, while those responsible find greater fervour in perpetuating policies of death and destruction?

I ponder the future, the 2010 Olympic Games to be exact, and whether Vancouverites will awaken to state-sanctioned repression by 16,500 military, police and security personnel in the largest security operation in Canadian history. Vancouver will be occupied by more troops than Afghanistan has been; bringing millions of dollars in closed-circuit TV cameras, electronic fencing, armoured vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles to our streets.

As a reminder of what may transpire, we can look to Gustafsen Lake or Oka, where indigenous people bore the force of the Canadian military and police for defence of their land and people.

Have we become so engrossed in our own narcissistic narrative of self-righteous freedom-lovers and democracy-promoters that we take offence at those who wear the white poppy (as if the values of peace and justice are any more politically biased or controversial than the glorification of war)? Why is it inappropriate to suggest that freedom for the world's majority is still an aspiration?

This is an invocation not just for Remembrance Day, but one to ritualize grief in response to all the violence in and around our daily lives. But this would require strength and a real commitment to freedom and inequality; sadly it is easier to dismiss me with the tired-old refrain of being unpatriotic or disgracing veterans. In contrast to the tyranny of complicity and historical amnesia, with remembrance comes responsibility -- so let us act accordingly.

Harsha Walia is a Vancouver-based activist, writer, researcher and facilitator.

Supportive letters can be sent to sunletters@vancouversun.com.

11.19.2009

arkansas cops tase 10-year-old girl

...but don't worry, it was just a wee little shock. Plus her mom said it was ok, and moms always know best.

Arkansas cops taser 10-year-old girl.

Thanks to James for sending and to M Yass for posting on FB.

ontarians, support bill 222!

Please read Antonia Zerbisias on Cheri DiNovo's private member's bill that would remove the breed-specific language from Ontario dog law.

If you live in Ontario and you value justice, please write to your MPP and urge her or him to support Bill 222, An Act to amend the Dog Owners' Liability Act and the Animals for Research Act.

To find your MPP, go here or here.

In case you missed it, the story of my run-in with Ontario anti-pitbull law is here. Even when it comes to the non-human members of our families, the personal is political.

malalai joya in toronto: thoughts with report to follow

Hearing Malalai Joya speak last night was electrifying, inspiring, humbling, maddening and profoundly moving.

Electrifying because she fairly crackles with the energy and life-force of the people united, changing the world.

Inspiring because she is a consummate leader, and doer, and organizer.

Humbling because I was, frankly, in awe of her. She has struggled against unfathomable odds (four assassination attempts?!) and has only gotten stronger. She says, "I am not afraid of death, I am only afraid of silence." She lives for The Struggle, and she is an example to each of us whose hearts live there, too.

Maddening because Canada - Canadians! - our tax dollars! - are supporting an repressive, corrupt, misogynist, brutal, fascist regime in Afghanistan.

And deeply moving to hear and learn from such a teacher.

I want to write about her talk more fully, but I need a little time to let things percolate, and I have a few things already on the agenda today. Unfortunately, I won't be able to report as well as I have on other events: Joya speaks in a rapid-fire delivery that defies manual recording. (When she answered an audience member's question in Pashto, the speed ratcheted up to lightning levels!) But I'll summarize as best I can, and I know there'll be video up soon.

11.17.2009

tomorrow in toronto: a woman among warlords

Tomorrow night in Toronto, come hear Afghan MP Malalai Joya.

Many people have told me that Joya's book, A Woman Among Warlords, is everything you need to effectively argue against Canada's involvement in Afghanistan - kind of like Josh Key's A Deserter's Tale is for the war resisters movement. I'm going to read Joya's book during a school break.

WHEN: Wednesday, November 18, 7:00 pm

WHERE: Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto (Bloor & Spadina)

ADMISSION: $5 - $10 donation

11.16.2009

why bigoted breed-specific laws must be repealed, or how ontario laws almost ruined my life

This Wednesday, November 18, Member of Provincial Parliament Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) will introduce a private member's bill calling on Ontario to remove the breed specific wording of the Ontario Dog Owner's Liability Act.

