Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hostages for Islam

In the noble and honourable pursuit of inflicting fundamentalist Islamic values upon the world, hordes of warriors of Allah have perfected their abduction methodology, in their persistent and bloody-minded dedication to instilling fear and terror on their way to achieving world-wide 'respect' for Islam and eventual supremacy. All for Islam, in celebration of its superiority as the one true religion over all pretenders to that distinction.

The Western world, from amongst whose citizens, Islamists have sought to further their interests by claiming them as hostages, does not intend to fall prey to the agenda of the jihadists. Claiming, in concert with one another - rejecting the very obscene idea that human beings can be used as pawns, to be abducted and used for barter - that they will not submit to blackmail, or the usury of the benighted murderers who pose as emissaries of Allah.

From Israel to France, the United States to Great Britain, Lebanon, to Spain, all have declared that they will not exchange money or arms for the release of hostages. Rather, they will use all other means at their disposal, inclusive of 'diplomatic' exchanges between representatives of liberal democracies and those of universally outlawed terror groups. The exchange of some prisoners demanded by abductors may be acknowledged as an alternate.

But there are few countries that are comfortable with the idea that they have abandoned any of their citizens to the pitiless disposition of blood-stained jihadists without an attempt to secure the release of their citizens. It's well known how remorseless dedicated jihadists are to their cause of battle against 'crusaders' and Jews. They exhibit no frailties such as scruples against harming other human beings.

The world has been witness to the stark unblinking brutality of Islamists eager to teach precisely how dedicated they are to their mission, and how capable they are of vicious inhumanity, as for example when a horrified public was introduced to the video-taped murder of Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, In Pakistan, mere months after the attack on the World Trade Towers in New York.

The misery of incarceration by terror factions in Lebanon was well documented by Anglican envoy and hostage spokesperson, Terry Waite, throughout his ordeal as a captive of Islamists. He undertook three trips to Lebanon hoping his intervention would persuade the Hezbollah captors of western hostages to free them, before he was himself taken hostage, never to regain his freedom until the passage of five horrible years of abysmal misery.

The administration of Ronald Reagan was dedicated to freeing its nationals from their long imprisonment as political hostages. To that end, they entrusted the undertaking of freeing those hostages from terror hands to then-National Security council member, Oliver North. North used his contacts and the freedoms allowed him to act on this file to work out clandestine weapons-for-hostages deals with Islamic Republic Iran, a country with which the U.S. had no diplomatic contacts.

Afghan mujahadeen made use of Western hostages when it suited their purposes to gain advantage over agencies of the West. The terrorist group Hamas, now posing as the legitimate governors of Gaza and the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, now part of the formal government infrastructure of that country, see great profit in abducting Israelis, whether civilian or members of the military. These abductees are invaluable as potential exchanges; one Israeli-worth of abduction for up to thousands of Arab or Palestinian prisoners in exchange.

Now al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is discovering for itself just how potent an exercise in self-availment the kidnapping of Westerners can prove to be. Not necessarily or only as an exchange mechanism, but for the perceived value in the very act of abduction; the horror inspired in Western cultures by the taking of people into illegal custody, and the thought of what may befall them.

And that thought has its basis in previous events where people are subject to torture, to inhumane living conditions, to the withholding of basic human needs eventually resulting in death. Or, contrarily, the overt presentation of the power of dedicated jihadists to inspire terror by publicly beheading their prisoners, brandishing their severed heads in triumph.

The public is aware of the incidents involving Westerners sensitive to the perceived 'righteousness', the 'cause' of disaffected Islamists, those who profess to understand and to support their ruthless terrorism, themselves falling victim to abduction, privation and loss of identity. Humanitarians like aid worker Margaret Hassan, a convert to Islam, speaking Arabic, working in Iraq, was abducted and videoed blindfolded, shot to death.

Islamists may not have the monopoly on abductions, televised murders, extraordinary demands in compensation for their travail and perceived dishonour in the West, but they certainly present as exemplars of the trade.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Credit To His Nation

He's got 'nothing to hide', and good on him. After all, everything is out there, in the open, in any event. It couldn't be handily hidden, merely out of sight. There are enough who will vouch for the fact that Woodland Cree Chief Joseph Whitehead is clearly and unabashedly involved in extortion as a way of life. But of course that can be understood; he does that for the furtherance of his peoples' fortunes.

To ensure that whenever development of any kind takes place on his peoples' traditional 'hunting lands' (a minor inconvenience that those same 'hunting lands' are, in reality, provincially owned public lands) enriches his First Nations tribe, providing employment for those able-bodied and capable men eager for employment and the regular salary it brings in. And why shouldn't they be?

On the other hand, it's the personal enrichment of Chief Whitehead that appears to be the perpetual problem here, his self-availing blackmail, a neat system he has engineered whereby those wanting to business in the areas he claims to represent fully understand that they will be granted entree only upon presentation of well-endowed cash settlements, with him, personally.

It's been documented by a Calgary auditing firm hired by his very own fellow council members that much illicit activity has taken place. That personal agreements were conducted with contractors and sub-contractors on the understanding that if they balked at paying up, they would simply put themselves out of business. And so it was that Chief Whitehead received $137,000 from one business in a two-year period.

And successfully solicited $160,000 from another to secure sub-contracting work on Woodland Cree projects. And another operator, of Canadian Pipeline Construction, having paid $50,000 cash to secure work. And on and on it went. An awful lot of money changed hands between contractors and Chief Whitehead, yet he denies the very idea of having personally profited.

But because of his machinations, the agreements he made, the personal funding he extracted from companies eager to do business in the Peace River area, employable aboriginals from his band had work. And because he was, in this manner, successful in arranging these entitlements for himself that enabled his reserve to gain employment - something the industry was prepared to offer to workers on reserve without his intervention - he was given credit for providing work, and elected as Chief time and again.

Other than those times when other council members became so dispirited and disgusted that they threw him out. The band should be wealthy given the royalties received from gas exploration and extraction, yet it finds itself in a perilous economic state, with insufficient cash on hand to pay for necessities. And that puzzles them, since they had several millions in savings and have no idea where it's gone; as a result they cannot pay staff.

The Edmonton law firm Miller Thomson LLP, contacted by creditors contending they were promised payment of outstanding arrears to be generated through a land transaction, found that "The nation is living well beyond its means. The shortfall between revenue and expenditures is approaching a half million dollars per month and is not sustainable."

The principal of the reserve's Cadotte Lake School resigned, claiming that band cheques were 'bouncing'. She was joined by several teachers, unable to collect their salaries. Chief Whitehead blames the previous council for wrong-doing, that he was left to pick up the pieces of their disorganized and incompetent stewardship. "They just put us in the hole and I'm here to fix it." It'll only take a few months: "Our books will be awesome and everything.

He hasn't convinced other band members, those who name themselves "Woodland S.O.S." and who have written letters to the minister of Indian Affairs, claiming that "since being re-elected Mr. Whitehead has turned the band's financial surplus of over $3-million he inherited from the last council into a total bankruptcy. We now have payroll cheques bouncing, teachers and staff quitting, and suppliers of goods and services to the band being unpaid - due to corruption and illegal payments to the chief's friends and family."

They've also written to the federal government, that the band has discovered it was missing contributions to the pension plans of teachers at the school. They are additionally asking the Indian Oil and Gas Commission, in charge of on-reserve mineral rights to stop an unauthorized deal Chief Whitehead is proceeding with, without council members' approval.

Chief Whitehead remains blase about all of this. "Maybe it's jealousy. Maybe it's personal. I don't know. I have nothing to hide. The only thing I will fight for is for my people." Obviously, a good and honourable man, complacent in the knowledge that he is doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Little wonder, as yet another example of business-as-usual, that the First Nations communities suffer such desperately bad leadership, and remain vulnerable to exploitation from their own.

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The Berber Community Can Speak For Itself

Berber Activist Moha Moukhlis: "The 'Arab Street' Is Jubilant When an Indoctrinated Palestinian Child Blows Himself up in Tel Aviv" - And Ignores Crimes in Darfur and Kurdistan

An article by the Moroccan Berber journalist Moha Moukhlis posted on the website expressed in starker terms what some Berbers feel is the gulf between themselves and the Arab world: "…I want first to emphasize that I am writing as an Amazigh deprived of my most basic and legitimate rights: to be myself in the land of my ancestors and to express myself freely without constraint.

"I am not part of the flock that bleats as it is being led to the slaughterhouse. I am allergic to totalitarian ideologies and impassioned rhetoric. I hate confusions and ambiguities: I am an Amazigh, a free man.

"I can thus affirm that the tragedy of the Gaza Palestinians serves as fuel for Hamas, a gang of fundamentalist criminals who are perpetrating self-genocide, with the assistance of genocidal Arab regimes. [They are] mentally disturbed people who hate life and use the blood of their fellow Muslims to perpetuate their macabre aura.

"What can homemade and primitive rockets do against the fifth [largest] army in the world? '[They can bring us] Paradise,' say the Islamists and their dark networks, and they have the Quranic verses and hadith to prove it! [These are] criminal Islamists who conceive of their own people as cannon fodder destined to build up their bogus 'glory'…

"Death is their ideal, their culture, and the pillar of their values. The society that it [Hamas] dominates is indoctrinated to murder, to kill in jubilation and in horror. They are vampires who suck the blood of their citizens… It matters little to them if hundreds of children die or are torn to shreds. They think that they will go straight to Paradise. How morbid!

