Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Peace-Loving Hamas

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is one busy peace emissary. He will not rest in peace himself until he sees the success of his mission. To reward peace-loving Palestinians by bringing unbearable levels of public opprobrium against Israel, shaming that war-loving country to sue for peace with the entire collective of the Palestinian Authority, inclusive of misunderstood Hamas.

Palestinians need no longer endure lives of deliberate humanitarian deprivation through Israeli malevolence and determined inhuman machinations.

Hamas, writes Mr. Carter with complacent certainty, desires peace. He condemns the United States and Israel for Satanizing Hamas which wishes only to see peace reign supreme over the area, with the establishment of a separate and sovereign Palestinian state. At which juncture they will lay down their arms and revert to piously law-abiding citizens, mission accomplished.

By ignoring the true face of Hamas, by declaring it a terrorist group, they unjustly malign a group with humanitarian interests at heart.

For by imposing boycotts and punishment of political factions the U.S. and Israel throw up roadblocks in the peace process, making it difficult for factional leaders to moderate their groups' policies. He carries the blame-the-victim syndrome to new heights of absurdity, but with complete composure, placid in his righteous certainty that he holds the key to solving the seemingly insolvable.

Hamas, he asserts with authority, is prepared to accept any agreement negotiated by Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert, and will willingly disband its militia in favour of a non-partisan professional security force. A mutual cease-fire in Gaza is perfectly agreeable to Hamas. One wonders to whom he spoke, one wonders whether he listened to responses to his initiatives, for Khaled Meshaal offers an entirely different message, and little wonder.

Mr. Carter does not appear to recognize the delightful challenges inherent in Middle East game-playing, even when he becomes part of it.

The "struggle" against Israel, according to Mr. Meshaal, would continue. Whatever accommodation will be pursued and brought to a successful conclusion between Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, according to Hamas's Meshaal, there will be no recognition of Israel.

Hamas is working toward achieving a new, more Arab-acceptable power balance. And having achieved that, ensuring that the Palestinians are in a position to become sovereign finally - the "struggle" continues.

Of course, to achieve that solution leading to sovereignty, the considerable issues relating to Jerusalem, pre-1967 borders, the right of return and items like the disposition of settlers in the West Bank would have to be negotiated successfully. According to the wishes of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the Document of National Consensus.

Israel must be prepared to give a lot. The Palestinian Authority will loftily be prepared to give - not an awful lot of anything, but peace is the ultimate bargaining chip and warfare and terror not to be relinquished without due payment.

As for that other little inconvenience, the matter of missing soldier Gilad Shalit, why that issue too can be accommodated. "If Israel agrees to a list of prisoners to be exchanged, and the first group is released, Corporal Shalit will be sent to Egypt, pending the final releases," Carter carefully explained.

Of course that particular "list of prisoners" reflecting all such "exchange" lists is comprised of hundreds of names, including those of prisoners who may have been implicated in the murder of Israelis.

What deviltry resides in details.

Like the details, for example, in the most recent accusations launched against Israel, implicating the IDF in the killing of a Palestinian woman and her four infants. The background having been set by Hamas, conducting its lethal activities directly from within civilian enclaves. Where two armed terrorists, close by the woman's house, carried large knapsacks, and when targeted by the IDF the explosives contained in them took the lives of the woman and her children.

The reportage through the international news community was instant and as usual, directly implicated Israel in violence against innocents. Video footage of grim-faced Hamas men bearing the small bodies wrapped in Hamas-green coverings, Hamas head-bands wrapped around their still faces, told an unsubtle and theatrical story. Hamas-supporting Palestinians once again victimized by the army of the deathly occupier.

Israel's defenders are many among the Palestinians, including Arab members of Israel's Knesset: "Israel proves every day that its army is the foremost competitor of Nazism and that it carries out an ideology of destruction, just like in humanity's worst periods" denounced MK Ibrahim Sarsur, accusing the state of which he is a member of parliament of "cold-bloodedly wiping out an entire family, including its innocent children."

Knowing full well how excruciatingly difficult it is for the Israeli Defence Forces to fight an enemy which positions itself deliberately among civilians, which sets down explosives in their midst, and which is more than prepared to mount exercises certain to result in civilian deaths. The better to enable it to point the finger of blame at the responding security forces, and portray themselves as the righteously stout defenders of freedom for the Palestinian cause.

"We make great efforts to avoid hitting civilians", said an IDF source. Many attacks have been cancelled because of proximity to civilian concentrations. We regret that Hamas has no qualms about risking civilians by operating among them and creating a false impression that Israel is the one endangering them."

Hamas excels at manufacturing disaster and turning the finger of blame elsewhere. And the international community looks no deeper than the facade peace-loving Hamas present

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Partners For Peace

The first order of the day, eclipsing all other pre-requisites to clearing the way for two sides to sit together at a conference table to hammer out conditions acceptable to both sides, leading to a peace agreement, must be security. Security in the sense that one erstwhile adversary attends to a little homework in ensuring that its forces do not continue their ongoing efforts to destabilize the government of the other.

In the process launching violent attacks against their perceived opponent's civilian public, attempting to maim and to murder at will. Just delivering a little message, thereby, of implacable hatred.

Can any reasonable entity accept that their adversary will continue the agenda of slander against the other, the fomenting of hatred, the encouragement of the hatefully disaffected to shoulder arms and aim directly at civilian targets, to launch rockets against the civil installations of settlements, towns, kibbutzim, factories, refineries, schools, and farms, and set aside the aggravation quotient, steadfastly focusing on a peace agreement?

That is precisely what occurs when Israel meets with the Palestinian Authority. The PA screams loud and long about the disintegration of potential peace opportunities because of Israeli intransigence in the continuance of settlement outposts in the West Bank, but remains complicit in ongoing attacks against Israel.

A PA court in Hevron has sentenced a 25-year-old Palestinian to death for his unconscionable act in alerting Israel to activities of four terrorists. Execution will be by a firing squad. Palestinians deliver their brand of justice swiftly and irrevocably.

When Israel sentences and incarcerates Palestinians engaged in terror acts against Israeli citizens, there is always the potential for future release of these men seeking to murder and maim, including those who are successful. No death penalty is exacted for their incalculable bloody crimes.

This is the same PA which has promised to halt attacks by terror militias against Israel in pursuance of a peace agreement. Yet Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has not been averse to giving official awards to Palestinians who murder Jews.

Moreover, Palestinians caught in violent acts against Israel and incarcerated in PA prisons seem somehow mysteriously able to procure "get out of jail free" cards on a regular basis. Three more terrorists managed to "escape" the PA prison in Jericho on Sunday; all members of the Fatah, Gaza-based Popular Resistance committees.

The prison chief shrugged off the event: "People escape from prisons all over the world. We are investigating."

It's a common enough occurrence that Palestinians who attempt to assist Israel face death for their unforgivable crime of turning against their own. Which means that Palestinians who loathe violence, who attempt to forestall acts of bloody mayhem against others, including Israelis, and who step forward to prevent such occurrences, do so on pain of a death sentence.

PA lynch mobs, as well as Fatah and Hamas terrorists have not been reticent about delivering death to any among them suspected of giving aid to Israel.

Israel's partner for peace, the moderate Mahmoud Abbas, has outright rejected any welcome of foreign leaders who have committed to visiting Israel this summer in honour of the country's 60th anniversary of Independence Day. The Palestinian Authority has its own plans to commemorate that event they name the "Nakba" (disaster), referring to the creation of the State of Israel.

For them it signifies a day of bleak mourning.

Visiting diplomats from abroad, the Palestinian Authority contends, should demonstrate a modicum of sensitivity "to the Palestinian people's feelings" in understanding that they do not celebrate the creation of the State of Israel, but mourn that dread event.

This is the accommodating, resigned, receptive-to-peace argument of the moderates among the Palestinians who sue for peace with Israel in pursuit of the establishment of a state of their own.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Unthinkable Healing

Talk about it, you'll feel better. Don't keep the anguish of your dreadful experiences locked away inside yourself to fester and drive you to distraction. Air it, speak of it to others, ask for understanding, require people to listen, to devote their attention to your unspeakable agony. Divulging your pain will help you to live with it. The excruciating resentment will be alleviated.

That's quite the recipe for revival of the human spirit. Venting the pain would give comfort to others who had themselves suffered similar humanitarian outrages. Together they could commiserate with one another, solemnize the past, and look with hope to the future. Misery does love company, and sometimes shared misery helps the dissolve the immediacy of individual pain. But what is resolved?

And how useful can it be when the victims understand the reality that the fomentors of their agony will never face justice? That they may, at any time, just happen to come across that very person who forced agonizing pain upon them, walking freely on the street? That their need for justice will never be met? Truth and reconciliation commissions sound like some otherworldly device to reconcile people to lay the past to rest.

And that's just what they are; idealistically unrealistic at best, cruel at their very worst. For nowhere does it approach anyone's ideal of justice to see that those who committed horrendous acts of violence against others can simply resume their lives as though nothing untoward occurred, while their victims live out their anguished lives without the closure of justice seen to be done.

Canada has taken the highly unusual step - needfully so, as a country which brought forward an initiative in the United Nations of the need to intercede, to protect the vulnerable population of a country that preyed on their own - of trying in a Canadian court under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, a failed refugee claimant from Rwanda, for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide.