There is no doubt that dog owners must be held accountable for the actions of their dogs. But the same laws must apply to all owners of all dogs. No law should single out specific dogs based on myth, fear, unfair publicity - and bigotry.

I'm talking about pit bulls, of course, a group of breeds and crosses who, along with their owners, have been made to suffer because of public ignorance and prejudice.

I won't try to tell you all I know about bully boys, what incredible animals they are, and how profoundly so many of them have suffered, first from the cruelty of sadists and profiteers, then again as they are punished - killed - because of bad human laws.

All you need to know about these amazing dogs can be found here at BAD RAP, which stands for Bay Area Dogowners Responsible About Pitbulls. BAD RAP has a special section about the "Vick Dogs," the dogs that survived Michael Vick's torture camps, and - although they were thought to be beyond hope - were rescued and rehabilitated. I've blogged about the Vick dogs before, but please do go, read, watch. Unless your heart is made of stone, bring tissues.

You can also read more about breed-specific legislation - why it's wrong and why it doesn't work - here at DogWatch.

So instead of explaining why breed-specific legislation is wrong, I will tell you a personal story of something that happened to our family - something bad that could have been unimaginably worse.

You've heard of Buster. Buster was our very special dog. He had a list of physical and emotional issues as long as your arm. He was both an enormous problem and an enormous joy.

Walking Cody one cold, rainy, December night (December 14, 1999), I saw a dog, alone, walking with its head down, with a slow, plodding gait that spoke of desperation. Not two weeks earlier, I had told my sister that I felt ready to get another dog. We had lost our little terrier Clyde four months earlier, and I told Judy, "The next stray dog that crosses my path is mine."

I ran back to our building, picked up the intercom, and shouted to Allan, "Come downstairs! There's a dog out here! Put your shoes on, get down here!"

I looked around: no dog. Where was he?? Then a moment later, he emerged from an alley between two buildings. I knelt down and opened my arms, steadying myself with deep breaths so my excitement wouldn't scare him off. Head down, he walked into my embrace.

By the time Allan was outside I was holding the dog.

We took him upstairs. He wore a chain-link collar from which the tags had been clipped off. He had almost no fur left, and his exposed skin was gray. He was covered with open wounds and infections. He was dying.

* * * *

Thus began a saga that changed our lives forever. Buster had almost certainly been trained to fight, or else used as a "bait dog" for other dogs to attack. It took him a very long time to trust any person. He could only allow a new person to touch him through a special sensitization process we learned from a trainer. But once he trusted, oh boy. He was the best friend you'd ever have.

Buster could never be loose around other dogs. We found this out the hard way, after a charlatan calling herself a trainer made a series of bad decisions. A dog had to have its ear sewed together and Allan spent five days in the hospital. We knew that Buster would attack any other dog, so we made sure he never had that opportunity.

The only exception to this was Cody. Buster loved Cody and was always gentle and sweet with her. In fact, he treated her like an older dog treats a puppy, letting her play-bite, smack and otherwise harass him, sometimes playing with her, other times looking on with bemused tolerance.

Buster had three different chronic illnesses, all of which involved regular visits to specialists and an array of medications. At one point I had a spreadsheet to keep track of them all: these drops in both eyes every eight hours, this drop in one eye once daily, these pills on an empty stomach, these pills with food, and so on.

Caring for Buster took a lot of energy, and cost a fortune. (And almost cost Allan a finger!) And every day I felt lucky to have him. No creature loves you like a dog, and no dog loves you like a former stray. But the love you receive from a former stray, abused pit bull is on another order of magnitude. I used to say that if a man loved me the way Buster did, he'd be arrested for stalking. This dog was intense.

* * * *

The summer before we moved to Canada, Buster was desperately ill. He almost died. I could not abide the thought of our family not making it to Canada together. We sought out specialists, had tests done, put him on a special program. I was frightened, but we pulled him through.

On August 30, 2005, we all drove north together.

Note the date. The Ontario Dog Owner's Liability Act with its anti- pit bull provision went into effect on August 29. Two days earlier, and he would have been grandfathered in.