"And the so-called 'Arab street[?]' A brainless herd that has been indoctrinated and riled up and that has lost all sense of gravity and direction. They express their hatred for the Jews, whom they hope to exterminate from the face of the Earth… Yet this 'Arab street', which sees itself as the voice of the [world's] peoples, never dared to lift a finger against the crimes committed by the Hamas fundamentalists, or by the Arabo-Islamist regimes against non-Arab populations in Darfur, Kurdistan, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, or Niger. No! [And] the rights of the Amazigh people are supposed to be sacrificed on the altar of [this] Arab fundamentalism …

"It is striking that the denunciation of the massacres in Gaza by the 'Arab street' and the Arab 'intellectuals' is not meant to defend the Palestinians' right to live in peace, but to denounce the identity of the aggressor: the Jew. Who cares about the massacre perpetrated by the Hamas gangs against their brothers in Fatah? This macabre [attitude] is taken to extremes: The 'Arab street' is jubilant when an indoctrinated Palestinian child blows himself up in Tel Aviv."

"The Amazigh People… Will Never Give in to the Siren [Songs] of the Peddlers of Death"

Moukhlis continues: "They criticize the Amazigh movement for its 'silence' on Gaza! This is because its position [on Gaza] is determinant [of its status]: either it goes along with the herd, or else it is condemned and accused of high treason against the fundamentalist Arab nation. To rehabilitate itself, it is expected to send its children to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv, to teach them to hate Jews, and to express the wish, after every prayer, that they [the Jews] will disappear from the Earth!

"No! The Amazigh people love life and work to perpetuate it. They will never give in to the siren [songs] of the peddlers of death and human flesh. They will always know to defend just causes without hatred and without vengefulness. While for the 'Arab street' and the Arab fundamentalist groups the death of dozens of children and women means nothing - since their death is a means of entering Paradise - for the Amazighs the life of every human being is sacred and must be defended by legal means and with respect for the other.

"In order to develop, the Arab fundamentalists and [pan-]Arabists need to start by changing. This change, which will allow them to build a future for coming generations, needs to be based on the total and definitive rejection of the culture of death."

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

There's something so invigorating, inviting, exciting and memorable about the great out-of-doors. It enables recreational nature-lovers to re-invest themselves with their environment, celebrate their aliveness, exercise their options in enjoying life to its fullest. We are, for the most part, living in cities as we do, encapsulated in grim concrete for most of our lives.

The occasional escape into the living green presence of nature - or, winter-wise, the white blanket of nature at rest, brings us huge pleasure and reminds us of our attachments to nature.

But nature in the raw, isolated and quite far from peoples' familiar surroundings must be respected for other things it offers; the unexpected, the unanticipated, conditions that can be dealt with only with great difficulty, even for those with experience.

Nature must never be taken for granted. We puny humans must never forget that nature is not at our beck and call, and we do not control nature. Nature is there, it is the primal force beyond our familiar civilized world to which we occasionally return, briefly.

Our forays into nature needn't necessarily be tentative, but they do require that we be alert, guarded and prepared for exigencies. Only the most intrepid, resolute, courageous, prepared and mentally and physically fit extend themselves to mount the tallest mountains on Earth, overwinter in Antarctica, dive deep oceans to discover bacterial presence in the unimaginable heat of the interior crust of this planet.

For the rest of us, ordinary mortals, quests of discovery are more modest.

We clamber fairly reasonable ascents, not really heeding warnings posted below urging return to base if weather turns to our disadvantage. Thanks to the pervasive satellite communications technology, stranded hikers and climbers and boaters are now able to send messages, urging rescue.

But we're not always able to communicate with high-tech equipment and sometimes, stranded, lost people etch out temporary S.O.S. signals, hoping for discovery and rescue. And sometimes, even though potential rescuers do see those plaintive appeals for assistance, reaction is not always what we might hope it to be.

As was the case for a middle-aged couple from Quebec, visiting Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, British Columbia, for a romantic get-away for two avid skiers. Setting out geared up for a casual skiing adventure, they ventured beyond the marked safety area, and soon became lost.

They became disoriented, couldn't find their way back, and spent ten days lost, desperate, hungry and miserably cold. Hoping against hope to be rescued. Carving out a succession of large S.O.S. pleas in the snow.

Which were indeed seen on several occasions by helicopter pilots flying overhead, and duly reported, but unfortunately, not carried forward to a successful search-and-rescue conclusion. That old story of the chain of responsibility.

The RCMP, when alerted to the S.O.S. attempted to ascertain whether there had been any reports of missing skiers, and found none. The resort hadn't exercised due diligence in seeing to the safe return of guests, and hadn't realized anyone was missing.

The volunteer-operated Golden and District Search and Rescue team waited for authorization by the RCMP before proceeding, and that never arrived.

The 44-year-old wife died of exposure to the cold. Her 51-year-old husband, with sufficient energy to ski down to the area where the rescue helicopter landed, had a brief stay in hospital to be treated for frostbite.

Their romantic get-away simply did not materialize. Instead they experienced the horror of a nightmare they were unable to wake from before disaster struck.

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The Right To Speak

As Arab Canadians, insists Khaled Mouammar, national president of the Canadian Arab Federation, he and his group have every right to speak out against what he and they discern as 'lopsided media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict' and to 'challenge negative media depictions of Arabs as corrupt and barbaric proponents of terrorism.' These are mendacious stereotypes, that exist to characterize Arabs as what they are not, and it is the duty of the Canadian Arab Federation to challenge them.

Who could disagree with anyone's right to defend themselves from what they feel are errantly discriminatory descriptions of character, culture and tradition? By all means speak out, speak up, and defend. Of course the perception that media coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict is tainted is a subjective one, and there might not be complete agreement with that.

In fact, it's a fairly good bet that Jews feel often enough that news is canted in favour of the Arab position. It's in the eye and perception of the beholder; a human enough trait. And this country celebrates its freedoms to express opinions and contest others' expressions if they're felt to be inimical to one's self-esteem, or denials of reality.

There should be fairly general agreement that the world at large has been treated, particularly of late, say the past several decades, to outrageous examples of fanatical Arab and Muslim brutalities. And they have been pervasive, and fairly frequent, and occur throughout the world, in areas of conflict and within and without countries, both near and far.

Attacks by fundamentalist jihadists have become startlingly commonplace in the West; both viciously verbal and homicidally final. Attacks targeting both moderate Muslim civilians and Western targets at large. Little wonder that Arabs and Muslims feel themselves slandered; it's an unfortunate impression indeed.

Within Canada, however, the debate tends to be rather more civilized, more sedate, more conservative. There does occur from time to time, observations that may seem to be culturally cutting, claims being made that appear to smear in a wide arc rather than a careful selectivity impacting on the minority of fanatics that cause huge problems not only to the Muslim community but the larger world as well.

Countering that reality, vicious portrayals of other countries' attempts to defend themselves from fanatically aggrieved groups, and then displaying an outreach of denunciations encapsulating an entire ethnic group, and violently intimidating and harassing an ethnic-cultural-religious student body does not accurately reflect what Canadians accept as our social contract and values in mutual respect.

Jewish students, for example, do not form posses of accusers, lift aloft flags and banners of terror groups, display cruel caricatures of a purported enemy, and shout "death to the Arabs" or "death to the Muslims". This type of socially dysfunctional and vicious display of hatred owes its presence to the representatives and supporters of the Canadian Arab Federation, exclusively.

So, yes, Mr. Mouammar, while you do indeed have the right to speak out in protest, you do not really have the right to foment an atmosphere of violent accusation and demonstrable hatred against other, very identifiable groups. And although you claim that criticism of Israel does not, in your opinion, represent anti-Semitism, your youth cadres, supported by your organization, do express their anti-Semitism by their rallying cry of "kill the Jews".

If the CAF truly does seek to engage in useful debates, do it in a civilized forum with due respect to all parties. At which time you will gain the respect due you as Arab-Canadians capable of extending civil courtesies to other ethnic groups within this great country. It's civil discourse, and it's the Canadian way.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Giving Away That Inch....

The foot is next, then comes the mile, and the inexorable creep and spread will inevitably spell a resounding success for religious fanaticism. The thing about fanatics is that they do not surrender. They may suffer set-backs, but these are mere temporary inconveniences. Their agenda is set in frozen carbon dioxide, a frigid, burning determination to succeed, and damn the consequences.

The consequences are usually represented by a large number of victimized bystanders. Inconsequential in the larger picture of attainment of purpose. That purpose, in the Swat Valley, is to reintroduce the legality of Islamic Sharia law, subservient to none other, nor to the state, nor the government of Pakistan.

And Pakistan has decided in its governmental wisdom, to accede to the demand of the militant fanatics. Oh, again. Only this time it will be different, successful.

Can they really believe this will not have larger consequences? Islamic law as the sole source of justice has claimed countless lives. It has beheaded those who dissent, it has destroyed hundreds of schools, and it has denied children an education, particularly girl children. It will continue to deny women their human rights. This is not a situation resonant with promise for progress.

Pakistan's foreign minister considers this agreement with the Pakistan Taliban in Swat as a "local solution to a local problem, which is quick dispensation of justice". Justice on whose terms, exactly? Justice commensurate with murder and mayhem, denial of human rights. And how long does Shah Mehmood Qureshi actually believe that this will remain a local problem?

Over a two year period the fanatic tribal militants have fought their campaign to enforce shariah law. They've outlawed any form of entertainment, fought government forces, murdered barbers who dared shave off clients' beards, killed teachers who dare teach young girls, and made quick work otherwise of their opponents. Does this auger well for a peaceful future?

One hundred and twenty-two girls' schools have been destroyed, still more that teach boys only. In addressing the concerns of the West, the country's information minister chides that "the government prefers dialogue to resolve problems", and that this agreement will work to the advantage of all concerned. "Pakistan is a sovereign state and it takes its own decisions."

And Pakistan insists it is as committed in the battle against terrorism as always. It remains a trustworthy partner in fighting Islamic terrorism. Not their fault that the U.S. has its doubts, Afghanistan is troubled, and India is warily fearful.

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Waiting For The Other Shoe....

There seems to be no end to the degrading spectacle of incompetence and warped tragedy in the horribly dysfunctional manner in which bodies of the United Nations stumble their way into infamy. There is no balance, no honour, no conscience in evidence in that body whose purpose it is to find balance, honour, justice and equality among its member states.

Encouraging co-operation and a willingness to amend injustices from among its membership.

