Please forgive the re-postings, but these articles fit my feelings wonderfully.
So this is democracy
Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable
The West at its best: Britain is in shambles, America's on the verge of armed populist revolt and Canada's watching its values crumble
Special to The Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Mar. 05, 2010
Lucky old Afghanistan and Iraq. The Western world is ready and raring to introduce you to the joys of real democracy. And aren't we just the ones to do it?
Look at old blighty. With a British election imminent, Gordon “Bully Boy” Brown fights for his political life, with a new scandal revealed almost daily. For those of us who grew up identifying with the Labour Party, the last thirteen years of “New Labour” rule under Tony Blair and BBB have come as a demoralizing blow.
Never mind Mr. Blair's arrogant refusal to admit a single regret in invading Iraq. Never mind the sense of entitlement among Labour MPs (Tories too, but who expected anything more from them?) who had the gall to dun the state for personal expenses?
Never mind the corrupt deal between arms giant BAE and the impoverished east African country of Tanzania, enabled by Mr. Blair. Despite opposition from his cabinet, Mr. Blair personally insisted that hugely expensive military radar be sold to a country that needed none of it. Who won? BAE got a fat contract. Several Tanzanian officials got fat bribes. And Tony Blair pleasured yet another of the fancy corporate supporters he so cherished.
Here's how a Guardian article recently summed up New Labour's overall record: the government “accepted the whole Thatcherite economic settlement, has seen an increase in social and economic inequality, worshipped wealth and fawned on high finance at home and abroad, passed a vast array of repressive laws, …. allowed Rupert Murdoch to dictate its foreign policy, and took Britain – with flagrant dishonesty – into a needless, illegal and murderous war in order to support the most reactionary American president of modern times.” So fed up are MPs themselves that 128 of them, fully 80 from Labour, are not standing again in the spring election.
But at least Britain doesn't have America's problems. A country bitterly divided, a Congress barely functional, a President who's lost the trust of many of those who elected him and reinforced the opposition of the 54 per cent of whites who voted against him – who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize by escalating the unwinnable war in Afghanistan.
“ We may be stuck with the Harper government forever, once the Prime Minister prorogues the next election.”
An angry populist coalition so pathological and apocalyptic many are arming for the moment the White House imposes its dictatorship, an opportunistic right-wing leadership ready to countenance the craziest and most inflammatory threat by the Tea Party movement, high-profile media stars who routinely compare Barack Obama to Hitler, a militia known as the Oath Keepers consisting of armed military vets and former cops who urge citizens to disregard any laws they don't agree with.
A Democratic Party as venal and opportunistic as the vile Republicans, a system of government often run by greedy special interests and their armies of lobbyists, an administration whose senior economic advisers helped create the economic crisis, a judicial system so partisan it operates on the basis of politics and ideology rather than law, a media running the full ideological gamut from centre-right to lunatic right – Brits must be grateful for their small problems.
Fully 80 per cent of Americans are dissatisfied or angry with their government, and who can blame them? Many of them, more bizarrely, are against all government, except, presumably, to maintain a swollen military to protect American interests abroad.
Oh Canada. Do the travails of our closest historic allies give us comfort? Will the Olympic-sized burst of patriotism give us solace in the face of an impossible political conundrum? We may be stuck with the Harper government forever, once the Prime Minister prorogues the next election. The opposition can't risk defeating him because neither the Liberals nor NDP are likely to benefit at all from another election. So Stephen Harper is left with a virtually free hand to do as he chooses, some of which is quite clear.
Step by step he is limiting dissent. We now see that it's not necessary to introduce repressive legislation to do so. The government has so much purchase in so many parts of society that it can intimidate citizens into submission. New areas emerge in which any deviation from the biases of the government becomes inadmissible. Individuals and organizations are penalized for raising issues or pursuing concerns that the government opposes. Innuendo, insinuation, smears and slurs have become the currency with which the government debases its enemies – and to this government, there is no loyal opposition; those who dissent are enemies, not opponents.
Who would have thought that so many Canadians would buy into the government's phony law 'n order agenda. Legislation to implement the program is so unimportant even to Mr. Harper that much of it died on the order paper when he suspended Parliament. He knows that crime in Canada has steadily declined over the years and there's no evidence that most of the proposed laws would work.