On September 2, the moving company delivered our furniture. I hung out on the front lawn with both dogs on leashes. When people would walked past with dogs, Buster would start to react, and I'd take our dogs around the house to the backyard.

Later that day, our doorbell rang. It was Animal Services. A neighbour had reported that we had two pit bulls that appeared aggressive and dangerous. (One of those dogs was Cody, which tells you something about this person's judgement.)

My heart was pounding as we spoke to the Animal Services staffers. We told them one dog was afraid of people, so it was best that they didn't come in. They were fine with that. As we chatted with them, Allan purposely left the screen door open - so they could clearly see Buster lying down, relaxing, totally unconcerned. As long as he had a buffer zone, he was always fine. He would never lunge or bark at a person unless they approached him too closely.

After a chat, the Animals Services person told us they were noting that the house had two dogs: one Shepherd-Lab mix, and one Boxer mix. They told us to get both dogs licensed, wished us well, and left. It was a long time - several days - before I was able to realize that we were safe.

* * * *

Let me tell you what could have happened, indeed, what should have happened under Ontario law.

A neighbour reported a pit bull sighting.

It was now incumbent on us to prove that Buster was not a pit bull.

We would have had no way of doing so. He's a mutt without papers. How could we prove a negative?

Since we would have been unable to disprove the neighbour's allegation, Buster would have been taken from us and destroyed. Period. No due process. No hearing. No second chances. The dog that we had cared for with our lives and souls would have been taken away and destroyed. Not because he had behaved dangerously or menacingly. Because a neighbour made an accusation.

Do you see what's wrong here?

Animal Services told us that when they explained the law to the reporting neighbour, the person felt awful and immediately wanted to rescind the complaint, but that can't be done. This nosy, bigoted, misinformed neighbour didn't even understand the severity of the law he or she had just invoked.

On August 30, 2005, we moved to Canada to start a new life.

On September 2, my life was almost ruined.

The brutal post-script to this story came 10 weeks later. One of Buster's chronic illnesses suddenly worsened, and we made that terrible final decision. But that was our choice, for his own good, and we were with him until his last breath, and beyond. It could have been otherwise. It came very close.

* * * *

Join me in contacting Cheri DiNovo, and if you're in Ontario, your own MPP. Support this private member's bill that would bring sanity back to Ontario dog laws.

For more information: Dogs Need A Voice.

Facebook Group: here.

YouTube: here. (Buster's in it!)

stopbsl



I've written a lot about Buster, so for those with time, inclination and extra tissues: details on the Animal Services visit, and part two of that; on losing him: one, two, three, four, five. I've never been so grateful for community; six: on love.

two busters upstate


b on new mats 016


b on new mats 012a


pups at play 002


cody on the landing 001


buster_back


buster_floor

11.15.2009

max cleland: the forever war of the mind

I understand that many people question the idea that the Nidal Hasan, who opened fire at Fort Hood last week, could have had PTSD, since he was never deployed. These aren't people who are freaked out over the man's name or his ethnic background. These are good people on the side of justice, who feel we're using the expression "post-traumatic" too lightly.

When I heard this, I immediately thought of my friend Dean, a former marine now living in Canada, one of the many war resisters at risk for deportation by the Harper government. I've written about Dean a few times, most recently here. Dean deployed to Iraq twice. In between those two tours, he was stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a US military hospital in Stuttgart, Germany.

The rate of severe depression and suicide at the hospital was so high that military brass became concerned. Soldiers were assigned to act as go-betweens for patients and visiting families, and Dean was one of them. He had no medical or social work experience, and was given no training.

Many of the patients were dying. Many were burn victims, so not only were they dying, but in constant, agonizing pain. Families were flown in to say goodbye. Other patients would survive, but with permanent, life-changing disabilities, and adjustment was a long way off.

It was there - not in Iraq, but in the hospital base in Germany - where Dean developed symptoms of severe depression and PTSD. The hospital personnel told him, Don't worry, we all go through that.