It's the misfortune of the world that at the present time - and perhaps, who knows, for the foreseeable future - the United Nations' member-nations appear to be divided into two major camps; the relative handful of civil democracies and the larger majorities comprising dictatorships, tyrannies, monarchies, oligarchies, autocracies and pseudo (perhaps nascent) democracies.

There is sufficient drive and assemblage of supportive numbers among those countries whose human-rights traditions and abuse of authority might cause them grief if pushed, to mount their own concerted accusations against one tiny country in the aggregate of represented nations within the United Nations.

And the pity of it is that those other countries, representative democracies like the State of Israel, cannot find it in themselves to support her, and deny her detractors their vile celebrations of humiliating and wildly unjust denunciations.

Countries that should vote in support of Israel find it expedient to abstain rather than risk the wrath of the majority.

When the UN's World Conference Against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa in 2001 it was effectively high-jacked and used as an instrument to turn all eyes and accusations against one country; Israel. Instead of addressing the scourge of global racism, religious intolerance and discrimination, fanatics were given free reign to express their hatred of Israel and of Jews (Zionists all!).

Resolutions were brought forward, fashioned by Libya, Sudan, Iran, North Korea among others that slammed the West for its colonialist past, completely ignoring the rampant human rights abuses that are common everyday occurrences in Libya, Sudan, Iran, North Korea. And they did this with complete impunity. Horrible caricatures of Nazi-inspired-propaganda against Jews were common fare.

Two countries only, Australia and Canada condemned the conference, while the United States and Israel walked away from it. And now Durban II is in process, and despite the promises of Ban Ki-Moon and the United Nations, it is shaping up as a reprise of its earlier grim presentation of lunatic counter-spin. And it is doing so with complete confidence.

In a background of renewed global anti-Semitism, where attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions are rife throughout Europe, North America and the Middle East. Assaults and attacks on synagogues and community centres have taken place in London, Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Caracas and Melbourne. Attacks in Ukraine, Poland, Russia and elsewhere are less surprising, but add to the universal fear of Jewish security.

Durban II's preparatory committee is comprised of those paragons of human virtue and human-rights defenders; Libya, Pakistan and Iran. Iran with the help of Syria has manoeuvered a "unanimity rule" into effect enabling conference delegates to ventilate their denunciations and aggrievements and historical revisionist denials of the Holocaust. The Arab-Muslim agenda is stoutly supported by the African Bloc.

Canada stands singly as the country with the courage and commitment to remove herself from this vicious farce perpetrated on the world stage. Viva Canada!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Alien Alert: 'Death to Canadians'

The wish has been granted, in reverse-time mode. But then, more will occur, as the Taliban gear up again to recommence their relentless campaign to overtake Afghanistan's defences. And Kandahar province will again prove to be a deadly hot-spot. Is there any point in Canadians sitting in comfort in Canada taking umbrage at the absurdity of impoverished, ignorant, preyed-upon and violated villagers blaming the armed services of a foreign country for the deaths of their children?

Who are they then, to blame? The Taliban, who more or less control most of the province they live in, and certainly visit their village more than occasionally. Not even these vulnerable and untutored villagers are ignorant of the fact that their denunciation of the Taliban as being responsible for ordnance killing their children will bring swift response and death to them. There is a wry irony in their claims that Canadians are guilty, and maledictions are brought down on Canada.

Rashid Village, where these people come from, holds disabled people, those who have been maimed by landmines and bombs. These people represent the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in a land that peace and kindness has historically overlooked. A war-torn society governed by a vicious brand of Islam, perverted for the personal advantage of scurrilous clerics interpreting the Koran for their purpose, enslaving the population, to an indigent and fearful existence.

They're not all that far from Kandahar City, in the Panjwaii District, where Canada has its military presence. Canadian soldiers, like all other foreigners in the country are seen by most of the population as occupiers, not defenders. This is a closed culture with a long tradition of suspicion of foreigners, and with good reason, given their long troubled history.

Two young boys, and then an even younger one, were killed by an explosion near their village. The Canadian military is careful to clean up after their firing range practises. It seems that the Afghan police investigating the incident, and confirmed by some villagers, feel that a Taliban-fired mortar round was responsible. The area, however, is acknowledged to be dangerous, littered with mines and unexploded ordnance.

There is an active and ongoing war situation there. According to a report recently published by the United Nations, civilian deaths are increasing in the country. A record 2,118 civilians were killed last year alone. And while the Taliban are held to be responsible for some 55% of those deaths, NATO cross-fire and accidental weapons discharge may be responsible for the balance.

For the Afghan villagers, the distinction is that they may be killed through haphazard incidents by either the foreign troops, or the Taliban. The Taliban, it should be remembered, are Afghan tribes people, not foreigners. The Taliban claim to be fighting for religious, political independence from foreign interference and occupation.

The current government of Afghanistan is held almost universally in contempt. By its own people, for failing to represent them and their needs even notionally. And by the international community, particularly the NATO-led and UN-allied countries whose troops struggle to counteract the Taliban, and whose NGOs, civilian volunteers and diplomats struggle equally to bring the country's infrastructure into the 20th Century.

So when protesters, bearing the bodies of two lifeless young boys, destroyed by instruments of war not of their making or wanting, but imposed upon them by forces they cannot reckon with, hobble into town on crutches to make known their grief and dissent at their condition, shouting "death to Canadians", along with slogans of defiance against their local government, much can be read into the situation.

Bridle at the offence? Take umbrage at the ignorance? Express doubt about remaining there, leaving our military open to further danger? And what for? To be condemned by the very people whose interests mandate our presence? Take a deep breath, and look at the misery of the people and the situation in the round.

There are no solutions on the near horizon. Only managed chaos, and eventual, dissatisfied withdrawal, leaving the country to fester once again. Next door to its critically failing neighbour. Two countries suffering the incurable disease of fascist fanaticism.

Would that it could be confined there.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

On Human Race

On Human Race - A Humanist's View

From the biological standpoint, the species Homo Sapiens is made up of a number of populations, each one of which differs from the others in the frequency of one or more genes. Such genes, responsible for the hereditary differences between men, are always few when compared to the whole genetic constitution of man and to the vast number of genes common to all human beings regardless of the population to which they belong. This means that the likenesses among men are far greater than their differences.
- Statement on Race: issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

The term 'race' is a misnomer of singular proportions, given the fact that the vast majority of people seem not to realize that there is only one true human race - that of the entire species. Anthropologists use the term 'race' knowledgeably, whereas in its popular usage the word with all its biological implications has become degraded. Among the general population, the terminology and recognition of race has a social, not a biological cast; with decidedly pernicious overtones.

Anthropologically speaking, there are three recognized sub-groupings which fall within the species of man; namely Caucasian, Negroid and Mongoloid. From these three major sub-groupings a plethora of minor groupings identify peoples who, by virtue of a matrix founded in geographical isolation have evolved with specific physical characteristics, culture and society. All other definitions of race are informed and utilized by gross ignorance of the condition of man upon this earth.

Our condition is that we are of one initial stock; that by reason of geographic isolation and gradual adaptation there has evolved a diversity of facades - formed as much by environment as by random genetic change or by direct hybridization as a result of interbreeding. There occur naturally spontaneous random variations in gene frequencies and even the extinction of some, unnecessary genes. Even so, genetic variations between the groupings of people are minor.

People can be differentiated by cultural environment where the effect of cultural isolation will imbue a large segment of a geographic population with readily identifiable traits, ethics and perceptions. It would be more correct to call this group an 'ethnic' one.

Other groups of people are significantly affected by religious teaching and training which in large part may make up the basis for their cultural identification. This is most certainly termed a common 'religion', yet members of that religion may cross ethnic boundaries as well as geographic boundaries. There are, for example, Muslims living in the near and far east as well as in Europe and North America.

Still other large population groupings may be identified strictly by geographic location and this group of people may be termed a 'nation'. Yet within that nation there exists people whose heritage is culturally diverse, whose religious adherence is multifarious. This type of mixture is most commonly seen in the mixture which makes up the Canadian mosaic.

As is readily seen, the above three classifications are not mutually exclusive; a large group may combine a 'nation', yet have within it a diversity of 'religious', leanings and numberless 'ethnic' culturally-induced groupings - none of which should be rightfully called a 'race'.

Character is shaped and informed by immediate environment and that environment is familial, shaped by societal values further shaped by the cultural imperatives current in any geographic area. One may take focus on the American blacks who are a part of the American nation; whom society has traditionally placed in a disadvantaged position; whose culture has been shaped by such societal strictures (originally formulated to justify slavery); whose family structure is much looser than that of the whites among whom they live. This 'looseness' is based upon insecurity, an insecurity which stems from the erroneous assumption that blacks constitute another, more inferior race, than do the whites.

Man's condition is not immutable. Man, the race, has been undergoing genetic changes since he was first recognized as a separate genus, Homo Sapiens (Man the Wise). Physical anthropologists mark the changes in millennia, and even then the changes have been so gradual as to be hardly noticed. But, we are in constant flux. Yet the changes affect all of us. Differences in individuals within the same ethnic groupings are more diverse and pronounced than those which exist between the various ethnic groups themselves.

Unless complete isolation is possible between sub-groupings and genetic material common to that group is never interfered with by outside sources as by another sub-group, then the genetic pool of that particular group remains fairly stabilized and an ethnic group is formed; a group with a common, yet still fluctuating genetic pool. However, even these ethnic groups are continually shifting and in terms of historical 'time' have a limited lifespan.

And even within that group, as for example, the American Indian population before 1500, there existed a population sharing a relatively stable genetic pool, but living in separate enclaves. The genetic pool reached a certain equilibrium and there was a diversity in cultural leanings and linguistics, yet the American Indian did not constitute a specific 'race'.