Rwanda is currently undergoing a series of annual genocide mourning remembrances, where those who suffered dreadful atrocities throughout the Rwandan genocide can recount their stories to those who will mourn with them. The country's judicial system officiated throughout countless trials, where victims were encouraged to step boldly forward and recount the deathly misery that was inflicted on them and theirs.

Trouble was, how bold could those assertions of truth be, with the knowledge lurking in the heads of victims that they could be victimized all over again. For the country, although expending vast amounts of money, time, legal and social expertise and patience in the exercise of judgement, took no steps to protect those who had the courage to step forward and testify. They would testify, and then they were on their own self-reliance.

One United Nations report gave an estimate of the extent of the rape of Rwandan women as being between a quarter- and a half-million women and girls, between April and July of 1994. Militias kidnapped women as forced wives, repeatedly raping them. Other women and girls were attacked at random as Hutu militias roamed about in their hunt for Tutsis.

"There are people who raped us, people who aligned whole families to slaughter them" said Rose Burlzihiza, president of ABASA, an organization of Rwandan female genocide widows and rape victims. "We have experienced hell. My message to the world is that our killers have fled the country to other countries all over the world. We need other countries to arrest them and judge them, as Canada is doing, because they are criminals", according to one victim.

Desire Munyaneza, on trial in Canada, stands accused of committing rape and murder, alongside additional charges. But in Rwanda victims of genocide aren't too certain they will continue to give testimony. They believe, on the record, that their attackers will be released from prison, all too soon.

There are tens of thousands of Hutus imprisoned, accused of genocidal crimes, who have been released simply because of prison overcrowding. Thousands of genocide cases are yet to be heard. And the community of Tutsis live with their experience where militiamen hunted them with machetes, hacking an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus to death. And despite that many who took part in killings and rapes are still at large, Rwanda last year abolished the death penalty.

Considering the horrendous savagery that took place in Rwanda, where its society turned itself inside out to prey on one half of its population considered to be inferior to the other who felt no human compunction, no compassion, and lent themselves to turning their country into a killing field, women bereft of their families, themselves victims of countless rapes, will accept no justice other than the punishment of death.

For many of these women and girls who were forced to witness the unmerciful killing of their families, and then to undergo mass rape, their lives have been bereft of meaning. Many of the women were left with another legacy; HIV-positive, they are now slowly experiencing another agony; their impending deaths. Many of them have children born of their rape experience, and their children will be left orphans, without their care.

One such woman, brooding on the thought of additional suffering through that slow death said: "Sometimes I wish I was killed. I think that I would feel better if they had killed me, not left me suffering for a long time." This woman sees groups of prisoners from a jail nearby where she lives working in fields under guard, and she recognizes among them some of her attackers. "I think there is no one I can forgive. No piece of forgiveness is left in me."

There are others who tried to find shelter where they would not be found by marauding militia, but their hiding places were found time and again. One woman explained: "Each time they found me hiding, they used to lay me down hastily, extend my arms and legs, climb over me and rape me as brutally as they could." When the national calamity had concluded and she made her way out of the bush, she crawled out, no longer able to walk.

One woman talked of how she coped, praying to God: "I changed my prayer to 'God give me the courage to speak out about what I have seen, and tell the whole world of the badness of my experience." She was raped in front of her husband before her rapist murdered him. The rapist then tossed her two infant sons to dogs, to be eaten. She was held captive as a sex slave, forced to witness other friends and family members murdered.

The danger these women face, fourteen long years after the Rwandan genocide, has not entirely passed. They fully understand their vulnerability as many Hutu, having served out their sentences, return to society. They know they cannot be protected, after testifying. There are some who say they will be killed for speaking of their experiences, but that it would represent a better death than dying during the genocide.

"My sons and my friends will bury my body, instead of throwing it to dogs as my rapist and his team of killers would have dome some 14 years ago."

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Great Thundering Bombast...!

There he is, Barack Obama's worst nightmare, catapulting himself front and centre again in the news. His gesticulating emphasis, gloating, challenging, malleable-faced assertions have captivated the media and the public. This man was born to the black pulpit - and obviously finds a comfortable place to exhibit himself and his scornful dismissal of the white society he lives within, but not part of - on any available stage.

Senator Obama, in attempting to excuse the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's excesses, baleful and fanciful, hateful and accusing, describes him as being of the "old school" of black preachers, and he's right. It's certainly not quite in line with the kind of humanistic, deserving and peaceful remonstrances for justice that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. expounded, to the credit of the black community.

That community that reverences the Reverend King, as opposed to that same community that succumbs to the thundering bombast of a self-reverencing preacher like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. A colleague and spiritual brother-in-arms of such as Nation of Islam's Minister Louis Farrakhan. He can find no fault with Minister Farrakhan's description of Judaism, for example, as a "gutter religion".

Yet denounces the white public at large and the press for not understanding the Black Church, for not endlessly commiserating with the past plight of blacks in America. Rather than focusing on what can bring blacks and whites together, he exercises his considered judgement in shoving them further apart by unrestrained condemnation of history and his steadfast refusal to live in the present.

Reverend Wright condemns accusations of an-American conduct leveled at him by resorting to the last refuge of a scoundrel, as a self-referential righteous minister of the black church. "It is an attack on the black church by people who know nothing about the African-American experience." Which hasn't stopped him and those of his ilk from attacking white Americans or Jews, for blacks haven't lived their experience either.

Instead of embracing the opportunity exposed by the goodwill of white American youth and hopeful Americans of every political stripe to hand the U.S. presidency for the first time to a person of colour, Reverend Wright is splenetically venting spite and intolerance, throwing a bruising shadow of suspicion over the very candidate whose run for the highest office of the land could reflect a healing of a national wound.

His self-aggrandizement in revelling in his home-bred notoriety bespeaks his lack of commitment to a national society of consensus and equality of the colours in the United States. His venomous identification of U.S. and Israeli "terrorism", his unequivocal statements that the disaster of 9-11 is explicable in light of American foreign policy, and his claims that the epidemic of AIDS represents a deliberate plot to eradicate blacks condemn him.

His random attacks on those to whom he ascribes evil intent toward blacks, his scurrilous characterizations of whites and of Jews, his pride in his outspoken opinions offered for public consumption may gain him adherents in some parts of the black community, but it's fair to say that among a goodly portion of that same community his theatrics recognized as demeaning to black aspirations, and are anything but popular.

They have no useful purpose. They serve only to drive a wedge further between the communities. He is wilfully sowing a new round of suspicion and isolation, re-polarizing the entities that had seen fit to come together in a common purpose; a union of solidarity for the public good. The man is offensively ignorant, and ignorantly effusive in his self-delusionary rants.

Little wonder that the Democratic front-runner has been forced to declare himself "outraged and appalled", for the Reverend Wright's version of America. The Reverend Wright's vision of the ongoing separation of black and white, does not reflect Senator Obama's promise to himself and to America. Barack Obama has been forced to stand by in agony, witnessing a collapse of his own singular purpose.

Overtaken by the passionate rhetoric of another type of racist, with his clanging theories about a deathly disease-conspiracy against American blacks, and America the terror-state. But the Reverend Wright does have some compelling support, for none other than Seyyed Mohsen Yahyavi, Secretary-General of Iran's Inter-Parliamentary Group, singles out the United States as the biggest threat to world peace.

And, oddly enough, represents a country whose stated purpose is the defeat of America, once it has succeeded in eradicating the Jewish state.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Playing Their Game

The high-stakes game of public relations is savagely yet resourcefully manipulated by Hamas, time after time. As transparent, it would seem, as a clear eye can discern. Yet, despite all intelligent odds, highly successful. Because no matter how outrageously hollow their claims, they create headlines. And impressionable readers - and they are legion - believe whatever it is that makes it into print. Hah! fooled you didn't we?

There was that offer, trumpeted all over the world's newspapers, that Hamas sought a ceasefire with Israel, and promised a truce. And there was official Israel, denying the likelihood of reliability in any dealings with Hamas. Asking, reasonably enough, for Hamas to declare its recognition of Israel, and to lay down its arms, and then discussions could take place.

Hard on the heels of that dismissed suggestion for a ceasefire, was the UN Relief and Works Agency loudly lamenting it had no diesel fuel for delivery of life-saving necessities for Palestinians. To which Israel responded that there had been no cessation of fuel deliveries. Hamas had been waylaying the shipments and storing them for the purpose of fabricating an emergency. To which UNRWA willingly lent its voice.

Double-barrelled censure of Israel from around the world. Refusing a cease-fire with Hamas ... bad Israel. Manipulating and deliberately withholding life-saving shipments of diesel fuel so that the famished and ill in Gaza cannot receive humanitarian shipments of food and medicines that they so desperately require, making their position ever more dire ... unforgivably nasty Israel.

But then, there's Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's numero uno declaring the ceasefire to have been "a tactic in conducting the struggle". "Conducting the struggle"; how quaint. Code for their no-holds-barred war of violence against Israeli civilians. As though they're intent on preserving Palestinian lives, in exchange for Israeli lives.

But as eager as Hamas is to render the lives of Israeli civilians fraught with terror and ultimately death, they're equally fond of tactics that endanger and ultimately sacrifice the lives of Palestinians. It's their game, their purpose for existence, their dalliance with wholesale death. "It is normal", Mashaal patiently explained in an Al-Jazeera interview, "for any resistance ... to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit".

In most societies the young and the restless, the testosterone-driven young males dampen their passions with violent video games. In the tribal Middle East, young Arabs are recruited to act out in real life the violence the video games hint at, but never quite approach in senseless carnage.