This was not from fighting the war, but from seeing its aftermath, up close, all day, every day.

Max Cleland knows something about PTSD. For those not familiar with Cleland, he was a US Senator from Georgia. He is also a Vietnam War veteran, who lost both legs and one arm in that useless war.

Despite succumbing to intense pressure to vote for the Iraq War authorization, Cleland became an outspoken critic of the Cheney Administration. In his 2002 re-election campaign, Cleland's Republican opponent, Saxby Chambliss, resorted to unthinkable tactics, often politely referred to as "questioned his patriotism". Questioned his patriotism? They ran doctored photos of Cleland with Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein! (Where was Saxby Chambliss while Max Cleland was being blown to bits? Gathering student deferrments.)

The campaign defeat re-triggered Cleland's depression. His life came unglued; he feared he wouldn't survive. That's how he ended up at Walter Reed Hospital, surrounded by veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. (I've blogged about the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed several times: see here and here.) That's where the shooter was stationed, too. Here's Cleland, writing on Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day in Canada.
The Forever War of the Mind
By Max Cleland

“EVERY day I was in Vietnam, I thought about home. And, every day I’ve been home, I’ve thought about Vietnam.” So said one of the millions of soldiers who fought there as I did. Change the name of the battlefield and it could have been said by one of the American servicemen coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan today. Wars are not over when the shooting stops. They live on in the lives of those who fight them. That is the curse of the soldier. He never forgets.

While the authorities say they cannot yet tell us why an Army psychiatrist would go on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, we do know the sorts of stories he had been dealing with as he tried to help those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan readjust to life outside the war zone. A soldier’s mind can be just as dangerous to himself, and to those around him, as wars fought on traditional battlefields.

War is haunting. Death. Pain. Blood. Dismemberment. A buddy dying in your arms. Imagine trying to get over the memory of a bomb splitting a Humvee apart beneath your feet and taking your leg with it. The first time I saw the stilled bodies of American soldiers dead on the battlefield is as stark and brutal a memory as the one of the grenade that ripped off my right arm and both legs.

No, the soldier never forgets. But neither should the rest of us.

Veterans returning today represent the first real influx of combat-wounded soldiers in a generation. They are returning to a nation unprepared for what war does to the soul. Those new veterans will need all of our help. After America’s wars, the used-up fighters are too often left to fend for themselves. Many of the hoboes in the Depression were veterans of World War I. When they came home, they were labeled shell-shocked and discharged from the Army too broken to make it during the economic cataclysm.

So it is again, with too many stories about veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan ending up unemployed and homeless. Figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that 131,000 of the nation’s 24 million veterans are homeless each night, and about twice that many will spend part of this year homeless.

We know of the recent failures at Walter Reed Medical Center, where soldiers were stranded in substandard barracks infested with rats while awaiting treatment. I was in Walter Reed myself at that time seeking counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder, which, ignited by a barrage of Iraq headlines and the loss of my United States Senate seat, had simply consumed me.

I never saw it coming. Forty years after I had left the battlefield, my memories of death and wounding were suddenly as fresh and present as they had been in 1968. I thought I was past that. I learned that none of us are ever past it. Were it not for the surgeons and nurses at Walter Reed, I never would have survived those first months back from Vietnam. Were it not for the counselors there today, I do not think I would have survived what I’ve come to call my second Vietnam, the one that played out entirely in my mind.

When I was wounded, post-traumatic stress disorder did not officially exist. It was recognized as a legitimate illness only in 1978, during my tenure as head of the Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter. Today, it is not only recognized, but the Army and the V.A. know how to treat it. I can offer no better testament than my own recovery.

Weeks before the troubles at Walter Reed became public in 2007, my counselor put it to me simply. “We are drowning in war,” she said. The problems at Walter Reed had nothing to do with the dedicated doctors and nurses there. The problems had to do with the White House and Congress and the Department of Defense. The problems had to do with money.

When we are at war, America spends billions on missiles, tanks, attack helicopters and such. But the wounded warriors who will never fight again tend to be put on the back burner.