And there is no such thing as purity of race or sub-grouping, to use the more correct form, since interbreeding takes place constantly within any given society. And it helps to remember that any given society which constitutes a nation is comprised of a number of ethnic groupings, religiously-oriented groupings; minor-groupings of the major groupings of the race of man. For example, it is estimated that fully 70% of all American blacks have white blood, with attendant white genes.

Apart from the fact that traditionally it was seen as permissible for white males to couple with black females (where the reverse was socially taboo), even the blacks themselves are instrumental in changing their genetic pool, by acculturated preference. Black males tend to select lighter-skinned black females as sexual partners. In this way, sexual selection dilutes the darker-pigmented genes and the resulting pool over a great period of time will ultimately mean that the black group situated in America will share the white man's lighter skin tone.

Take, for example, Jews, who are stubbornly considered by an uninformed public to comprise a 'race'. While it is true that the background for many Jews is that of the Mediterranean sub-group, Jews are merely a 'people' or segment of a population having in common a cultural orientation (historical) and/or common religion. There are some Chinese and Blacks who have taken upon themselves to be Jews, adopting the Jewish religion. This does not make them part of a Jewish 'race'.

People often ascribe deplorable social tendencies to particular sub-groupings, which they erroneously term 'races'. It is well to remember that what is permissible, even desirable in some geographic communities is shunned in others. When a people has long become accustomed to viewing certain social practises as normal and quite acceptable, these practises become established as social currency, and when transported into another, alien culture, the practises set these people apart where the resident population have a tendency to disdain little-understood 'racial' attitudes which are in fact, social and/or cultural tendencies.

We are here talking about perceptions. What we perceive is not necessarily the same thing to everyone. Perceptions are informed by experience and background. In other words, if we have been culturally induced to regard taciturnity, public display, acute economy, or extreme gregariousness as undesirable, those exhibiting those traits or habits are distasteful to us, just as the wearers of turbans or saris are conspicuous by their differences and held apart by suspicion. Because in their original environment these habits were seen as natural or fitting, misunderstandings arise engendering a mutual hostility.

Let's have a look at shylocking as adduced to Jews, in another instance of social strictures creating fallacious determinations. For generations Jews were not permitted to own land in Europe, nor to have certain recognized professions. They could not farm, the most common means of livelihood at one point in human history. They were sometimes permitted to become itinerant tradesmen. And they were permitted to 'lend' money; a practise expressly forbidden by the early Christian church to its faithful - which church ironically had itself taken the injunction from Judaic precept.

Jews then, became money lenders, eventually transmuting the practise to banking. But as they were then dealing in a Christian world within an expressly forbidden,church-proscribed practise, they were held to be 'unclean', their livelihood despised and indecent. Hence shylocks, from the immortal Bard's pen, who reflected the temper of his times; hence the term 'jewing' and the Oxford Dictionary definition of Jew as 'money-lender'. An unfortunate misnomer, since the great majority of Jews have always been and will doubtless continue to be, as 'average' material wise, as any society which they inhabit. But all a matter of perceptions, of discrimination informed by ignorance where the apparent is more readily accepted than the actual.

There also exists among sub-groupings physical differences from their common genetic pool which further confuse matters. Where some sub-groupings can readily and genuinely be identified, as where their physical environment has gradually adapted them to their surroundings, i.e., the Pygmy of the African Congo, the Inuit of the far North, where one group has been reduced in size and colour and the second has acquired the genetic code for an 'abnormal' subcutaneous fat layer - so that they may better live in sound ecology with their environments - they are a distinctly characteristic group.

However, most 'racial' identifications are misconceived generalizations. We may think of those inhabiting the Indian continent as forming a distinctive race, yet they do not, for many confused sub-groupings have gone into the whole, and there is, moreover, an artificial sub-structure there of a social nature which will not permit interbreeding between groupings, thus causing an unnatural situation where the caste system has birthed further sub-groupings, with attendant fairly stable gene pools. The uninformed and ignorant outsider claims that 'all Indians look alike'; ergo they must be a single 'race'.

Jews are commonly perceived to be of the Mediterranean type, and some are. Yet so are the Greeks, the Italians, the Portuguese, the Spanish and certainly the Arab populations - and some of all these groups have often been mistaken for Jews. Yet among Jews there is a significantly smaller proportion of physical Mediterranean types than among, for example, Arabs.

In the same token we often conceive of Italians as being dark-skinned and hirsute, yet large groups of Italians are fair-haired and light-skinned and the same can be said for the Spanish - and among the fair-haired segment, there arises a social condition creating a hierarchy among that group. So we have the 'aristocrats' and the 'peasants'. Perceptual differences and their attribution to race have been encouraged for the express purpose of creating a hierarchy, a class of rulers and the ruled within a society, thus supporting the concept of racism.

Ethnic groups share a geographic boundary, often. They share a common culture within the geographic boundary. And most often they share a common religion. Yet the Italians, the Spanish, the French, the Greeks do not each comprise a race, but a nation. And within each nation are groups of people who do not share the same religion, nor the same dialect, nor exactly the same culture.

The human condition is constantly changing, albeit gradually and perhaps some day enough intermarriage within groups will occur to blend and weaken physical differences. Even so, cultural and geographic boundaries may remain. Yet even so, there is but one species.

The fondly-held belief of racists in 'racial' purity is a risible canard; the stronghold of culturally- and intellectually-insecure antediluvians, the substance of whose contention is as ephemeral as gossamer (without sharing any of that substance's beauty). For its purpose is to degrade other human beings.

Intelligence quotient is often used as a tool by which 'race' can be proven to point an individual toward highly-paid skilled employment or underpaid under-skilled employment. I.Q. tests are given across the board, to those from privileged and under-privileged social backgrounds alike. This, despite that we now know pre-natal as well as post-natal deprivation, both nutritional and environmental, leads to atrophying of the brain's potential.

In other words, an intelligence test specifically designed to measure the cerebral capacity of a middle-class group with background leading to middle-class aspirations is given to nutritionally-, emotionally- and socially-deprived groups of people. A tendentious practise; weighting the scale heavily in favour of racist theory of a sub-species of human.

Psychological traits and various endowments of physical and intellectual capacities exist within all groups of people whatever the ethnic background. There is no one group of people in any manner naturally superior to another, trait-wise, intellectually, or with regard to physical attributes.

Nomenclature and semantics become very important when misconceptions based on ignorance, breeding fear and prejudice, often lead the way to savage acts, one man against another. An example of how words, or loose and misunderstood terms can be so erroneous, is the example of the world 'savage'. Anthropologists commonly used that word to refer to primitive peoples. Yet now, the word 'savage' is no longer current; instead the words 'primitive' or 'illiterate' have replaced the 'savage'.

It can be readily understood why, when we recall that Alfred Wallace, an anthropologist-coeval of Charles Darwin (engaged in like studies of natural selection), in the course of his investigations into the source of man shot a black woman who had been sitting in a tree holding an infant (in Malaysia); thinking nothing much more of the incident than that he had mistakenly killed a 'savage' for an ape. The savage, apparently, then being thought nothing more than a more direct link to Homo Sapiens. She was a human being and he, the scientist, reflecting the unfortunate zeitgeist of the times, the true savage.

So let us understand that one cannot denote a group of people as a 'race'. The word itself with all its derogatory connotations has caused untold misery to millions of human beings. We divide 'races' into inferior and superior. We perceive some 'races' as being truly human, and others as merely sub-human. Subtly we do this. So we hardly notice it, but we do. We ascribe to certain 'races' distasteful practises and characteristics. The truth is that all human beings share like or at least comparable aspirations; to fulfill themselves as human beings in all dignity.
The means by which they fulfill their aspirations may differ, but the needs are the same.

We desperately need to understand that our biases regarding race are ill-founded. If some specific characteristics are found to be unappealing, it is well to remember that some which we ourselves share may be unappealing to other segments of a population; more commonly termed 'ethnic' groupings, and not 'races'. Yet, we must learn to accommodate ourselves to each other, to co-operate, to shift over and give some room. After all, this is not a very large planet, this mother Earth, and we are but one family; the human race.

As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. - Charles Darwin, "The Descent of Man", 1874.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Hatred That Will Not Die

It's quite simply amazing that the world focuses on Israel time and again as a major force for world disruption. It seems as though this is a never-ending cyclical pathology that infects the international community. Before the creation of the State of Israel, the world's attention was focused on Jews as the universal scape-goat for all the ills of the world.

Jews were scorned and derided as lesser beings, unworthy of trust and citizenship in many of the countries where the diaspora Jews settled. Yet on the other hand, they were held to blame for holding within themselves, by 'owning' media, commerce, friends in high places, the power to affect countries' fortunes and misfortunes. World Jewry held itself to a mysterious pact to order the world to its benefit.

Now that Israel exists and insists on its right to continue existing, despite having been encircled by hostile forces intent on its removal from the geography of the Middle East, Israel is held to a standard of behaviour demanded of no other nation. Certainly not of its neighbours, most of which are dictatorial human-rights abusers. Any initiative to protect itself is labelled aggression, and it is given the distinction of being known as an unlawful 'occupier' of a disadvantaged people.

Yet Israel, for all its faults, has offered security and citizenship to all those who live within its boundaries, in stark contrast to the surrounding countries for whom equality and fairness and an open society are yet to be realized. Upon Israel alone is placed the blame for the continuing festering of the Palestinians as a group with an unfulfilled destiny. Never are their own failed leaders held to account.

Those countries in Europe within which anti-Semitism flames out, then rises again like the Phoenix, now have two hate targets; Zionist Israel, and Jews, and both targets are fixed in the sights of anti-Semites as their hated prey. It becomes legitimate to commit to anti-Semitism, in purported response to Israel's wrongs against the Palestinians and the re-awakened realization that Jews' intent to control the global economy is evidenced by the international financial failure.

The liberal left in Europe and North America have now adopted Israel as the flag-bearer for world domination and fascism, where once fascism wedded to the intent of world domination almost succeeded in eradicating Jewish lives from the world stage. Universities and labour unions have found common cause in exercising their outraged condemnation on Israel as an Apartheid state; on Jews as universal society's social-political blight.