For Mashaal, the offer of a ceasefire was a mere sideshow of the larger and more organic ploy of "you lose, we win". For past ceasefire have resulted in brief interregnums before resuming attacks, once morale, weaponry and skills have been adequately re-sharpened. Should Israel have acceded to the offer, it would merely have been proof-positive that Israel has relented to the fearful onslaughts of Hamas. Success born of failure after failure.

But any time an adversary sets down arms, however temporarily, it is viewed as a sign of victory by the other. Any retreat symbolizes victory, no matter the reason; for an enemy to weary of combat and retreat to a previous position is reason for jubilation. Interpreted, however irrationally, in the face of reality, as yet another glorious victory for Islam.

Any adversary displaying a modicum less rigour in pursuing death than do the terror groups is viewed as lacking commitment to the game. Humanitarian impulse has voided its presence there. Altruism is a no-compete game. To advance another's cause with no pay-back in glory, prestige, honour and recognition in the game of war in that atmosphere of willing blood-letting where compassion has no presence is a fool's game, not theirs.

Fuel trucks from Israel heading to the Palestinian Territories, for use by the UN Relief and Works Agency to deliver critical aid to Palestinians, and to hospitals in the Gaza Strip have been diverted, as Hamas militia open fire, the truck drivers forced to turn back in hasty disarray, their windshields smashed. This is Hamas's response to UNRWA's complaints that it had no fuel to distribute food aid to the half-million Palestinians in Gaza.

The PA Health Ministry itself accused Hamas of blocking supplies to hospitals and clinics in Gaza. Trucks attempting to transfer fuel to hospitals also came under fire. But then, this has been frequently done. The supplies destined for hospitals and clinics taken to Hamas security installations for personal use of Hamas leaders and their militias.

Resulting in some hospitals being forced to shut off generators, halt ambulances. Exactly what Israeli authorities had stated previously. The idea being to encourage outrage in the international community. Against Hamas? Hardly; yet more reasons to fault Israel. PA officials admit adequate fuel is reaching Gaza, but Hamas's actions are depriving the allocated sources of receiving the fuel.

The manufactured fuel shortages have created a black market and a sense of desperation. And although UNRWA finally admitted that Hamas has been instrumental in creating the shortages, that reluctant little admission doesn't make its way into international news reportage. Hard to reverse initial impressions, and truth is, there's no heart in it to begin with.

And the game continues. Hamas toys with offering ceasefires it has no intention of committing to. Hamas high-jacks emergency fuel supplies and then screams bloody murder for the international community to intervene and solve the humanitarian crisis they have engineered.

And in the meantime, their terror militias launch barrage after barrage of Kassam rockets at Israeli border communities. And the IDF responds as it must, to protect Israeli citizens in southern Israel. Rockets hitting homes, landing beside schools in residential neighbourhoods. Leaving traumatized victims, frightened and unappeasable children. Shelling kibbutzim, damaging buildings. Residents forced to flee into safe rooms and bomb shelters.

Ah, and yes, in the IDF responses to the Hamas attacks, Israel is evermore declared guilty of targeting civilians, injuring and killing children. A mother and four children killed as their home collapsed during an attack on Kassam-lobbing terrorists in Beit Hanoun. Israel did this, Hamas solemnly declares, and the story is filed internationally, and is a leading entry on morning newscasts.

While the IDF does its best to explain that Israel does not target civilian homes. That the reason for the explosion in the home might more readily be explained as the result of explosives inside the home detonated by accident. In the West we teach children not to play with fire. The blowback can be deadly.

In the Middle East everyone seems to dabble in explosives of one kind or another, from deadly rhetoric to deathly arms-making. Which have an unfortunate habit, from time to time, of claiming unintended victims. Just part of the game Hamas loves to gamble with. They're only lives, after all. Plenty more where those came from.

The game proceeds.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

India's Poor - Hai Hai!

Another awakening, emerging giant. Alert to its potential and reaping the rewards of its highly intelligent and increasingly educated urban population, India is turning itself into the modern-day economic rival of China. An increasing middle-class and aspiring-to demographic. A tradition of clever and superb artistic craftsmanship with nimble hands and fingers to produce goods of clear value not to be seen exported from any other country of the world, and still to be had at impressively modest cost. (That's the old India.)

A successful agricultural breadbasket for home consumption, although competing increasingly with the Western world to serve the increasingly adventurous palates of a more demanding middle class. Together with China, promising the world a tandem challenge in manufacturing prowess and economic might. India has come a long way, from endemic poverty to blossoming plenty. Or has it? Not according to P.V. Rajagopal who warns that almost 70% of India's population lives in poverty.

"Such conditions breed violence" he warns. "The kind of prosperity you see in cities like Bombay, Delhi and Chennai now is being bought at the cost of the poor people." The vice-chairman of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, on a speaking tour in Canada, he revealed that 40% of Indians remain landless, with 23% living in abject poverty. Canada can relate to that; as a wealthy nation with a high standard of living, there is yet a huge number of Canadians living in poverty.

In Canada, it's estimated that between 8% to 10.8% of the population live in poverty. Out of a population of 33-million, 3.5 million live below the low-income cut-off line. That's a lot of poor people. But everything is relative in this world, and what is considered low-income and poverty-stricken in the developed world doesn't quite compare with what pertains in third-world conditions - or, as the politically correct would have it, emerging economies.

In fifteen years of economic growth India has given growth to 300 "special economic zones" with industrial parks, high-tech complexes and shopping malls. None of which has had any residual impact on the 770-million Indians who eke out a subsistence as farmers or unorganized labourers in vast rural areas of the country. Mr. Rajagopal took pains to explain the differences between the haves and the have-nots in Indian society.

"India is an English word and its Indians are English-speaking, highly educated, articulate politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen who are making wealth and comfort for themselves and their families at the cost of 70% of the Indians from Bharat" explained Mr. Rajagopal. "On the one side you see massive industrialization, steel factories are coming up, mining is happening, the airports are getting bigger and bigger, and the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are all travelling in to invest.

"But on the other side, there is ancient poverty and mothers selling their children and growing violence." And there is the Hindu caste system, which, although long-since outlawed by parliamentary decree, is still practised in the country, further victimizing the poor. Devaluing agriculture and promoting industry has had the effect of spurring a large migration from unproductive, non-employing rural areas to hopeless slums on the peripheries of urban centres. Creating even more destitute families. Hopelessness and despair breeding violence.

In the country's huge rural areas whole families are put to work in illegal bonded servitude in quarries and workshops. India's development, he points out, is greed-based. The social activist group Ekta Parishad of which Mr. Rajagopal is the founder has a plan to train young people through community leadership training or work sharing camps. Teaching strategies of non-violent protest and community development. Was it not ever thus? They have their work cut out for them.

India is an immense, complex, multifarious society. Albeit largely Hindu it has a large Muslim population. And Sikh. Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians. Protestant and Catholic Christians and Cochin Jews. There are the castes and sub-casts and the sub-sub castes. The untouchables and unapproachables. The agnostics, atheists and pessimists. Indians are provocatively activist, involved in legalities, in politics. This is a punctiliously bureaucratic society; everything in its place and a place for everything. Chaos too has its place.

It's no easy task to turn around thousands of years of culture, religious tradition, social convention. Women and children are particularly disadvantaged, their human rights violated, their vulnerabilities exploited. The India of today commonly visits violence and discrimination against women. Feticide, infanticide, neglect, malnourishment and death of young females are commonplace. As are marriage-familial abuse and killings of women, inclusive of dowry killings.

And then there is the horrendous plight of India's widows; elderly women whose husbands and protectors have died, and whose sons banish them from a normal life. Widows who are turned out of their homes, and forced to live in established communes where they become one another's family members, all of them begging for sustenance. And readily exploited by an uncaring society, long familiar and silently acquiescent in this particular tradition.

Even child-brides barely out of their teens, join the sad widows' groups, thrown from their homes. No future prospects, they will grow old and feeble and die of disease and hunger, ignored and sacrificed to tradition. In some backward rural communities the spectre of suttee can still occur, a traditional sacrifice of a widow on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband. Oof toba toba! The traditional feudal system of India is never too far underground.

Starving children, many born with handicaps, physical and mental, from women whose misfortunes in life included not having sufficient to eat while in pregnancy, to never having the wherewithal to seek medical help. Children huddled on the street, begging passersby for a few rupees, a cup of lentils, a half-cup of rice. Much depends upon these incidental hand-outs, to feed entire families.

Population: 1,129,866,154
Unemployment rate: 7.2%
Percentage of population below the poverty line: 25%
Number of people living in the countryside: 700 million
Number living on less than $1 a day: 390 million

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Canada's Self-Obligations

We've got more than sufficient sociopaths in Canadian society born and raised in the country who, although they've been exposed to all the benefits of living in a free and democratic country, place their allegiance elsewhere, and cast the bitter aspersions of their disregard for the country and all it represents upon the wide sea of discontent fomenting toward violent expression throughout the world community. Every country manages to somehow breed malcontents.

And then there are those special types who seek to emigrate from their countries of birth because of an atmosphere of political and social repression. They seek out the gentler shoals of countries for which freedom of expression, ideas, worship, ideologies and association are guaranteed to their citizens. Countries whose tradition has been to respect differentiation between peoples from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds; countries built upon immigration.