This is inexcusable, and it comes with frightening moral costs. There are estimates that 35 percent of the soldiers who fought in Iraq will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m sure the numbers for Afghanistan are similar. Researchers have found that nearly half of those returning with the disorder have suicidal thoughts. Suicide among active-duty soldiers is on pace to hit a record total this year. More than 1.7 million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine that some 600,000 of them will have crippling memories, trapped in a vivid and horrible past from which they can’t seem to escape.

We have a family Army today, unlike the Army seen in any generation before. We have fought these wars with the Reserves and the National Guard. Fathers, mothers, soccer coaches and teachers are the soldiers coming home. Whether they like it or not, they will bring their war experiences home to their families and communities.

In his poem “The Dead Young Soldiers,” Archibald MacLeish, whose younger brother died in World War I, has the soldiers in the poem tell us: “We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.” Until we help our returning soldiers get their lives back when they come home, the promise of restoring that meaning will go unfulfilled.

Max Cleland, the secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, was a Democratic senator from Georgia from 1997 to 2003. He is the author, with Ben Raines, of “Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove.”

Another note about Cleland. He was a member of the Kean Commission, the official 9/11 "investigation" (if anything ever deserves scare quotes, is that one). Cleland resigned from the Commission after becoming hopelessly frustrated with the Cheney Administration's stonewalling and cover-ups. Here's an interview with Cleland by PBS's Frank Sesno.

11.13.2009

my canada includes omar khadr

Omar Khadr will receive less justice than a man accused of masterminding 9/11.
A U.S. military commission will resume hearing the case against Omar Khadr, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, the same day the Supreme Court of Canada heard a federal government appeal in his case.

It is unclear when or where the 23-year-old inmate will face charges, but he is one of 10 high-profile detainees to be sent to the U.S. to face justice.

Five of those inmates, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will be on trial in a federal civilian court in New York City.

So Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, will be "tried" by a phony military tribunal, for a crime he could not have committed, while he was a child soldier.

And this is just fine with the Harper Government.

That same Government warns the Supreme Court of Canada against declaring that a government has a legal duty to protect its citizens detained abroad.

This Government is an absolute disgrace. The longer they stay in power, the more damage they do to Canada's good name and international standing.

Bring Omar Home!

u.s. military openly admits u.s. taxpayers are funding the taliban (hundreds of millions of dollars)

[redsock guest post]

Chris Floyd, Empire Burlesque (my bold):
Our American militarists love war so much that they even bankroll the enemy, just to keep the blood money flowing. This odd but absolutely crucial characteristic of the Never-Ending Terror War was borne out again in a remarkable story in the Guardian (with an expanded version in The Nation).

As Aram Roston reports -- and U.S. military officials openly admit -- American taxpayers are giving Afghan insurgents at least 10-20 percent of the war machine's multibillion-dollar transportation contracts. Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into Taliban coffers every year from bribes offered to stop insurgents from attacking supply convoys -- convoys which are increasingly controlled by local warlords and druglords, including convicted drug dealers in the Corleone-like Karzai family.

Of course, in Iraq, the Pentagon finally started paying insurgents as well. But in that instance, they were at least paying the enemy to stop fighting. Here, they only ask that the Taliban allow some trucks to roll through the countryside -- which seems to be entirely in the hands of the insurgents, despite eight years of war and months of Obama's "surge". The Americans pay handsomely for the privilege -- sometimes up to $1,500 per truck, depending on the cargo -- even though they know the insurgents will use the money to keep fighting.

It's a nice racket all around, everybody makes out -- the American militarists and war profiteers, their criminal Afghan allies, and the insurgents (who use the American money to top up the cash flow they get from American allies in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc.). So where's the harm?

OK, OK, there are all those civilians being slaughtered -- women and children ripped to pieces, to shreds of flesh and fragments of bone -– by the bombs of the defenders of Western civilization. And yeah, there are all the American and British soldiers being killed, wounded, and brutalized, year after year, in a senseless, criminal conflict. And then there's the looting of the American treasury by the warmongers, and the relentless and inevitable destruction of American liberties by the all-corrosive acid of perpetual war.