Only now the liberal left with its enlightened and noble purpose of struggling for the underdog, the disadvantaged, the suffering, have allied themselves with the clerical fascists of fanatical Islamism. In Britain the popular press, the electronic media, the civil service, public unions, police and the judiciary no longer feel the need to take care in their assertions of not-so-veiled anti-Semitism.

The zeitgeist of the times has given them permission to practise their prejudices overtly, openly, without undue fear of being held to account. Throughout Europe a renaissance of anti-Semitic cant has been re-invigorated in solidarity with a malign force that threatens the very stability of the countries whose left has found common cause with. Defying logic and reason, but that's what irrational passion does.

This same aggregate of Jew-haters and Israel bashers remain strangely innocent of any knowledge of fascist Islamists' jihadist aspirations, nor do they seem unduly concerned about the fate of thousands upon thousands of innocent Muslims whose lives are continually forfeit through targeting by vicious sectarian violence. It is simply too inconvenient to acknowledge the war that jihad wages against the peaceful face of Islam.

This is an arcane, quite stupefying bit of evidence yet again that human beings have their peculiar tendencies to self-destruct, and they have no difficulty discovering the rationales to support their ongoing dedicated belief in rabid Jewish conspiracies to control the world, an intent that must be stopped at all costs.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ready? Aye, Ready!

Those foreigners who have managed to slip into North Korea latterly, have described the situation in the country as dire. North Korea has isolated itself utterly from its neighbour, and with its emphasis on acquiring nuclear power and building its armed forces and outfitting it with the latest firepower, it has impoverished even further its population, now living in squalid want.

The World Food Program, fully cognizant of the problems in that bleak state, has predicted that up to 40% of North Koreans, out of the 23-million population, present in urgent need of food from outside sources. This has been a cruel, hard, long and food-depleted winter for North Koreans barely managing to survive the hardships they have so long been subjected to.

South Korea's 'sunshine' policy practised by its former government has been replaced by the current administration with a more pragmatic, tough approach, where it insists on some kind of reciprocation; aid for guarantees of a more balanced relationship, a lot less sabre-rattling. South Korea's president, Lee Myung-Bak insists that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Which has brought a response uncomfortable in its trajectory: "If bellicose U.S. forces and South Korean puppets dare wage aggression against us wrapped in the foolish delusion, we will explode our might ... and ruthlessly destroy the invasionary forces", thunders an official statement published by the country's Central News Agency.

The country's delusional paranoia has become so deep-seated a pathology of self-imposed fear of its sister-country that it issues dire threats with anticipated regularity. The threats may seem febrile and impotent, but North Korea is well armed and exhibits the mad tenacity of collective psychopathy.

Even if Kim Jong Il becomes completely physically incapacitated, it does not seem likely the country will submit to pacification in the near future.

His youngest son has been tipped to become his designated heir to succeed him in governing the country. It could be hoped that his European education might mitigate against his adopting his father's rigidity, but that may very well prove unlikely. The country's persistent insistence on its right to nuclear weapons endangers the stability of east Asia, with Japan in particular, exceedingly nervous.

China's support of North Korea and its leadership puts that emerging superpower at loggerheads with the interests of the other, vulnerable countries in the region, fearful of an out-of-control, nuclear-armed nation of psychological misfits. The country's most recent bellicose threats of war-readiness ensures the region stays on tenterhooks of apprehension for the future.

North Korea's are no mere idle threats. Her launching of long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear war-heads represent an indelible indication of just how dangerous this world is, and increasingly becoming. We are haunted by the trio of Iran, Pakistan, North Korea; inextricably bound by their nuclear availability, all three presenting as inchoate, globally threatening merchants of death.

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What Obloquy?

Last year in Tibet a peaceful demonstration to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight into exile in India brought the heavy hand of Chinese authoritarian rule into the picture when riots ensued in Tibet and the provinces surrounding it. China claims 22 people to have been killed in the riots and the government troops' attempts to put down what they felt was an apprehended insurrection.

This year, as the 50th anniversary of the Chinese government clamp-down on Tibetan autonomy nears, the government is taking no chances. It has taken steps to close Tibet to the outside world. Tourism has been halted, and outside observers may no longer obtain permits to enter Tibet. Security forces have been deployed for the purpose in hand, to "firmly crush the savage aggression of the Dalai Lama clique, defeat separatism and maintain stability".

No entry permits will be issued to foreigners, tourists, news agencies, for the foreseeable future. The ban extends outward from Tibet including three of the surrounding provinces where ethnic Tibetans live. The Tibet Daily editorial explained it is imperative that China "maintain heavy pressure on criminal violators from start to finish".

From within Tibet reports are issuing of severe and aggressive reduction of monks in key monasteries, in concert with the bivouacking of armed forces on the religious sites. Reports of several dozen Tibetans having been arrested for carrying the likeness of the Dalai Lama in Lithang County, Sichuan Province have set the stage for further suppression of 'violence'.

As a demonstration of the exigencies of diplomacy, visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is treading lightly, making no specific mention of this new flash-point in relations between China and its vulnerable Tibetan population. Rather, in a reprise of historical antecedents; in the interests of global stability given current economic problems, and environmental concerns, human rights has slipped off the negotiating table.

Matters will proceed that much more smoothly, with China not facing the sting of opprobrium relating to its human-rights record, and the two super powers can proceed without inconvenient diversions to pave the way for co-operation without fear of inconveniently unwieldy confrontations.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Canada's Position on Anti-Semitism

Canada is a country built on its communities of immigrants. A country of 33-million people in a vast geographic territory, the population represents a veritable United Nations of ethnicities, traditions, cultures, ideologies and religions. It is a country that seeks to balance itself delicately on the tip of its own history and traditions, inclusive of those of its immigrant populations'. A country dedicated to its concept of multiculturalism, respect for others, and equality of opportunity.

This is often an uneasy balancing act. Traditionally a white, Anglo-Saxon country, Canada has been transformed over the past four decades to become what it currently is; home to a multitude of languages, colours, cultures and traditions. Under the umbrella of Canadian law and practises, its social conventions and values. Inclusive of recognizing the multifarious nature of its various ethnic demographics. As a society dedicated to fairness and pluralism we do fairly well.

But there are no perfect societies, strive as we may. The diversity of the human experience, tribal and clan affiliations, customs and traditions all interface in the greater collective, and occasionally there are disruptions in the orderly face of society. Groups from abroad importing cultural biases, traditional enmities, and sometimes seeking to practise them on Canadian soil. Resulting in the inevitable clash, one of which was cataclysmic, when militant Sikhs planned a horrendous catastrophe against Hindus.

Groups representing militant insurgents have planted themselves within Canada, to the detriment of the country and the entire society. Canadian authorities and police agencies struggle to contain disparate groups' predatory and abusive actions toward others of their common heritage. Groups like the outlawed Tamil Tigers, conspiring within Canada to raise funds for their violent cause leading to a homeland, and groups bringing into the country traditions of lawlessness and gang warfare.

And among those groups there are additionally those who spread discrimination, racial unrest, and anti-Semitism. Of the latter spreaders of hatred, the Canadian Arab Federation, once a respected community group giving service to the Arab community within Canada, and the Canadian Islamic Congress under the leadership of Khaled Mouammar and Mohamed Elmasry respectively, stand out as problematic and inimical to the good of the country.

Both men and their respective groups have been unstinting in their efforts to paint Israel as an apartheid state, a human-rights-abusing country, and by extension Jews as predatory and of ill character whose purpose in life has been instructively outlined in the shameful "Protocol of the Elders of Zion". These groups and their leaders espouse the work of Hamas and Hezbollah, terror groups outlawed by Canadian law.

As Canada is wont to do, public funds have been distributed to assist the community work of multicultural organizations and societies, and these two groups included. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney has recently indicated that funding will be cut back for the Canadian Arab Federation. Its president, Khaled Mouammar will doubtless not be dreadfully surprised, having expressed an opinion of Minister Kenney as a "professional whore" for support of Israel.

Minister Kenney knows full well with whom he is dealing, having outlined his position during his recent attendance at the Inter-Parliamentary Commission for Combating Anti-Semitism, in London England. There he quoted from earlier words spoken by Canada's Prime Minister: "Unfortunately in some countries hatred of the Jews is still preached from religious pulpits and still proclaimed from political podiums. There are still people who would perpetrate another Holocaust if they could."

The Prime Minister was expressing his revulsion at the phenomenon of anti-Semitism and the results of the most extreme expression of that racist pathology after a visit to Auschwitz, describing it as "...this genocide was so premeditated and grotesque in design, so monstrous and barbaric in scale and so systematic and efficient in execution that it stands alone in the annals of human evil."

But it represents what can occur if racially-biased and hatefully incendiary propaganda is successfully disseminated for long enough among a gradually accepting population. A propaganda that can and will result in the apprehension that the targeted group has no human rights, and represents sub-human characteristics that the world would be better off extinguishing.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Peeved Hamas

The Hamas leadership is irate at what they characterize as "blackmail" on the part of Israel in its decision conveyed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that it will keep its border crossings with Gaza closed - with the exception of limited passage of humanitarian aid - until such time as abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is returned to his country and his family.

Blackmail is, in fact, what Hamas excels in, not Israel. Israel does not abduct Palestinians, it apprehends, arrests and imprisons those enemies of the state whose activities are meant to harm Israel and its people. Yet Israel is committed to an exchange with Hamas; one sole figure in trade for huge numbers. Does the unreasonableness of that trade irritate Hamas?

It is, after all, the Hamas leadership that has the unmitigated gall to draw up a list of prisoners held by Israel, demanding their release before the release of a single Israeli would be considered by Hamas. That isn't blackmail, it is unadulterated extortion. Israel wishes to reclaim that single human life, willing to release hundreds of Palestinians in exchange for that single Israeli.