Canada carefully vets aspirants to settlement in the country, those would-be emigrants who make application to become landed immigrants, and eventually citizens of the country. But as much caution as can be exercised at any given time by overworked and stressed civil servants tasked to ensure that individuals holding criminal records or known to be involved in society-averse behaviours - including those with a track record of belonging to jihadist groups - slip-ups occur, the end result being the proverbial vipers in our midst.

One such - as so many of these bitterly, violently disaffected people turn out to be in venues other than Canada, and who seek violent means to overturn legitimate governments, and in the process visit bloody carnage on their people and institutions - is a young man originally from Pakistan. He has placed himself in a very public position as championingOsama bin Laden along with others of his ilk.

For to him, a staunch and committed fundamentalist Muslim, the Western world has outrageously offended Islam and the Muslim world by its assault against Muslim sensibilities; by assaults of a physical nature against sovereign Muslim countries. Somehow disregarding the initial bloody series of provocations against Western citizens, institutions, their militaries, and their vested commercial interests.

This young man, while living in Toronto, posts on the Internet praising Osama bin Laden as a "hero" and "champion of Islam". He is a fundamentalist, self-motivated, radicalized from within, inspired by Pakistani cleric and jihad-advocate, Israr Ahmad. Whose agency helped commit him to the ideals of Islamic jihad. Mr. Khan urges readers to "support our troops"; "themujaheddin fighting for freedom and rights against illegal occupation in many, many places over the world like Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine and Somalia".

He advocates the severest of Sharia punishment - death - for "apostates" to Islam, like Irshad Manji, Tarek Fatah and other moderate Muslims who strive to educate their Muslim brethren in moderation and acceptance of others: non-Muslims, non-traditional gender relationships, those who practise no religion; urging the recognition of equality owed all, not merely Muslims. However, according to Naeem Muhammad Khan, their meek and peaceful attitude offends Koranic prescription and blasphemes Islam.

"Behead her!!! And make a nice video and post it on YouTube", he writes of one "Islam basher". And "Jews who support Zionism and Israel ... since they are killing Palestinians ... killing them is not bad, they deserve to die". He believes that those who have a distorted opinion of Islam, the religion of peace and tolerance, deserve to die by the swords of Muslims. What is such a vindictive and sinister worldview doing, as a fairly recent immigrant to Canada, living comfortably within a society that embraces equality?

Why, it's opportunism not to be denied. "In recent times, hundreds of Islamic radicals have settled in Canada", according to Tahir Gora, an activist-writer originally from Pakistan, who has been absorbed with this very issue, airing his opinions through his
Hamilton Spectator columns. "They are spreading hatred and extremism in the guise of freedom of expression. On the other hand, they put death penalties to those dissidents who challenge the traditional medieval way of Islam."

He should know, leading a monitoring agency, Canada Safety Think Tank, tracking the growing Islamic radicalization within Canada. It's a serious issue, one that the government is very well aware of, and is itself tracking. There are terrorism-related cases before the courts in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, all relating to violent plots unveiled by security agencies, motivated byIslamist extremists.

But the very freedoms granted Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms serve also to encourage the fanatics within the country, secure in the knowledge that they too have the "right" and the freedom to vent their violent frustration against what they perceive as insults against and assaults toward Islam. They are in the business of encouraging jihad, and speak to the values of murdering innocent people in the guise of doing the holy work of the Islamic struggle against the unbeliever.

This singular individual, Naeem Muhammad Khan, obviously enjoys attention, about as much as he enjoys the freedom to vent his splenetic bile. He is able to do this because he resides in opinion-tolerant Canada, knowing full well such opportunities would be strenuously to the point of incarceration, denied him in most Muslim countries.

None of these Muslim countries meet his stringent yardstick of representing true Islam, with the institution of full Sharia law. Should there ever be such a country in the future - and his native Pakistan may very well attain to that status, or perhaps Indonesia, or any number of other Muslim countries struggling to counteract the determination of the Islamists within their borders - he will be overjoyed to return.

Meanwhile, supporters of rigorously righteous Islamist ideals cleverly use Canada's own hate laws and its various Human Rights Commissions to post complaints against Canadian magazines and writers who, through their publication of ideas and opinions based on fact and observation offend their sensibilities. While those within the country who spout truly hateful, racist and murderous ideals feel free to operate without fear of apprehension.

Professor Wesley Wark, an visiting scholar and intelligence expert at University of Ottawa, feels that Mr. Khan's "odious" views should be allowed to be aired "where ridicule can scrub them away". Perhaps, but the clarity of this jihadist-championing vision expressed as support for murderous jihad, indeed raises the question of whether Canada should be looking at implementing new guidelines and laws to outlaw the incitement to terror.

Long past time of its need.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Biofuels: Part of the Solution

That's what the newspaper caption read: Biofuels aren't causing the food crisis - they're part of the solution. Well, if they're derived from non-food sources like dead trees, waste cooking oils, and other types of non-food waste products, ethanol certainly can be an assist, albeit a modest one, to help in alleviating our century's dire need of fossil fuels by our energy-wasteful ways of life.

Most certainly the oil-using world would like to remove itself from its self-destroying dependence on the oil-producing world. When that is pronounced it's clear that the finger of blame is pointing squarely at the OPEC cartel. But then, there are other oil-producing countries, not part of OPEC, and while some of them, like Canada, for example, produce plenty of oil and gas it's never enough to assuage the needs of the international community.

Let alone their own internal needs. Hydro production is great, but the world has a dearth of sufficient water-sourced energy. Nuclear energy has its own problems, not the least of which is the disposal of nuclear waste, a true nightmare scenario guaranteed to haunt us with its disaster potential for aeons. Wind-generated power is inadequate, a hopeful sop. Solar-generated power reliant on sunny climes, but useful.

So really, must we return to dirty old coal and continue carbonizing and particulating our atmosphere beyond breathable redemption, and end up like China, with its severely troubled atmosphere? Oil, the bane of our transportative existence. So, are biofuels the alternative to fossil fuels? Hardly; we could never harvest sufficient growing crops to produce enough ethanol to replace fossil fuels.

And until we discover an inedible crop willing to lend itself to ethanol production on a large scale, biofuels will remain a miserable alternative. Environmental enthusiasts who once championed the concept of biofuel production as a replacement response to fossil fuels, echoing a lesser impact on the atmosphere through less carbon emissions are now swallowing their tongues.

Cereal grains cannot be seen as a solution through bypassing the slight inconvenience of world hunger and steadily rising food prices. True, farmers whose produce was never sufficiently appreciated in the past, and who scarcely made a living through their agricultural commitment as a functioning, fundamental livelihood, are now seeing their incomes rise.

Arable land once given over to producing food crops for peoples' consumption are now being dedicated to biofuels-producing grains. Forests are being cleared to make way for larger tracts of farmland. To benefit biofuel production. Subsistence farmers in Africa, Latin America and impoverished Asia can turn to growing crops for fuel production, and see their meagre incomes rise.

As they starve alongside those of their countrymen. Still, the president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association speaks glowingly of the potentials in biofuels production. Biofuels, he assures the reading public "are the most environmentally viable alternative to gasoline today".

We have it on the best authority.

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Anyone Can Aspire

Is it self-loathing that leads disaffected individuals to search out ways and means to inflict damage on others? If one cannot love oneself, respect oneself, how then respect the rights of others? Well, that's one way of looking at it. And then there's the aspect of those who so completely identify with their religion that any slight hint of disrespect toward that religion by outsiders is sufficient to ignite a latent murderous urge of avenging the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, there are always, within any society, a certain proportion of individuals who remain so ill-adapted to their societies, so incapable of functioning normally within the culture and the traditions that they instinctively succumb to a psychosis of hatred of everyone. These are the minimally prevalent numbers of psychopaths, sociopaths, psychotics that exist on the periphery of any society.

Their utter delight in coming across similar-minded disaffected individuals leads them to form self-help groups intent on causing strife and misery within society. These are quite separate and apart from those self-loathers who use their pathological neuroses to become predators on society, harvesting for themselves trophies through the serial murders of vulnerable women and children.

We've been experiencing of late another phenomenon, similarly self-righteous and inspired by religion who seek to avenge the purported insults against Islam by Western democratic liberal societies. But their grievances don't stop there, they also hate what they feel are pseudo Muslims, those of their own faith who don't adequately observe Sharia, including their governments seeking the middle way between observant Islam and moderation.

They represent an underclass of socially sterile minds, intent on righting the outrages vented against Islam by foreign occupiers, by societies scorning Islamic ideals and precepts. Their minds become wedded to a stern and uncompromising version of fanatical Islam, and they have allowed themselves to be inducted into a very special company of committed jihadists.

They take their inspiration from the successes of other, organized and trained mujaheddin, warriors of God, who avenge the insufferable wrongs wrought by Islam's enemies. These are the legions of impressionable, disaffected youth, inducted into the concept of divine martyrdom in the struggle for Islamic ascendancy. They plague Islamic societies and their governments, and they threaten all those whose values oppose theirs.

Their covert activities in democratic liberal countries to which they flee for asylum from Muslim countries which will not tolerate their fanatical outbursts and vicious actions against their governments are given voice in those countries which value and guarantee freedom of expression and association and religion. They are isolated from the mainstream, and often from one another, as well.

The Internet is another source of solace, inspiration and education for them. Where they can relate to those other bitter loners who dream about achieving death and destruction.

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Indomitable Offenders of The Faith

There is Hamas, bravely front and centre, refusing to be corralled by the oppressor of the Palestinian people. Unrecalcitrant, indomitable Hamas, feverishly planning and staging ongoing Israel-blaming assaults, bringing further misery to the people whom they purport to champion.