But as Stalin liked to say: when wood is chopped, chips fly. And what are these few paltry chips -– life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– when there's so much juicy loot out there?

Floyd also notes that since the inaguration of Barack Obama, the criminal conditions at "America's flagship concentration camp" at Guantanamo Bay have gotten even worse:
Within days of Obama's inauguration and subsequent announcement that he would close Guantanamo, prisoners say authorities introduced new regulations and revoked previous privileges at the prison.

Most people hoping for some "change we can believe in" probably thought things would go in a more positive direction.

u.s. army separates mother and child, will court martial or forcibly deploy soldier-mom to afghanistan

More incentive, as if any is needed, to resist all efforts to deport US war resisters from Canada. This is the Army that supposedly will give resisters an administrative slap on the wrist.
Army Sends Infant to Protective Services, Mom to Afghanistan
By Dahr Jamail

VENTURA, California, Nov 13 (IPS) - U.S. Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother, is being threatened with a military court-martial if she does not agree to deploy to Afghanistan, despite having been told she would be granted extra time to find someone to care for her 11-month-old son while she is overseas.

Hutchinson, of Oakland, California, is currently being confined at Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Georgia, after being arrested. Her son was placed into a county foster care system.

Hutchinson has been threatened with a court martial if she does not agree to deploy to Afghanistan on Sunday, Nov. 15. She has been attempting to find someone to take care of her child, Kamani, while she is deployed overseas, but to no avail.

According to the family care plan of the U.S. Army, Hutchinson was allowed to fly to California and leave her son with her mother, Angelique Hughes of Oakland.

However, after a week of caring for the child, Hughes realised she was unable to care for Kamani along with her other duties of caring for a daughter with special needs, her ailing mother, and an ailing sister.

In late October, Angelique Hughes told Hutchinson and her commander that she would be unable to care for Kamani after all. The Army then gave Hutchinson an extension of time to allow her to find someone else to care for Kamani. Meanwhile, Hughes brought Kamani back to Georgia to be with his mother.

However, only a few days before Hutchinson's original deployment date, she was told by the Army she would not get the time extension after all, and would have to deploy, despite not having found anyone to care for her child.

Faced with this choice, Hutchinson chose not to show up for her plane to Afghanistan. The military arrested her and placed her child in the county foster care system.

Currently, Hutchinson is scheduled to fly to Afghanistan on Sunday for a special court martial, where she then faces up to one year in jail.

Hutchinson's civilian lawyer, Rai Sue Sussman, told IPS, "The core issue is that they are asking her to make an inhumane choice. She did not have a complete family care plan, meaning she did not find someone to provide long-term care for her child. She's required to have a complete family care plan, and was told she'd have an extension, but then they changed it on her."

Asked why she believes the military revoked Hutchinson's extension, Sussman responded, "I think they didn't believe her that she was unable to find someone to care for her infant. They think she's just trying to get out of her deployment. But she's just trying to find someone she can trust to take care of her baby."

Hutchinson's mother has flown to Georgia to retrieve the baby, but is overwhelmed and does not feel able to provide long-term care for the child.

According to Sussman, the soldier needs more time to find someone to care for her infant, but does not as yet have friends or family able to do so.

Sussman says Hutchinson told her, "It is outrageous that they would deploy a single mother without a complete and current family care plan. I would like to find someone I trust who can take care of my son, but I cannot force my family to do this. They are dealing with their own health issues."

Sussman told IPS that the Army's JAG attorney, Captain Ed Whitford, "told me they thought her chain of command thought she was trying to get out of her deployment by using her child as an excuse." '

Major Gallagher, of Hutchinson's unit, also told Sussman that he did not believe it was a real family crisis, and that Hutchinson's "mother should have been able to take care of the baby".

In addition, according to Sussman, a First Sergeant Gephart "told me he thought she [Hutchinson] was pulling her family care plan stuff to get out of her deployment".