Hamas demands, no less, that Israel free one thousand, four hundred Palestinian prisoners before they will consider releasing one single abductee. That, to Hamas, represents a reasonable exchange. But that Israel balks against re-opening border crossings that it knows full well Hamas will use to its advantage to smuggle through munitions and arms, causes the Hamas leadership to bridle with outrage.

One can only wonder what kind of reverse universe they inhabit. The continued requests by Israel that Corporal Gilad Shalit be returned in exchange for prisoners, some of whom are convicted terrorists, murderers, plotters of Israel's demise, seems a rather unequal exchange, but yet it is one that Israel contemplates seriously and will, in the end, submit to.

Israel, claims a Hamas spokesman, has stuck "a knife in Egypt's back" in adding that proviso before it will commit to a truce between itself and Hamas, negotiated by Egypt. And, because Israel is attempting to "torpedo" the proceedings, renewed violence is all but guaranteed, because, as the spokesman warns, Hamas "won't stand around doing nothing in the face of Israeli aggression".

It is aggression to request the return of an abducted soldier. Yet the simple fact is that since Israel withdrew from Gaza, rocket attacks against border communities within Israel, from Gaza, have continued unabated. Who, after all, is the aggressor?

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Viciously Inhuman Ideologies

All those "isms" that plague society with their 'progressive' and 'humane' tendencies, those social and political experiments that great minds fashion into accepted and closely-held options to consolidate their tendencies toward consummate totalitarianism. Fascism, Communism, Islamism. All of them fanatical about transmuting society from the balance that human nature melds into the social contract to a collective horror of transfiguring mass slavery.

The disgusting, anti-human excesses of the Soviet Union where millions of people perished in that great experiment of rigid socialism that exploited people and beggared their humanity, spread its influence to China, Cambodia, Burma, North Korea, and places like Cambodia. Total submission to the state ideal. Dissenters, intellectuals, academics, professionals, became an obliterated class, and the vast peasantry population was re-educated.

Now, so many years later, the excesses of human depravity that were visited on the Cambodian people are being examined in an international court of law, to try a handful of Khmer Rouge leaders; former head of state, foreign minister, minister for social affairs, and Pol Pot's second in command.

What occurred in the Soviet Union, in China and Cambodia; mass murder, famine, terror, poverty and illness resulted in the deaths of millions in each country. Atrocities unspeakable in their tortuous nature where the ruthless efficiency of Nazi Germany wasn't reflected, but rather a more primitive method of dispatching helpless people.

In Cambodia, as in other places engaging in genocidal cleansing like Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, death came up close and very personal, where victims were beaten to death with clubs, scythes, hooks, farm implements and electrical wire-whips. Slave labour was part of the indoctrination, the make-over of society into a flexible tool to enrich the overseers.

As in those other countries where genocidal determinism was so cleansing of unwanted elements, the culture was destroyed, the people tortured, starved, enslaved and murdered. In Cambodia, 20% of the population was annihilated over the space of less than four years.

Just another story in the ongoing saga of human development.

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Jewish Heritage

Our Jewish Heritage

There has always been great curiosity expressed with regard to origins; where did it all begin, and how? Geologists, paleontologists, historians, social anthropologists (long before modern science recognized these divisions in intellectual investigation and gave them their present nomenclature) assiduously sifted rock and sand, bones and crockery, deciphered hieroglyphs, pored over ancient writings and tried to make sense of it all. Logically, everything, every phenomenon, be it geologic, biological or cultural-sociographic had to begin somewhere. So where did that peculiar strain of people, Jews, originate, and how?

Somewhere in the Middle East, we know. They are grouped, not with Caucasians, but with the Armenids. This originally nomadic, pastoral group had been little documented in the ancient writings of other people, and it is assumed that reference to a group termed 'the Habiru' in casual and brief mention of a group of troublesome nomads is the first recognition of their existence as a distinct group by another and better-lettered early culture.

From that undistinguished beginning we have a people somehow bound together by a common destiny, a gradually enlightened culture, and a homophilic socialization. This group has ascended the heights of human endeavours, both singly and collectively; it has plumbed the depths of human despair and degradation, and somehow, survived intact. An achievement that no other ancient cultural-ethno-social group can claim. From the ranks of this people have come first and foremost, ideas which have revolutionized civilization, concepts which have paved the way to humanistic enlightenment, and moral and legal laws which have fathered those of the entire Western world. Jewish religion, philosophy, art, jurisprudence, medicine has had an impact on the world whose like has not been equalled by any other single group of people.

As humanists millennia ago, it was recognized that all life is sacred, and from that recognition was enacted moral and ethical laws to protect the very quality of life, and life itself. At a time when slavery was common (when it was sometimes a practical economic solution to survival for the chronically indigent) Jewish law proclaimed that every seventh year any person held in bondage should be deemed a free person.

Because of the respect with which the people termed 'the Habiru' viewed life they eschewed common practises seen in casual and brief early cultures that practised human sacrifice as an appeasement to their gods. Jews viewed this practise with repugnance and replaced such sacrifice with animal sacrifice. And to protect animals, strict laws ensuring humane slaughter were encoded.

And though, like most religions a great many prohibitions (meant to protect both the individual and the status of the religion) became ritual dogma, they could be suspended if under special circumstances life would be endangered by their enactment. Jewish law was not meant to be absolutely inflexible. The law-makers recognized human frailty and the need to be elastic in interpretation so that exigencies could be coped with.

Some very early and forward-thinking Jews wrote a wonderful series of literature embodying all possible human conditions, and at the same time they conceived of monotheism, a startling departure from the pantheism (worship of many gods) then customary throughout the world of religion. Jews, in this context, were enjoined to regard themselves as 'the chosen'. Not particularly 'chosen' as being better or in some manner elevated above their fellow creatures, but as given the responsibility to present a moral example that others might follow and in this indirect way ennoble the world of humankind.

It was a bold decision indeed for a people to determine, even collectively, even involuntarily, to regard themselves as a shining example toward the rest of mankind. Some might term it, with justification, hubristic. But here is where the precept "Act Unto Others" evolves from. If no other guidelines existed for human behaviour, that one alone would suffice.

And the individual was never forgotten. Everyone's 'right' to quality of life was recognized. Welfare or charity then was not the pejorative it has since become. It was the community's responsibility to care for all of its members and this was a responsibility taken seriously, not grudgingly, nor condescendingly.

Children were regarded as a blessing, and they were universally loved, protected and cherished. Education was always held in awe, and avidly sought. Yet the work ethic also was finely ingrained and respected. Uncouth behaviour, which might encompass anything from rudeness to gambling, or a disregard for others, to drinking to excess, was looked upon with revulsion.

Well, it is true that Jews also looked upon themselves, privately, as being distinct, different - other and above. There were Jews, and there were the others - Gentiles. Gentiles could not be presumed to be as steeped in the values and virtues of life as Jews, and therefore, suspect. There was always this great apartness - us and they.

Because of this exclusivity of apprehension, there arose also an exclusivity of thought, and dogmatism crept into the culture, and the interpretation of the popular religion, and Jews often became inward-looking; intellectually and for practical purposes, immune to change. Yet there arose also those who chafed at the bonds imposed and from their ranks came our Thinkers, those who looked further - our two Moseses, our Spinoza, our Marx, our Sholem Aleichem, our Freud, our Herzl, our Einstein, our Chagall.

And there were others - our scientists, philosophers, musicians, artists, writers, philanthropists, jurists, economists, men of medicine, financiers, inventors, industrialists, teachers and yes, even politicians and soldiers. These outstanding and often brilliant people collectively enriched the world with their contribution to the great fund of knowledge being accumulated and utilized.

Although Jewry has produced paragons, it has also produced by far a larger number of quite ordinary folk, the great majority of whom are indistinguishable from those of other backgrounds and traditions. And within the groupings of Jews themselves lie great fractiousness and even bigotry. Social strata have always existed, creating cultural and social ghettos between Jews themselves.

When at one time Sephardim were considered the cultural aristocracy of Jewry, the Ashkenazim were considered the peasantry. With the passage of time that perception has reversed itself, and we see its results in present-day Israel. And Jewish politics is as diverse as the population it represents, further creating internal strife.

Jews, in the collective sense, were in the past imbued with a great vision. Those people have been the progressives, those who stimulate change and progress. Yet these progressives have always been shunned by the established order within the Jewish tradition until the inexorable change occurred and the passage of time softened and blurred their offence, and they were looked upon with pride.

We've produced, as a people, some excellence - and a great deal of dross. Where does the excellence come from, one wonders? As a great amorphous mass of humanity, we've expressed a collective desire to be grater than a mere human might aspire to; greater than the sum of our parts.

We've attempted to be close to a supreme being in our religion; we've tried to behave as the god would have us do. We have tried to better the lot of humankind. Have we succeeded to any great degree? Lamentably, no. The task seems too great. The obstacles placed in the way of fulfillment too overwhelming. Although we have committed ourselves to an ideal which is part way achievable, singly we have not tried to live the ideal nor cared enough for others to strive together to achieve that ideal.

Yet this singular group, with so much potential did return to its roots. A proud and representative number of Diaspora Jews, some by Zionist conviction and zeal, some Holocaust survivors, and others returnees from countries where Jews have not felt comfortable, or have been openly oppressed, live in a state founded in the original land of their forefathers. In that land the ideal was to be realized finally, the dream fulfilled.

For a time it appeared that the original social humanist precepts, the ethics and vision that the prophets of old exhorted; fundamental human values that would enrich the whole while permitting each and every citizen to live with individual grace, would come to pass. The forward thinkers, the socialists, the kibbutzniks, the Labourites, began to fashion the experimental state and the state blossomed, becoming a noble ideal actually fruiting.

Soon, though, the original concept and dedication to egalitarianism gave way gradually to creeping elitism as one social-cultural group disparaged the 'backwardness' of another. And religious fundamentalism with its insistence on strict observance began to force its opinions into state structure.