Willingly, happily, sacrificing the well-being of Palestinian Gazans, knowing the game full well, playing the world's public relations gambits to the hilt. Posing as the protectors and supporters of the long-suffering, self-stabbing Palestinians, while enthusiastically delivering fresh catastrophes upon them.

Yet the Palestinians are devout in their belief in Hamas, as their saviour from the dread harms that the State of Israel is determined to visit upon them. There is no question among Palestinians that Hamas seeks to protect them against the murderously baleful intentions of Israel.

That Hamas deliberately instigates defensive assaults by its determinedly continual attacks on Israeli citizens, by its ongoing attempts to abduct Israeli soldiers for bargaining clout; that it furthermore does these things knowing full well that the State of Israel will respond to protect its own, is handily overlooked.

The Palestinians have been painstakingly taught to believe that they are victims and they believe this, implicitly. It is the malevolence of a non-Arab country resentful of the Arabs surrounding it, that is at fault. Not the tribe-centred idee fixe that Arab and Islamic honour must be upheld by dominating and vanquishing non-Islamic entities in the Middle East that is the cause of their suffering.

They will not see because they have no wish to, that it is the jihadic intransigence of Hamas and its sister terror groups that keep their misery alive.

Hamas insists that Israel deal with its demands, while at the same time insisting that it will never recognize the legitimacy of existence of Israel as a sovereign state in the Middle East. Its long-term goal is the defeat and annihilation of Israel; its short-term goal is to reach the long-term aspiration as speedily as possible.

And if that means agreeing to a hudna, a temporary cease-fire to enable them to re-group and re-arm until they feel confident of launching another series of attacks which they feel will be ever more formidable than the last, they will agree to a cease-fire.

So Hamas's senior leadership in exile informs of its readiness to sign a "peace deal". And at the same time continues to attack Israel, and calls on its thousands of faithful to a protest surge against the economic blockade of Gaza.

Hamas is determined to achieve its goal, not for the well-being of that abstract concept, "the people", but for the furtherance of Islamist sovereignty over all of the Middle East; the existence of a "foreign" state on Islamic soil remains an blasphemous assault on Muslim sensibilities.

Even while terrorist groups wreak havoc at the crossings through which humanitarian aid continues to be delivered to Gazan Palestinians, Israel remains committed to trucking diesel fuel, along with the fundamental necessities of food and medications. And while on the one hand Hamas militias target the very power plants and diesel fuel stations that deliver energy to them, they complain that the sole power plant located in Gaza will be forced by closure without Israeli-supplied diesel fuel.

While Hamas warns of its intent to continue infiltration and strikes against all crossings from Israel into Gaza, they also plead for Israeli assistance. If this strikes one as utterly lunatic, it is only because that is precisely what it is. Delusionally mad. On the one hand, striking the hand that supports them, on the other whining incessantly that humanitarian assistance is denied them.

But then, this appears as a typically Arab mode of confrontation, attacks alternating with pleas for compassion from the very source subject to attack. Their insane rhetoric becomes persuasive beyond conjecture, and they believe, implicitly, in the slanders they invent. A pathology peculiar to the landscape, the traditions, the culture.

The pity of it is that there is a willing audience of believers within the international community as well, eager to swallow the myths of Israeli brutality against poor defenceless Palestinians. Who, if they arose en masse to demand responsibility and accountability from their leaders would benefit from an abrupt turn-about from their current position.

Gazans live in miserable conditions of uncertainty and want of a normal life. Many would willingly leave if they could. Yet, while living under those conditions they remain passionately complicit with Hamas, denying the possibility of peace by initiation of a simple process whereby violence is eschewed.

And even as Hamas blames Israel for every act of sabotage that they themselves perpetrate against their own, the mass psychosis of victimhood settles comfortably over the population and they decry their self-made misery.

PA-affiliated terrorists, in launching yet another series of rocket attacks on Ashkelon, home to the power station which provides energy to Gaza, and where oil and gas pipelines and storage tanks are located further the madness. This ongoing provocation equates with perfidy to the notion of defence of Gazan Palestinians.

It is utterly lunatic, yet it plays well with the Palestinians and the world abroad.

For Hamas has offered a "ceasefire"; it will halt rocket attacks for a six-month period, should the IDF agree to cease targeting Hamas's and other terror groups gunmen. The truth of the matter is startlingly clear; there would simply be no need for Israel to defend itself if there were no continual offences, no militias targeting Jews, no rockets hitting on border communities, no surreptitious attempts to smuggle arms into Gaza, no violations against Israel's right to exist in peace.

Israel responds to violent provocations, to the blood shed of its people by Palestinian terror groups.

What manner of offer is it that promises a 30-day ceasefire and a 10-year truce, yet reserves the "right" to smuggle weapons and manufacture rockets? But the world is watching, and they keenly observe what Israel does, not so much what Hamas inflicts upon Israel.

Despite which officials within Israel commit themselves to trucking humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza, even while their gloried leaders pledge resumptions of attacks on those very crossings where the shipments negotiate passage. Maddeningly, while Hamas pleads for Israeli assistance it hits those very crossings and promises to escalate attacks.

This is a scenario straight out of a drug-addled mind, confusing fantasy and reality, to produce a lunatic amalgam of violent carnage on the one hand, and self-pitying pleading on the other, resulting in ongoing and self-inflicted pain.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Food Aid Desperation

A summit on the situation of food aid just took place in London, with experts hoping to develop a plan to deal with rising food prices. In the last three years prices of basic food products, particularly grains have steadily risen. Since January of 2008 the price of rice has increased by 141%, that of wheat just about doubled. The world's destitute are reliant on the auspices of international aid agencies to supplement what little food they are able themselves to obtain.

Those in the underdeveloped world who are merely poor struggle to afford food, spending a full three-quarters of their available income on basic subsistence food. Increases of this magnitude speak of a life-and-death situation for one billion inhabitants of this globe. People who, if they are fortunate enough, live on the avails of $1 a day. And the prices keep increasing. In many parts of the world, people are suffering from food shock.

Riots and emergency protests from Haiti, to Ethiopia, to Kenya, to Egypt. The sources of these steadily increasing food prices are manifold, and taken together create utter havoc in the expectations of the availability of basic grains for hungry people. But of all the causes, surely the sidelining of food for the production of ethanol, biofuels, is the most inexcusable.

That world food stocks are at a horrendous low can be understood on the basis of widespread drought and food crop failures. That countries like India and China with their enormous populations who are now beginning to enjoy a steadily emerging increase in their economic status, and as a result wishing to eat in a non-traditional manner reflecting the diets consumed in wealthier countries is simply human nature. But an increasing tendency to meat and dairy products means a greater use of grains to create another food product which has the end result of feeding far fewer people.

Add to that the protectionist attitudes of many countries which use quotas, subsidies, tariffs and prohibitions in response to agricultural lobbyists eager to protect their home markets and their trade potentials. Food production is stifled to maintain high prices. In an era of increasing globalization and transportable food products, governments should not be paying farmers to plant less, or to needlessly butcher redundant livestock, to maintain an acceptable price schedule in managing a country's food stocks.

We're aghast at the growing price of fuel, as oil has hit $120 a barrel, and is steadily increasing. The price for heating fuel will see consumers in some growing distress for next winter. At the gas pumps we see steadily creeping prices, and motorists are paying more now to fuel their vehicles than at any time in the past, with no relief in sight. Transporting foods large distances adds to their retail cost. Oil-based fertilizers are increasing in cost, adding to the food-cost dilemma. Finished food products are increasing in cost of production.

Nor should farmers be encouraged, as they are in the EU, United States and Canada, to turn over their arable land to growing grains and corn meant solely for biofuel production. In Africa farmers eschew genetically modified crops, which have a larger yield, because they stultify their ability to export to other countries that will not accept genetically modified grains. The world needs a universally-agreed-upon standard of custodianship, of responsible farming, an agreement that will be meant to benefit all of the world's consumers.

The World Bank reveals that of the 58 countries most impacted by food shortages, 48 have imposed price controls, consumer subsidies and export restrictions. World Vision, one of the largest humanitarian aid groups in the world, has announced it must cut aid to 1.5 million of the 7.5 million poor it normally feeds, as a result of the growing food price crisis. "Desperate measures" will be taken, equating to feeding people every other day, rather than daily.

The United Nations has advised that a "silent tsunami" of steep food prices is threatening the ability of the UN to continue its vital feeding programs that benefit 20 million children. Millions of people world-wide have been added in the last six months to the roster of the food-needy. "The world's misery index is rising" - according to Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program - threatening world stability.

We are reliably informed through the United Nations that 25,000 people are dying each day from starvation. One child dies every 5 seconds from hunger-related causes. When children are malnourished their normal energy levels are depleted, the ability of their body to fight off the ravages of disease is impaired and they succumb either to outright starvation or that combined with the deleterious effects of a disease their bodies can no longer resist.

Africa and Asia bear the dreadful brunt of this new world catastrophe. And there is no end in sight for the foreseeable future. Calamity. Our own short-sightedness blinds us to the harm we do in pursuing our own self-fulfilling agendas.

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What Price Harm?

The presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, at the invitation of the Afghan government as part of NATO's presence for the purpose of pushing back and defeating the resurgent Taliban has had its share of unintended consequences. Unintended and tragic, but commonplace in situations where a foreign military speaking a foreign language intermingles of necessity on occasion with indigent civilian populations. The lethal machinery of war does not mix well with civil institutions and civilians.