"To me it sounds completely bogus," Sussman told IPS, "I think what they are actually going to do is have her spend her year deployment in Afghanistan, then court martial her back here upon her return. This would do irreparable harm to her child. I think they are doing this to punish her, because they think she is lying."

Sussman explained that she believes the best possible outcome is for the Army to either give Hutchinson the extension they had said she would receive so that she can find someone to care for her infant, or barring this, to simply discharge her so she can take care of her child.

Nevertheless, Hutchinson is simply asking for the time extension to complete her family care plan, and not to be discharged.

"I'm outraged by this," Sussman told IPS, "I've never gone to the media with a military client, but this situation is just completely over the top."

11.12.2009

brief hiatus

I have a big paper to write, which I must turn in early because of our annual road trip for US Thanksgiving. So wmtc is on brief hiatus while I try to focus.

11.11.2009

11.11

Many of my friends are wearing a white poppy today.

I appreciate that idea, but it doesn't work for me. I wear my peace button every day. Today is no different. I remember the war dead, and the wounded, and the shattered lives, the ruined cities, the orphans, the widows, the tortured, the disappeared.

I post the same statement every year on November 11:

Honour the dead by working for peace.

11.10.2009

jason kenney changes citizenship guide: canada no longer called nation of peace

From the Globe and Mail, emphasis mine:
The Conservative government has re-written the book on what it means to be Canadian.

No longer will prospective immigrants learn that Canada is a strictly peaceful nation. Instead there will be a greater emphasis on Canada's military history and on the poppy as a symbol of remembrance and of Canada’s sacrifice in the First World War.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will reveal a major overhaul Thursday of the booklet given to all citizenship applicants. The current booklet, "A Look at Canada", was written under a Liberal government in 1997. In the past Mr. Kenney has said he can't believe the booklet, intended to help applicants study for their citizenship tests, includes a lengthy section on protection of the environment but barely makes mention of the Canadian Forces.

The 45-page booklet also includes a two-page discussion of Canada's aboriginal peoples and fails to discuss the history of tensions between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

“Since becoming Minister, I have often remarked on how the citizenship education materials the Government of Canada provides to newcomers are inadequate. They fail to provide newcomers with a solid grasp of our country's history, symbols, values and institutions,” Mr. Kenney says in a statement set to be released Tuesday afternoon.

“More than 150,000 immigrants take the citizenship test each year after studying our citizenship guide, A Look at Canada . Unfortunately, A Look at Canada lacks meaningful information about Canada's history, symbolism, values, and institutions.”

Mr. Kenney said officials in his department had consulted with experts in Canadian history, civics education and citizenship promotion in order to produce the new document. The new booklet will be called Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship , which is in keeping with many public statements by Mr. Kenney in which he emphasized the responsibilities of citizenship.

It is sure to spark debate when it's released publicly on Thursday. Many groups may be uncomfortable with the minister's reframing of Canadian history. One of the offending passages that's likely to have been excised reads: “Canadian values include freedom, respect for cultural differences and a commitment to social justice. We are proud of the fact that we are a peaceful nation. In fact, Canadians act as peacekeepers in many countries around the world.”

This isn't the first time Jason Kenney has rewritten Canadian history. You may recall that I reported on a significant change to the CIC website: references to Canada's history of offering refuge to war resisters was removed.

We should not be complacent about these changes. If you disagree, make your voice heard. Call, write, email, both the CIC and all media outlets.

sanctuary: rodney watson and reverend ric matthews in their own words

I have two great new videos to share. Neither of these were scripted or rehearsed; both men are just speaking from the heart.

Rodney Watson, stop-lossed Iraq War veteran, now in sanctuary in a Vancouver church:




And my favourite war-resister video in a long time, Reverend Ric Matthews, who offered Rodney sanctuary:




First United in Vancouver is more like a community centre than a conventional church. It's located in the city's infamous Downtown Eastside, where so many people struggle to survive at the margins of society. The church feeds three meals a day to more than 100 people. As you can hear, for Reverend Matthews, offering refuge to Rodney Watson is in keeping with all his work for justice.

You can help war resisters in Canada by circulating these videos widely.