Hostile neighbours stimulated the siege-mentality which bred militarism, rightist nationalism and xenophobia. In a world that was increasingly perceived as being unsympathetic to Israel, Israel further isolated itself, this time deliberately, by carrying a big stick and using it, and aligning itself with other rightist, nationalist regimes. Once the Labour Party and its socialist precepts was ousted and that of the rightist Likud installed, it could be predicted in which direction Israel, the emotional fount of world Jewry, was headed.

Today an encircled country defies the rest of the world and bitterly denounces its most immediate neighbours. This is bitter gall for a people whose origins, whose roots are so far removed from anti-humanism, from the military ideal, and colonialism.

This situation cannot continue. World Jewry, so possessive and loving of Israel, for the first time begins to caution that country that its focus and mentality must undergo and change and direct itself more in keeping with its traditional view of itself, and its people.

Israelis, stricken by their own hapless direction, ambivalent about their feelings toward their neighbours, uncertain of their country's future, are beginning to re-assess national policy and their own place in the world structure.

There will be a turn-about to the spirit which underlies that elusive, little-understood element, the Jewish soul; sensitivity to one's fellow companions on the earth. And with that change in direction Jews will once more strive to fulfill an ancient precept, and to charge themselves again with the responsibility of the 'example' of the chosen.

Written and published in 1982

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

War Crimes and Necessary Reactions

During the horrors of prosecuting a war, who is to say what constitutes a war crime, when one army pushes back against another for whom no universally agreed upon treaties are respected in their overwhelming search for superiority and victory. One group, for example, during the Second World War, the Allies, considered themselves morally superior than the Axis countries whose debasement of humanity knew no moral bounds.

In defence of those who took it upon themselves to pursue avenues that during times of peace they would find morally repugnant, but who faced the reality of an enemy respectful of no ethical or moral boundaries, one can only claim that defence requires any means at one's disposal in a life and death encounter with a ruthless enemy. It is a given that an army battles an army. That civilians are never deliberately targeted.

And that just happens to be a colossal lie. Not only are civilians those for whom the greatest loss of life remains a reality in wars, but they are also deliberately targeted. By those whose brutality and willingness to sacrifice everything for victory leads them to violate all principles of humanity, and by those whose empathy for the vulnerable leads them to regret the necessity of sacrificing them for the larger goal of defeating the enemy.

Sir Arthur Harris of British Bomber Command was not hesitant to admit the aim of Bomber Command: "...the destruction of German cities; the killing of German workers; and the disruption of civilized life throughout Germany... The destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives; the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale; and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. There are not by-products of attempts to hit factories."

That's fairly unequivocal, and heartless, and descriptive of the realities of war. So it has always been, so it will always be. All the more so when death can be delivered so casually, without human contact, through the far-reaching instruments of war, hurtling through the sky at 'pin-point' targets. The kind of combat seen in Africa, still medieval in style by contrast to the high-tech wars fought elsewhere in the world, remain close up and personal.

And there, where machetes as well as AK-47s are used, atrocities are of a different kind, but not necessarily of a different scale. Committed mass murderers in insurgent armies in African can achieve death numbers comparable to bomb-lobbing European powers flying high over civilized urban areas, deliberately choosing to impact on the morale of their opponents.

In the case of Dresden and Hamburg, so often agonized over by historians who have themselves never experienced anything remotely like the stifling and overwhelming circumstances of war, rank with blood and rotting bodies, condescending complaints of inhumanity come easily enough. Beautiful, historical, architecturally irreplaceable Dresden horribly firebombed, its people tragically targeted.

And the seaport Hamburg, where its Jewish population was handily rounded up and transported to Auschwitz so the German population could take advantage of their vacated properties, post Allied bombing. And Dresden, with its prototype gas chamber where physically and mentally handicapped, and exhausted slave labourers were murdered, its facilities serving as a model for later installations at Auschwitz, Birkeneau and other Nazi death camps.

Nothing, clearly, justifies taking human life in vain. Nothing, equally confidently justifies war. The conclusion is clear. What is the remedy?

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Flaming Fundamentalism

The Taliban and al-Qaeda found a comfortable and safe niche for themselves when they scuttled out of Afghanistan and settled into Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where they could lose themselves among the estimated six million Pashtun people, sympathetic to their fundamentalist Islamist agenda.

That secure perch has enabled them to rest easy, and their pathological hatred of the West to run amok and gain eager adherents there, and world-wide.

Pakistan's new President Ali Zardari has finally admitted what Western intelligence sources have long claimed as reality - and a truly pressing global worry, for a nuclear-armed state - that the Taliban presence in his country is "huge" and that his country's armed forces were "fighting for the survival of Pakistan".

From a small and irritating presence that was overlooked to an overwhelming threat proving impossible to neutralize.

Afghanistan's rehabilitation has suffered severe setbacks in the past year, with a resolutely resurgent Taliban, and with the added incontrovertible fact that a majority of Afghans now see no solution in the presence of NATO and UN-sponsored forces battling the Taliban.

They are weary of the strife, long for security, even if it means a return of the fanatic Islamists.

Then there is the matter of Pakistan's home-grown Taliban and their inexorable spread, with their firm intent to utterly transform first northern Pakistan, with the creation of a 'shariah state', then the rest of Pakistan, along with that of Afghanistan.

And from there, well, there are no boundaries they cannot see themselves not overcoming by sheer force of will - and unbridled violence.

But this is honourable, this is jihad. All seven of the tribal agencies making up the autonomous regions on the border of Afghanistan are now Talibanized. The Punjab is the next target, and then on to Kashmir, where the jihadists there will be pleased to make common cause. And then? Why, attack India, of course and 'liberate' her Muslim minority.

Taliban forces have easily cut off supplies to NATO troops, operating from Pakistan through to Afghanistan by attacking the supply routes running through the fabled Khyber Pass, scene to historical battles and upheavals. Pakistan's military, with its greater numbers, has been impotent to stop the Taliban.

Warns the director of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Centre: "This most dangerous spot on the map may well be the source of another 9/11 type of attack on the Western world or its surrogates in the region." Bearing in mind, yet again, wearily and with trepidation, that Pakistan is a nuclear state. A failing state.

One that pushes Washington for increased military aid; attack helicopters, night vision goggles and radio jamming equipment. Where is this equipment ultimately destined for, by default? Once again, the United States will be arming the Taliban, just as they did when they encouraged the mujahadeen in their struggle against the Soviet invaders.

But fear not, there is a new president in the United States as well, and he has appointed a resolute diplomat, one with vast experience in the area, and Richard Holbrook has hit the problem right on its flaming head: "...the most critical fact about the war in Afghanistan [is that] it cannot be won as long as the border areas in Pakistan are havens for the Taliban and al-Qaeda."

So watcha gonna do about it?

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Good From Evil

Is there any action more cruel than to deprive children of their childhood? Yes, there most certainly is, and it has been demonstrated time and again in places like Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and other war-torn and miserable places of the world we inhabit. There, children are abducted, and young as they are, inducted into the world of unspeakable evil.

Children too young, weak and fearful for their own lives, to mount a defence against forced labour, sex, and killing, are forcibly taught to obey instructions however much they shrink from the dreadful ceremonies into bleak and heartless misery they are forced toward, learning to obey. And quietly, in their lonely fear, do as they are forced to do, upon pain of torture and death.

Western aid agencies and dedicated workers, along with involved religious groups desperately attempt to discover the whereabouts of these child sex-and-war slaves, to bargain for their release from the depravity they've been sunk into. These wasted childhoods and hopeless young people are taken away, bought from their captors, and undergo a process of rehabilitation.

Those who are ultimately rescued represent a small proportion of the children whose lives have been taken from them and replaced by a living nightmare. Yet for every child saved from the savagery of sex slavery and war-mongering, a world of good has been accomplished; the child unleashed from the dread misery of a living nightmare, and given encouragement to become as close to normal as possible.

One such is a young man, uncertain of his true age given the dreadful destruction of his early years, named Emmanuel Jal, who has written his memoirs as a child soldier, in a publication titled War Child.
He's also a hip-hop star, attempting through his art to inform those who think of war and violence as romantic, how misinformed they are.

He was a child soldier for five years in his native Sudan. The writing of his memoir, he said, was helpful in "delivering" him from the pain and guilt of his past life. He details the Sudanese government seizing tribal lands to grasp their natural resources, and how his family among countless others experienced rape, death, and homelessness, his father becoming a Sudan Peoples Liberation Army commander.

And he was himself recruited as a child soldier into the SPLA; taught, as a ten-year-old half starved and confused, to fire an AK-47. He underwent ruthless drilling as a child soldier, beaten continually, and forced to viciously whip other child soldiers as part of the training process. "My time at the front of the front line taught me just one new thing about war - the worst is when it is over", he recounts.

"As the battle falls silent, only the screams of the injured can be heard, and when the guns stop firing and the smell of smoke fades away, the stench of flesh and blood fills the air ... When the battle at the front of the front line had been very bad, I didn't want to eat meat for days as I remembered the smell." He remains haunted by what he was forced to do, and by the unspeakable horrors he experienced.

"When I'm idle, that's when my brain actually messes me up and sometimes I'm worried" he explains. He criticizes other rappers for their glorification of violence and their use of violent language. He has taken responsibility for creating a charity called Gua Africa, and plans to build a school in his village in southern Sudan, while living in London, England.

He was fortunate, at age 13, to have been discovered by a British aid worker who managed to smuggle him into Kenya and enroll him in a Nairobi school. His story is an inspirational one, informing that irrespective of how desperately horrible children's lives can be, they can, with good will and intent, be taught to live again, to trust and have hope for the future, to take their rightful place in society.

For such as he is one must have compassion, and admiration for the manner in which he has disciplined himself to live with the thought of the barbarity he was forced to engage in, and despite that, dedicate himself to healing himself, and to using his experience in a positive way to help others understand, and to educate them through his experience.