There have been unfortunate deaths occurring as a result of those minglings. Deaths of Afghan soldiers or police or civilians as a result of "friendly" fire. And other mishaps, including accidents with vehicle collisions leaving people injured or maimed. And then there are mere "incidental" misfortunes of property lost. The Canadian military has its presence in the country, along with those of other NATO countries; the Afghan people are advised to co-operate with these invited occupiers who are there to protect them and to train their own military and police.

Resentment is inevitable, when accidents, deadly and not-so-deadly occur. These are foreign soldiers on Afghan soil. Soldiers who are not completely aware of social customs, cultural traditions, and unable to speak the common language. Strangers in their midst; armed and dangerous intruders. So when civil life slams hard up against military might, it is innocent civilians who pay the price. Needless to say, these disasters are regrettable, the impact on the minds of the Canadian soldiers also represents a tragedy.

But then, when accidents do occur and Afghan citizens who are unafraid of speaking up and demanding their rights bring their grievances to the attention of the Canadian military, why then, compensation is offered. In the last year there were five instances of Afghan civilians injured or killed by Canadian troops, and three friendly-fire deaths of Afghan soldiers or police. There is a need to show compassion, despite that Canada signed an agreement with the Afghan government waiving liability for damage.

Tell that to the victims of misfortune. Inadvertent death is still death, and irreversible. In the space of a year some 33 singular instances of misadventure were identified and compensation meted out to the appropriate individuals. Which by no means covers all such incidents, for some are overlooked, and some occur to people who have no means of asking for recompense, having no knowledge of how to proceed, and being too fearful of pursuing avenues for attention.

Imagine, then, thirty-three cases, ranging from damage to homes or vehicles, loss of personal possessions, death, injury, damage to private infrastructures, destruction of home or compound, confiscated properties not returned, and all of these compensated for a total of $89,769. Families of Afghans accidentally killed received on average $8,000 in compensation. Destruction of homes compensated by approximately $5,000. The average Afghan wage is $300 annually. These are considered "ex-gratia" payments, extended for "benevolent" reasons.

Contrast that with the cost of war. Canada spends, through its NATO-Afghanistan mission $1-billion a year.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

With Nary A Blush

The An Yue Jiang has been dubbed "the ship of shame". Well, one supposes that to be a fitting sobriquet.

Yet it was the St.Louis, carrying Jewish refugees from Europe fleeing doom and finding no nation willing to accept the desperately hapless Jews, that truly represented that label. Forced to return from whence it came, its hopeless cargo returned to carefully designed death. There is a certain simile, but one must strain at it.

Still, the Chinese vessel carries with it, admittedly not a shipload of human beings desperate to escape a horrible death sentence, but the means by which a hatefully totalitarian regime can dispatch the nuisance of those of its citizens fulminating against a continuation of that same regime.

A cargo of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar rounds. A lot of damage to human flesh can result from the determined use of these enablers.

China, however, must not lose face. Its face has been far too blemished in the international sphere of late, in any event. Its ship was "engaged in perfectly normal trade", insists the Chinese Foreign Ministry. And aren't they perfectly right, after all? This shipping of armaments to a country incapable of feeding its populace, but intent on obtaining weapons is perfectly normal.

And most countries of the world - and not only China - face no internal moral conflict about providing weaponry, sophisticated and reflective of the highest standards of warfare potential to any country desiring them, cash ready in hand. Fact is, national funds can always be found for truly vital options, such as armaments.

It's a simple matter of priorities and realities.

There is a glimmer of hope, however. It's not only South Africa's stevedores who have refused to offload the ship of its cargo for overland transport into Zimbabwe, but Mozambique and Angola have refused to permit the ship to dock there, alternately. And in the latter two instances it is the governing bodies of those countries declining.

A fleeting glimpse of humanity resurgent.

The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches have issued a joint statement: "Organized violence perpetrated against individuals, families and communities who are accused of campaigning or voting for the 'wrong' political party ... has been unleashed throughout the country.

"We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa."

A Requiem for Africa as frail humankind stumbles from crisis to crisis, succumbing ultimately to mass bloodshed yet again. While other sectors of the human community look on aghast, wringing hands, waiting for governments to react, and international humanitarian intervention.

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Daft Ploys, Dire Results

Ascending to heaven is a rather spiritual aspiration, best left to that time when the soul leaves the mortal remains, one would imagine. And then truly it is nearer my God to thee. Some people are born impatient and must have everything in the here and now. And some people are inspired to brave the elements certain that they are in the caring hands of a Deity who will protect them from the impartiality of Nature.

The fate of Icarus, another trusting soul - although it was his inventor father, Daedalus, to whom his life was sacrificed- a case in point. That brave little experiment saw the sun of our little solar system inexorably melting the wax that held the feathered wings to Icarus's tender shoulders and sent him spiralling back down to ground.

In the latest foray into the ether it was a Brazilian priest tethered to a thousand helium-filled party balloons, making a pretty pattern aloft.

Father Adelir Antonio de Carli departed on his celestial journey after a special Mass held in Paranagua, Brazil. There, truly, is a test of faith. Not only did he bravely set off on his mission to bring attention to his parish, but he exhibited the courage of foolish determination in setting off despite bad weather, secure in the knowledge that God Almighty had his eye on this particular sparrow.

He carried a parachute among his gear, had with him also a global positioning device, and that must have been reassuring. Other than the fact that his friends claim the good Father did not have the requisite knowledge for its use. Oh dear. Plans, the best-laid of them, do so often go awry, and unexpected winds carried this warrior of the skies over the South Atlantic.

Not, in fact, his earlier-determined course, which was to fly 20 hours due west. Many hours post-departure his voice was heard over his cellphone, giving his coordinates. Straight out over the vast ocean, before losing contact. Rescue workers embarked on a search of the coastline, by plane and by boat. Searching for a miracle, the good father alive and well.

"We found bits of balloons all along the coast" reported the deputy fire commander in the coastal town of San Francisco do Sul. Not to worry, the godly aviator had with him water, cereal bars and energy capsules.

It is without doubt that Father Adelir Antonio de Carli experienced the adventure of his life.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Man For All Seasons

There he is, the supreme arbiter, the superior exponent of conflict resolution, the seasoned diplomat, the grand-daddy of peace, order and goodwill. Well, he believes in himself. He believes that he has been ordered by his Deity to undertake a difficult task, that of reconciling the irreconcilable.

The course of world events did, at one time, flow within his gambit, under the auspices of his high office. He did what he could, and he received a passing grade. His fervour unabated, although his reasoning appears to have been somewhat disordered through the passage of time, he forges ahead.

An independent source of determined goodwill. A still-honoured (though barely), still-influential (in certain circles) missionary for peace. Would we not all of us embark on similar journeys if peace could be achieved through the simple expedient of explaining to the bad boys on either side that their conduct is simply unacceptable?

Appeasement of those engaged in determined social upheaval, human carnage, political disarray, has never proven to be particularly successful in achieving its stated goal. It has, instead, acted as an encouragement to the belligerents, ensuring that they receive the impression that no matter how brutally egregious their plans and their behaviours, nothing more than a gentle censure will come their way.

And, in light of the fact that tribal-generated religious fanatics dedicated to bloodshed have been vindicated beforehand for the simple reason that, like Jimmy Carter, they have consigned themselves and their martyred futures to the greater purpose of their own Deity, the spiritual figurehead of Islam, there is little this man could convey to them that might turn them from their purpose.

However, a mission of deluded jihad doesn't rule out the collective understanding of the power of public relations. Particularly in a part of the world where normal discourse is supercharged at any time with heated rhetoric, bearing at least some passing resemblance to the efficacy of clever advertising, as representatives and supporters of the victims, the Jew-downtrodden of the Arab world.

The public at large relates to that. They understand the images conveyed, of oppressed and oppressor. Call it gullible, call it a natural proclivity to defending the idea of the underdog requiring rescue from the predations of a superior-forced melange of Zionist ideologues; it seems to work very well.

So Jimmy Carter tells the impressionable West that he has succeeded in obtaining a "significant concession" from Hamas with respect to the prospect for peace. And that the Syrians are not only amenable to peace, but eager for a full peace treaty with Israel. Ha! Got you there, didn't he?

Might you have imagined, given what we think we know about that incendiary geography that Syria is falling all over herself in her eagerness to sue for peace, alongside her proxy militia?

But there it is in black-and-white in our local newspapers: Syria believes "about 85% of the issues between it and Israel had been resolved in prior negotiations and wanted a peace deal as soon as possible". Bet that'll come as a bit of a surprise to Tzipi Livni, Israel's Foreign Minister; she, after all, has been engaged in those secret talks for quite a while.

Clearly, it's the little details, that extra 15% where the devil resides.

And, says Mr. Carter, Hamas had promised to respect the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, if it were ratified by a referendum of the Palestinian people. Sounds good, really good. Oops, what's this? Brave Hamas numero uno - hidden safely away from public view and potential wipe-out - Khaled Meshaal, adds a few inconvenient caveats.

While Hamas would "accept" the establishment of a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in 1967 (in another of its defensive wars), it was not prepared to recognize Israel. Damn! Got that wrong, didn't we, now? Oh right, and then there's that little issue of right-of-return, and one supposes a whole raft of other nuisance issues.