But the law 'n order campaign itself has worked. It's conned Canadians into believing there's reason to be afraid. For the first time in years, a majority of Canadians approve the death penalty, a coarsening of public sensibilities that seemed almost impossible. Capital punishment, ending of the long gun registration, accusations of treason against those who don't support war in Afghanistan, allowing prisoners of war to be tortured and covering it up – Sarah Palin, here we are!
If a government that has the backing of less than a third of Canadians, a Prime Minister who is resented for his inability to resist the low road and the low blow, a leader who ditches absolute commitments without batting an eyelash, who has humiliated the institutions of Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Governor-General, whose economic “expertise” embarrasses economists and whose foreign policy is driven by ignorance and prejudice – what further changes to our national values can he get away with?
And who in the world is going to stop him?
Canada wanted Afghan prisoners tortured: lawyer
Unredacted documents show officials hoped to gather intelligence, expert says
Last Updated: Friday, March 5, 2010 | 11:44 PM ET
University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran says Canadian officials intentionally handed over Afghan detainees to be tortured in order to gather intelligence. (CBC)
Federal government documents on Afghan detainees suggest that Canadian officials intended some prisoners to be tortured in order to gather intelligence, according to a legal expert.
If the allegation is true, such actions would constitute a war crime, said University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran, who has been digging deep into the issue and told CBC News he has seen uncensored versions of government documents released last year.
"If these documents were released [in full], what they will show is that Canada partnered deliberately with the torturers in Afghanistan for the interrogation of detainees," he said.
"There would be a question of rendition and a question of war crimes on the part of certain Canadian officials. That's what's in these documents, and that's why the government is covering up as hard as it can."
Detainee abuse became the subject of national debate last year after heavily redacted versions of the documents were made public after Attaran filed an access to information request. They revealed the Canadian military was not monitoring detainees who had been transferred from Canadian to Afghan custody. It was later alleged that some of those detainees were being mistreated.
Diplomat Richard Colvin says he warned top Canadian officials as early as 2006 that Afghan detainees handed over to Afghans were subsequently being tortured. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Until now, the controversy has centred on whether the government turned a blind eye to abuse of Afghan detainees.
However, Attaran said the full versions of the documents show that Canada went even further in intentionally handing over prisoners to torturers.
"And it wasn't accidental; it was done for a reason," he said. "It was done so that they could be interrogated using harsher methods."
The government maintains that nothing improper happened.
"The Canadian Forces have conducted themselves with the highest performance of all countries," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons Thursday.
But many facets of the issue remain top secret, such as the role of Canada's elite Joint Task Force 2, or JTF2. There have been hints that JTF2 might be handling so-called high-value prisoners.
"High-value targets would be detained under a completely different mechanism that involved special forces and targeted, intelligence-driven operations," Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat with Canada's mission in Afghanistan, told a parliamentary committee last November.
Colvin claimed that all detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons were likely tortured by Afghan officials. He also said that his concerns were ignored by top government officials and that the government might have tried to cover up the issue.
Opposition parties have been trying to get the Conservative government to release the uncensored versions of the documents pertaining to the handling of Afghan detainees.
Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci has been asked to review whether documents pertaining to the transfer of Afghan detainees can be released to Parliament. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
The Conservatives insist that releasing uncensored files on the issue would damage national security. On Friday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson asked former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci to review whether there would be "injurious" effects if some Afghan detainee documents were made public.
Nicholson did not give full details on Iacobucci's assignment or a timetable for when the review might be completed.
However, opposition parties said Parliament is entitled to those documents regardless of what Iacobucci decides.
"Parliament is supreme," said Ontario NDP MP Paul Dewar. "What this is, is a skate around Parliament."
Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh said the government still has many questions to answer on the subject of detainees.
"Who knew what and when, and who allowed the continuing saga of Afghan detainees being sent to a potential risk of torture?" Dosanjh said.
It's not clear whether the government will make Iacobucci's advice public. Moreover, he is not a sitting judge and can't legally rule or force the government to do anything.