So why, one might muse, might people have difficulty feeling compassion for someone like Omar Khadr, held at Guantanamo Bay prison by the U.S. on charges of murder and war crimes in Afghanistan, as an enemy combatant for the last six years? Well, Omar Khadr, born in Toronto to fanatic Islamists, his father a colleague and supporter of Osama bin Laden, had a rather different background than did Mr. Jal.

Omar Khadr was not born into poverty, did not experience the cruelties of war first hand, and lived a normal child's life in Toronto, until his father and mother took him to Pakistan and enrolled him in madrassas there. He was taught, like his older brothers, how to handle explosives and arms, and inducted into the Islamist jihad against the West. And he remained there, even after his father's violent death.

His parents had utter scorn for Western values, though they saw nothing amiss in living in Canada, and taking advantage of the social welfare available to them there as Canadian citizens. Omar Khadr was fifteen years old when he was found with other jihadists in Afghanistan, battling against foreigners in the country. He was severely wounded and his life was saved by American medics.

Canada is not well served by continuing to host the Khadr family; mother, daughter and sons. The women's expressed disgust for Canadian values and imperatives, morals and society are well known, as is their support for al-Qaeda. To welcome another member of this hostile family back into the fold is not in the best interests of Canada. In Omar Khadr's case, evil resulted from good.

In the case of Emmanuel Jal, good resulted from evil. They are quite distinguishable.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Frozen In Confrontation

It's as though compassion and intelligence has been fixed in amber, drained from the apprehension of men utterly dedicated to the fixed notion that they must abandon all humanity for the greater purpose of destroying an enemy. That a hatred so horribly searing is capable of obliterating from human consciousness what they are accomplishing in the atrocious ruination of ordinary peoples' lives is hard to imagine.

A cult of hatred, blame, grievance,and vengeance is capable of diminishing the human in the being. And this is so redolent of relationships throughout the culture of the Middle East. Tribal affiliations and suspicion and blame of others are paramount in the culture of clans and tribes incapable of drawing humane conclusions from their traditional clashes of bloody violence.

That there is no value seen in any sphere of human endeavour but first and foremost to mount constant and determined violent forays for the purpose of harming a perceived enemy represented by the presence of civilians in lieu of facing off against a uniformed militant and in the process once again exposing the vulnerable of their own society to deadly response bespeaks a deadly pathology.

What an odious, utterly benighted culture it is that produces such unconscionable, pitiless sociopaths, incapable of remorse, of compassion, of reasonableness. All the while that Hamas bargains for a truce with Israel through Egyptian intermediaries, their militias and other allied jihadists cannot restrain themselves from continued rocket attacks into Israel.

Hamas purports to have been amazed by the extent and determination of the Israel Defence Forces' response to their continued, unflagging rocket assaults into Israel. How much confrontation and provocation is enough? And having witnessed first hand the results of the aerial bombardments into Gaza that struck the vulnerable and the innocent, have they no vestige of common sense remaining to them?

They simply cannot find it in themselves to wean themselves away from provoking another response which will invariably bring harm not only to themselves, willing to die gloriously as martyrs, but to innocent civilians, women and children? Hamas and Hezbollah and their brethren in murder and mayhem are so fond of iterating how they embrace death, while the Israelis fear it.

Must they then embrace the idea of death for those whom they make vulnerable through their innocent presence? It doesn't take courage to bring harm to those unable to protect themselves. And it offends any belief in honour that such mentalities exist that believe it is to the greater good that they offer their own lives and those of the innocent for a horribly flawed cause.

Israelis value life, and they strive to protect it. Which is precisely why they have attempted in the past to forewarn those whose safety will be imperilled, to alert them to abandon that place which will be attacked. It is exactly why they will halt the negotiations for a truce they surely would like to accept - if only to forestall violence for another interregnum - to insist that Gilad Shalit be returned.

Cross-border violence is a blot on the humanity of both sides; those who initiate it and those who respond to it. Those who initiate it have the responsibility upon themselves for the violence that ensues in response. It degrades the humanity of the assailants and the respondents. That appears to be a matter of little consequence to Hamas.

But it is a matter of great and enduring sorrow to the defenders of humanity.

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Whose War Is This?

We're in it for the long haul. As responsible countries, responsive to the need of another, failed country. Whose current government, in the name of its repressed, horribly oppressed people, urges our continued presence. The name of this particular game is to resolutely hold back the determined advance of the Taliban, intent on returning to their previous role as tormentors of the ordinary people, the women, the children.

First, the clutch of the Taliban on the geography must be driven from its current reality. Concurrently, the need for civil and government infrastructure is paramount, along with outreach to the population. We are ourselves enormously encouraged, we comfort ourselves, that our sacrifices in lost lives of our armed forces personnel, our countries' monetary contribution, has resulted in the enablement of little girls and boys to attend school.

Peace and security of Afghanistan is the order of the day, the hour, the months, the years gone by. Eight years now, and counting, although Canada, for example, intends to withdraw its troops by 2011. While maintaining a commitment toward supporting the country in other ways. Borrowed expertise in all manner of civil authority, from policing, to the judiciary, to health care services.

Entreating subsistence farmers to eschew the growing of poppies for sustainable grains, while the Taliban threaten those same farmers, profiting handsomely from the hundreds of thousands of hectares under poppy cultivation. Currently drug dealing in the country amounts to 50% of the country's GDP. Farmers themselves are reluctant to give up poppy growing, an assured source of income.

Concomitantly a source of income for the Taliban - the former mujahadeen who faced a Russian invasion, and before that a British one, and before that through time immemorial others, none of which resulted in a conclusive victory for the invader - who resolve to retake the country and submit it once again to their totalitarian rule, just as the NATO troops resolve to deny them that opportunity.

Foreign troops, their governments and their delegations of dignitaries and foreign aid workers face the imponderables of deep-seated situational and cultural realities; the untameable tribal areas in Pakistan, the domination of drug kingpins whose tentacles reach into the national police and the national government, and the total incompetence and corruption of society and government at every level.

Those Russians who know from the first-hand experience of their own invasion - that the world deplored and the United States attempted to undercut by encouraging, training, supplying the mujahadeen - view what is unfolding in Afghanistan with a familiar air, recognizing that history does doom humans to commit the same useless and ultimately failing initiatives over and over again.

Those mujahadeen now transformed into the Taliban, operating within Afghanistan and in Pakistan, those fundamentalist Islamists intent on turning both countries into their vision of pure Islam, are merely responding as tradition and recent history has impelled them to. They have realized such a degree of success, despite the presence of foreign troops fending off their advances, that they now dominate the geography.

In the space of one short year, from 2007 to 2008, they have transmuted themselves from a dim presence to an overwhelming one; from a 57% presence to 72% of the country's geography, leaving only Kabul and a few other highly populated and defended urban areas relatively free of their presence. Which hasn't dreadfully impeded the Taliban ability to mount suicide attacks there, as well.

"There is no mistake made by the Soviet Union that was not repeated by the international community here in Afghanistan", claimed Zamir Kabulov, Kabul-based KGB station chief during the Soviet occupation. "They have already repeated all our mistakes. Now, they are making mistakes of their own." The Soviet occupation of 110,000 troops lost 15,000 of their own, cost a million Afghan lives. Accomplishment: withdrawal and swift ascent of the Taliban.

Now, foreign troops are committed to training the Afghanistan national police, (whose level of corruption and ineptitude is legendary), and the national armed forces with a greater degree of success. And while Hamid Karzai appealed to the international community to continue its commitment to freeing Afghanistan from the threat of the Taliban, his own crooked and failed government contributes little.

His own brother is involved as a drug trafficker. Many of his parliamentarians are former war lords, gain wealth from drug trafficking, and are responsible for human rights abuses. There is little willingness evidenced that the government of the country will be prepared any time soon to become self-sustaining and capable of operating its own defence. Yet Mr. Karzai agonizes over the heavy-handed assaults of U.S. forces against civilian enclaves in the mountainous areas that house the Taliban.

"Afghan leadership is not some distant aspiration - it's something that we need as soon as possible and on which we must insist. The basic problem in Afghanistan is not too much Taliban; it's too little good governance", NATO Secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer wrote recently for a Washington Post piece. The U.S. State Department questions the Afghan president's commitment to halting corruption, improving law and order and confronting the country's opium trade problem.

U.S. President Barack Obama's envoy to the area has expressed his opinion that the "central government has shown that it is simply not up to the job". President Karzai has returned the compliment, in spades, angrily denying the accusations and mounting his own indignation about Western interference in Afghanistan's state affairs.

The people of Afghanistan themselves are becoming increasingly jaded about the potential for any meaningful change in their lives, any true hope for the future, and the future of their children. An increased presence of NATO troops will remain window dressing; too few NATO member-countries are interested in anything remotely resembling combat and insist on installing themselves for reconstruction and training only.

It is therefore, left to a handful of countries, like Canada, Britain and Holland, to take up the slack in the most dangerous areas of the country. Where the United States has committed itself to a 'surge', similar to that which succeeded in Iraq, but will not, it has been pointed out, succeed in Afghanistan where the situation is completely different.

It's quite one thing to enunciate priorities and determination to establish security, build a basic and legitimate government, bring in popular support from the citizenry, and create economic opportunity - and to actually accomplish all of that while fighting a more confident insurgency, drawing greater support from the population through intimidation or promises and in the process successfully absorbing greater swaths of territory.

Until Afghanistan is itself capable of producing a governing hierarchy determined to fashion for themselves a reasonable facsimile of democratic process without the endemic corruption, and the Afghan National Police eschew the temptation to take bribes from the insurgents, there will be no reason to anticipate that the presence of foreign troops, aid workers and diplomats will stand any chance of success.

Then the hydra-headed monster of Islamist jihad which has surged through Pakistan, and bleeds over into Afghanistan, threatening India as well, will continue its unstoppable infiltration and domination of the entire volatile area. And one shudders to think where that will bring the world, teetering as it is, on the cusp of perpetual confrontation.

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