Hey, Mr. Meshaal claims no referendum could take place until Hamas and Fatah become reconciled. And get this: the Palestine Liberation Organization be "reformed" to welcome Hamas into its hallowed circle. Why the need for the PLO once a Palestinian state is accomplished? To liberate the Palestinians from what, exactly...?

Oh, now I remember: that closing statement, repeated time and yawning time again: "...but Hamas will not recognize the state of Israel". Finis.

Hallooo... Mr. Carter, you still there?

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Russia, Droning On

Vladimir Putin loves playing hardball. His competitive spirit fuels a resurgent Russia, as of old. Adamant that he will no longer relinquish the playing field to aspirants wishing to control their own destiny, he's still high on his success in (temporarily) denying Georgia entrance to NATO. And busy making mischief, doing to that country what he will not permit to be done to his own; the encouragement of break-away portions, destroying the unity of the country.

Actively encouraging the separation of two restive areas of Georgia, Abkhazia - internationally recognized as part of Georgia, but activated by separatists supported by Moscow - and South Ossetia. Craftily establishing ties with the separatists in both these would-be breakaway regions. Pay-back for Georgia's insistence that as a sovereign country it has the right to do as it will, including becoming part of the 26-nation alliance of NATO.

Were another country to intervene in the encouragement of Uzbekistan, with whom Russia fights a continual bitter battle, as it does with Ukraine, and as it does still with Latvia, the full wrath of Vladimir Putin is released as he unhinges from his role as steady, steely leader of Russia and morphs into Vlad the Totalitarian.

When Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili conveyed his ire to President Putin over a Russian MiG-29 fighter entering Georgian airspace to shoot down an unmanned surveillance drone over Abkhazia, denial was the order of the day. Yet video footage clearly displayed the incident, identifying the strike.

"Nonsense" was the response from Russia's air force. And Vladimir Putin, never one to be put in his place, or to be placed on the defensive, shot off a little verbal ballistic missile of his own through the Kremlin press service, coyly relating his conversation with Mr. Saskashvili, that he purported to be "bewildered" that Georgia sent drones over Abkhazia.

Leaving no doubt that he held Abkhazia to be unrelated to Georgia, no longer part of its sovereign territory - under the protection of Russia - and that Georgia had no business sending anything over airspace not her own. The region has especial value to Russia as a transit route for oil from the Caspian Sea. Everything - world-wide - reduces to energy, oil.

Russia has issued its own passports to residents of Abkhazia, a breathtaking display of sheer arrogance. Tbilisi has, with understatement, given the circumstances, accused Moscow of annexation of the region. Everything depends upon whose ox is being gored, doesn't it? Russia's stout defence of Serbia with the declaration of independence of Kosovo comes to mind.

Yet Russia, which bitterly denounced the EU and the U.S. for recognizing the legitimacy of Kosovar independence as a nation in its own right, despite Serbia's (legal) assertion of sovereignty, is now set to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. It's fairly obvious that NATO's placatory gesture to Russia with respect to delaying Georgia's and Ukraine's membership has emboldened President Putin.

But there is Abkhazia's administrators, in defence of Russia's innocence, claiming that its own forces had shot down the drone, since it was violating Abkhaz air space.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Terra Firma, Our Solid Earth

We humans live and play out the drama of our singular lives amidst the other creatures with which we share this planet, alongside the abundance of flora and insect life, on a globe that is itself a living, breathing entity. The Earth doesn't really need us for anything, we just happen to be there, thanks to Nature which has permitted us to evolve within earth's atmosphere, and to reside upon its geographic presence.

We need the Earth and everything it provides for us, the raw resources for our nurturance, our shelter, our technologies.

We not only take what we need, but we develop reasons - through our emerging technologies as we spread our presence exponentially upon the earth's surface - to delve deeper and exploit ever more of the raw resources available to us. Earth passively permits our depredations of her sovereign territory, a kindly host to the querulous, never-satisfied dependents upon her mantle.

She, or Nature, looks upon our exploitation of all the other creatures with neutral disinterest.

And we agonize, we thinking, planning, theorizing, implementing beings, about the havoc we cause on the crust of the earth, on the atmosphere surrounding it, on the disappearing creatures whose homes we impinge upon, destroying their ability to survive. But as it happens, humankind proposes, while Nature disposes.

Our solid, dependable, long-suffering Earth may reel under the toll of humankind's persistent manipulation of the abode offered us. But she, in tandem with Nature, is otherwise engaged, busy with her own very particular agenda of neutral and ongoing entropy. We are the living chaos on Earth's mantle, Nature visits upon both Earth and humankind her impassive deliveries of hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions.

And oh yes, extraterrestrial visitors of occasional impact. Our solidly dependable sanctuary which we, as egotistical children of Nature impose our needs upon, is a living, breathing, ever changing object to which we cling, as an infinitesimally minute portion of the immense and unknowable Universe.

Our Earth is vulnerable, not only to our demands, but the happenstance of gravity, weather, alien imponderables. Our continents are adrift on a changing oceanscape; change as ready to occur as those great tectonic plates beneath the oceans and the continents and time will allow.

  • Earth's crust is capable of dipping a few centimeters under heavy regional snowfall - or the change of water levels in the Amazon - or post-torrential monsoon rains.
  • The deep thrumming tonal values of a thunderclap can trigger small seismic shocks to encourage quivering in the earth's upper crust.
  • The moon's gravitational pull cause soceanic tides, and is capable too of sucking the Earth's crust upward twice each day, by up to 10 centimetres.
  • The 2004 tsunami that wrought dreadful havoc in the Indian Ocean altered the Earth's rotation by a fraction of a second.
  • El Nino, which causes droughts in the southern hemisphere and warmer winters on the eastern seaboard of North America also alters the length of the day.
  • The development of the Three Gorges Dam in China altered the rotational period of the Earth sufficiently to enable amateur astronomers to measure the difference.
  • If that huge dam burst the result would be the deaths of hundreds of thousands Chinese, and the Earth itself would wobble, and slow its rotation slightly.
  • An actuarial assessment conducted in 2005 concluded we can anticipate 3 to 4 major calamities yearly, resulting in 50,000 or greater casualties.
  • Seismologists are confident that a million-victim earthquake is a virtual certainty in the next several decades: Central Asia, Tokyo, or California the most likely venues.
  • Approximately 8,000 mini-earthquakes occur daily, amounting to some three million annually.
  • Over 1,500 active volcanoes have been identified; 10 to 20 eruptions occurring at any one time. The largest three of the last half-century occurring on mountains not held to be volcanic.
  • The journal Science, in 2006, reported on research by Maria Pareschi with Italy's National Institute of Geology and Volcanology: "A massive collapse of Cumbre Veija, a volcano in the Canary Islands, would trigger a towering tsunami that would pummel both sides of the Atlantic. Such a collapse - quite probable because it is very unstable - would be ten times larger than the Etna slide. It would overwhelm New York, Miami and Lisbon."
  • NASA has been tasked with cataloguing billions of asteroid fragments spinning between Jupiter and Mars. In March 2007 a planetary defense conference was summoned by the U.S. Congress; attention had been caught by the spectacle, seen live on TV, of a comet wreaking havoc on Jupiter - shades of 2010: Odyssey Two.
  • If a kilometre-sized rock hit the Atlantic Ocean 500 miles off the U.S. coast at the speed of 61,000 kilometres an hour (an actual near-miss of the Earth observed in 1950), the 60,000-megaton impact would vaporize the asteroid and displace an area of ocean 17 kilometres across, right to the sea floor. The rushing sea would spread waves in all directions. Two hours post-impact, 120-metre waves would reach from Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras. Two hours later, 60-metre waves would hit the entire east coast, wiping out much of the Caribbean. Eight hours after impact, waves would reach Europe, coming ashore at heights of about 10 to 15 metres.
Aren't we, humankind, in the face of these potentially adverse lethalities truly puerile? Wouldn't it make sense to value what we have, and make all attempts possible to ensure the Earth's safety and with it our longevity? We just don't know how to make nice with one another, how to prioritize and recognize our needs and responsibilities.

It is, after all, Nature's fault; she has imbued us with these critically faulty attitudes and neuroses about one another.

And since the Earth, the atmosphere, the universe and all it contains are Nature's preserve at her disciplined/undisciplined disposal, unnervingly objective in their very nature, existence of any kind at her disposal, we cannot influence what she ultimately does, but we do have the free will to influence ourselves.

For the time we have on this planet Earth, in comfort and security, don't we owe it to ourselves and to one another to place value where it is due?

Nature has her own nuclear devices with which to implode all that we hold dear. Must we really challenge her with our own puny devices?

Thanks to Marq de Villiers, author of Dangerous World.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

He Met, He Saw, He Discussed

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has completed his Middle East tour. Designed to hear out views on solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Will he now reveal the content of his discussions with Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad? The world waits with bated breath. Will Mr. Carter write another book detailing his most recent MidEast adventures, declaring Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal a dedicated man of peace, furious with Israel over its state-instituted Apartheid?

In a strictly neutral, practical sense, if one were dealing with practical and sensible people, it makes sense to assert that any peace deal worked out between Israel and the Palestinians remains incomplete and inconclusive without the inclusion of Hamas - Syria, not so much, other than for its direction of Hamas and Hezbollah, its proxy armies. In a sense, Israel might, on reflection, be better off bargaining for peace with Syria, to declaw Hamas and Hezbollah.

But not really. Although Syria sponsors, encourages, arms and trains the terror militias, they are fully independent in their shared phobia of all things Jewish and their hatred of the "Zionist entity" whose name is too blasphemously-insulting to Islam and Muslim-hallowed geography to mention, lest their tongues cling forever to their roofs of their mouths.

Mr. Carter quite obviously values his statesmancraft. The United States and Israel do not think too highly of his statesmanship. Hamas and Syria, on the other hand, celebrate the success of their audience with this high-placed American representative. It is, for them, a public relations coup. A valuable one, that feeds their delusions and encourages their determination to destroy their enemy.

Mr. Carter, after all, has labelled the State of Israel as a criminal state, an Apartheid state, a state which demonstrates no compunction in victimizing helpless Palestinians, starving and impoverishing them beyond human endurance. Syria and Hamas have discovered a kindred spirit. Much jubilation. Vindication of their feelings toward Israel embolden them to further future vicious escapades.

While Mr. Carter's stated purpose was to "involve Hamas in the peace process"; Hamas translates the concordance of opinion rather differently, stating it "hopes to improve its image" by meeting with Mr. Carter, a prominent American. The immediate after-effect of their meeting has been even bolder, more determined attacks against the Zionist enemy. And in so doing, further - with obvious intent - victimizing the Gazan Palestinians.

For it is through the most vulnerable border crossings - those crossings most commonly used to truck needed commodities and food and medical supplies through to the Gazan Palestinians - that Hamas mounts its latest, deadly-intended attacks. Knowing full well that Israel will give recognition to their efforts by considering the closure of those crossings. The result of which will be to further imperil the lives of Palestinians through deprivation.

And then who will the Palestinians blame? Not their defenders, Hamas, the architects of the closures, but Israel, the brutal occupiers. And who will the watching world blame? Not Hamas, the protectors of the poor Palestinians, but Israel, brutally cracking down on Gaza. Nice work, Mr. Carter. Any more peace initiatives in the offing?

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He Speaks

He shed his beneficent light upon all those with whom he met, those in close audience and those who thronged from afar. He is, without doubt, the most significantly influential personage on the face of this earth. Not merely to those of his faith, although they are legion, but through the status of his office as God's representative on earth, a force for good throughout the world regardless of religion or lack thereof.

Heads of government are mere passing national representatives. Titular, regal heads of nations, clerics of other religions, wealthy socialites, celebrities, heads of giant corporations, all are pleased to audience in his presence, to absorb his blessing. His office is an ancient and much venerated one, a natural offshoot of a reverence for a spiritual being whom humankind pays grave obeisance to, a divine human construct.

A needed institution for a needed spiritualism, answering to a critical need to fill a gap in the soulful consciousness of humankind.

So when this man, or any of his predecessors, and his successors speak, the world takes heed. Yet this shepherd of the faithful is as human, as frail and as fallible to a degree as any other human being. Albeit invested with the power that stems from association with great holiness. His message is undeniably needed, and has been repeated through time immemorial. We humans are notoriously slow learners.

But then, we also have the inspiration and the tradition and the errors of the church itself to look at for precedents in human failings. He is right in arguing that theology, matters of the spirit, and the science of philosophy are responsible for constructing a foundation for the recognition of human rights. Simply because human beings require that kind of reminding instruction through the auspices of a higher source.

Yet, when he states that the best of humankind in emotional recognition of the needs of human beings being "...based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations..." he is ascribing to Nature that with which she has designed her creatures. The universality of the recognition of human rights; the compassion we have for others in recognizing their needs and their rights, have been endowed upon us by nature.

Nature is that godly presence so dear to the hearts of believers, preferring to label her a manly God. Pope Benedict spoke of the "responsibility to protect", a sacred responsibility of one to the other, which humankind has too often been guilty of neglecting. Worse, of imposing upon others limitless grief and pain, and often enough in the name of religion. As long as we view one another as different or as "others" we will succumb to tormenting one another.

The concept of responsibility to protect, newly coined as a UN phrase to induce nations united under the UN banner to understand their obligations toward others irrespective of borders, when a country imposes a brutal totalitarianism upon its people, has proven to be a lovely theory, but a failure in practise. Much as the Roman Catholic Church overlooked its obligation to protect the most vulnerable among its parishioners from the predations of their priests.

So too has the United Nations proved a feeble instrument to protect the people of Rwanda, of North Korea, of Sudan, of Burma, of Tibet.

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Liberal Democratic Juridical Safeguards

We're such an upstanding society in Canada, we want to make entirely certain that when people are alleged to have committed crimes the justice system is cognizant of ensuring it upholds the integrity it is tasked with. We are adamant at the same time that our system of checks and balances be securely in place, that the search for justice does not trample on the rights of individuals under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is not enough to merely suspect, to theorize, to observe and to draw reasonable conclusions therefrom. Hard evidence must be sufficiently in hand, and compelling enough that a judge and jury will have no option but to find the accused guilty, if prosecution hopes to be successful. If prosecution proceeds because the Crown attorney feels sufficient evidence can be displayed, there is still no guarantee of conviction.

That's considered just and fair treatment of the accused. For anyone accused of "allegedly" committing to criminal activity in Canada can certainly be arrested, held in custody for a trial date, and then prosecuted with the fair expectation of conviction. But the alleged perpetrator of a crime does not have to prove his innocence. It is up to the Crown to prove guilt. A defending attorney defends the accused against the claims of the Crown.

And since the horrendous events of 9-11 and the subsequent alert of governments in the West against the potential for terrorist acts committed by fanatical Islamists, state security has been tightened, and security agents have been placed on high alert. Canada knows, from what has occurred in the United States, Great Britain, Spain, Indonesia, concurrent with threats issued by al-Qaeda, that she too remains a target.

And from terrorist attacks in those countries Canadian authorities are only too well aware that those who carry out such attacks are not necessarily aliens, foreign to the country, but they can be home-grown jihadists. Young people whose attachment and commitment and loyalty to the country can be undermined by the persuasion of seasoned jihadists seeking out likely converts to religiously-inspired violence.

When it happens that suspects are detected, planning to wreak terror in the country, security agents look carefully to throw as wide an inclusive net of terror-confreres as possible. The arrest and preliminary charges of planning to commit terrorist acts within Canada of 18 men from the Toronto area two years ago, still awaiting trial, a case in point.

For fear of impending violence in the commission of murder and mayhem against Canadians, their institutions and government officials, security agents have to balance the acquisition of sufficient evidence against the real possibility of events overtaking the ongoing surveillance. We see now what results when insufficient evidence to proceed has been acquired, with the staying of charges against 7 of the original key suspects.

It's entirely conceivable these men may have been innocent of the initial charges laid against them. And it's equally possible, perhaps more so, that these men lucked into the Canadian justice system's valuation of evidence sufficient to induce firm charges resulting in conviction, not acquittal. Their arrests may now be thought to have been premature.

An over-zealous, and perhaps too-nervous police force charged with ensuring the safety of Canadians in an over-charged atmosphere of suspicion and fear.

Certainly there is pressure upon policing agencies in the country to forestall any possible terror threats emanating from fanatically disaffected individuals furious over their perception of Western threats to Islam and by extension public apprehensions about some members of some Muslim communities who often voice a level of solidarity with the violent militance of Islamists.

The truth is somewhere out there, amidst the confusion and the breast beating and the denials. And it would seem that there are enough Muslims in any society whose anger against what they perceive as Islamophobia causes them to speak intolerance against others, and actively engage in stealth behaviours leading inevitably to collusion with would-be terrorists.

It's undeniable that impressionable young men have travelled from North America to visit terror training camps in the near East. Some of these young men - and they are a decided minority, one that indelibly poisons the position of the majority of moderate Muslims - have been found criminally culpable in violent acts.

So when Canadian Muslim youth devise their own militant training camps within the country because they admire the work of al-Qaeda and find common purpose with it, in defence of their religion against what they perceive as dark forces assaulting their religious brethren abroad, they're emulating, dangerously, the conduct of committed jihadists. They may lack experience and knowledge, but not brotherly commitment.

Security agents and policing authorities often don't have much choice in the matter. They are tasked to protect the public and public institutions. They haven't the luxury of waiting until they're absolutely certain, for if a critical stage has been passed and the group planning to attack launches their violence with success, they will have failed in their task to protect.

The Toronto 18 are not innocent of some specific things, the most obvious being a shared distrust bordering on hatred of all things western-oriented, although they live in that atmosphere and thrive in it themselves. They acted in concert for a certain purpose that attracted the attention of security personnel, and they were infiltrated by at least one informer.

They were apprehended precipitously, out of fear that they would act on the plans, having been witnessed purchasing explosives materials. They were, without doubt, clumsy, juvenile, undisciplined. Inspired by al-Qaeda, but utterly lacking in training, sophistication in plot-planning, and injudiciously given to inflated hyperbole.

Canada enjoyed a brief flirtation with international fame on the initial arrest of the 18 alleged conspirators. The neighbouring country which so often blames Canada for harbouring terror cells planning to make their havoc-strewn way into the United States, beamed its approval at the event. The pressure to demonstrate that its security forces have the matter of potential attacks well in hand is tremendous.

Errors will be made. But erring on the side of caution in the need to protect can be understood. The story is not yet over and done with. The remaining eleven would-be terrorists have yet to be dealt with. Those who had charges stayed may yet surface in other instances threatening danger to the Canadian community.

In a liberal democracy like Canada's there's a need to get it right, to serve justice as it should be served. Sometimes it must seem like groping around in the dark searching for the device to defuse a bomb....

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