Friday, March 31, 2006

seek help mayes

Conservative MP Calls for Jailing Journalists
March 31, 2006

In a recent column sent to local newspapers, B.C. Conservative MP Colin Mayes suggested that the public might get more “accurate and true information” if reporters faced the threat of incarceration.

Mr. Mayes later retracted his comments amid considerable public outcry.

Be that as it may, Mr. Mayes’ comments reveal a deep-seated lack of respect for role the media plays in a democratic society. His comments are particularly disturbing considering the number of journalists worldwide who are currently incarcerated for criticizing the actions of their governments. Reporters without Borders cites countries like North Korea, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Iran, as places where journalists simply relay government propaganda without criticism. Surely Mr. Mayes doesn’t espouse that Canada should follow a similar path!

It is ironic that Mr. Mayes is so concerned about journalists distorting the truth, when he himself is being sued for libel for allegedly making disparaging comments about fellow mayoral candidate Greg Husband during the last municipal election in Salmon Arm, B.C.

Although Colin Mayes’ comments are certainly over the top, unfortunately they do not fall far out of step with current Conservative attitudes towards the press corps.

Despite running an election campaign on open and accountable government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives can barely disguise their contempt for the national media. They have banned journalists from standing outside the cabinet room so that Ministers can easily skulk out of meetings without answering questions, and they have tripled the contingent of RCMP officers on duty to bar reporters from attending photo opportunities.

Canadians have a right to know what its duly-elected government is doing, and the media should be able to report on the government’s actions without fear of reprisal. Freedom of speech is, after all, a fundamental Charter right.

This blatant animosity towards the press leaves Canadians wondering: just what does Stephen Harper have to hide?


how fast can a jackass peddle backwards

Tory MP retracts suggesting jailing bad journalists
Canadian Press

Vernon, B.C. —
A backbench Conservative MP has retracted a statement he made earlier while blasting the media for its testy relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper: that reporters who write distorted articles should be jailed.

In a brief column sent to several newspapers in his Okanagan-Shuswap riding, Colin Mayes said that might help the public “get accurate and true information.”

Mr. Mayes seemed to suggesting in his column that the media be covered by something like the Conservative government's proposed Federal Accountability Act, which would prosecute elected officials and senior public servants who break the public trust.

But in a statement issued Friday, Mr. Mayes said he is retracting the comments "without reservation."

Mr. Mayes adds that he fully respects the freedom of the press and regrets making the earlier comments.

The column was e-mailed Thursday to nine small Okanagan papers, as well as the Vernon Daily Courier, by Wayne McGrath, Mr. Mayes's executive assistant.

“Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens,” he writes.

The Courier recently decided not to publish the MP's regular columns.

On Wednesday, David Wylie, the paper's managing editor, published an editorial saying Mr. Harper's media policies were “mimicking the ploys of an authoritarian state ...”

Mr. Harper has restricted access to ministers after cabinet meetings and barred reporters from observing photo opportunities.

Ministers are also required to restrict their public comments to the government's five key priorities and clear contacts with the media through the Prime Minister's office.

Mr. Mayes, a businessman and former mayor of Dawson City, Yukon and Salmon Arm, B.C., easily won the solidly Tory riding in the Jan. 23 election, replacing the retiring Darryl Stinson.

In his column, he writes that he was “perturbed” by the media's reaction to Mr. Harper's attitude to reporters.

“The media has blatantly painted a picture that our government is not open and transparent,” he writes. “We were elected just two months ago to run the affairs of the country for the people, not to accommodate the media.”

Along with business people, politicians and public servants, the media also has the public trust, he writes.

While not all media are bad, the Tory backbencher says, “boy, would the public get accurate and true information if a few reporters were hauled away to jail!”

But it will never happen “because the media would cry ‘censorship' and ‘authoritarian state' ... but the truth is we need ethical leadership from the media too.”

Mr. Mayes could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Mr. Wylie said he thought Mr. Mayes's comments were “a little over the top.

“If members of his government are trying not to paint themselves as extremists or fanatics, this is not the way to go about doing it.”


how large of a hole do you dig before you fall in?

Text of column by Colin Mayes
From Canadian Press

I was perturbed by media rhetoric regarding the relationship of Prime Minister Harper toward the media. What the Prime Minister has done is to inform the media that when he has something to say he will say it.

The media has blatantly painted a picture that our government is not open and transparent. We were elected just two months ago to run the affairs of the country for the people, not to accommodate the media.

May I remind the media that they are a vital part of democracy. Their role is to communicate to citizens and by doing so keep elected representatives accountable.

We are asking for more accountability from those that have the public trust and we are asking for ethical leadership.

We have recently witnessed corporate accountants and corporate executives in handcuffs being held accountable for breaking public trust in the investment world.

Our government's first order of business will be to introduce the Federal Accountability Act that will prosecute elected and senior public servants that break the public trust in the political world.

There is another group that has the public trust and that is the media.

Not all media, politicians and business executives are bad. Boy, would the public get accurate and true information if a few reporters were hauled away to jail!

Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens.

We know this will never happen because the media would cry ‘censorship', ‘authoritarian state', and all would be aghast, but the truth is we need ethical leadership from the media too!


and this is who was elected in our riding ...

a resident and member to be proud of ...

Tory MP suggests jailing bad journalists
Canadian Press,31/03/06

Vernon, B.C. —
A backbench Conservative MP, blasting the media for its testy relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has suggested reporters who write distorted articles be jailed.

In a brief column sent to several newspapers in his Okanagan-Shuswap riding, Colin Mayes said that might help the public “get accurate and true information.”

Mr. Mayes seemed to suggesting in his column that the media be covered by something like the Conservative government's proposed Federal Accountability Act, which would prosecute elected officials and senior public servants who break the public trust.

“Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens,” he writes.

The column was e-mailed Thursday to nine small Okanagan papers, as well as the Vernon Daily Courier, by Wayne McGrath, Mr. Mayes's executive assistant.

The Courier recently decided not to publish the MP's regular columns.

On Wednesday, David Wylie, the paper's managing editor, published an editorial saying Mr. Harper's media policies were “mimicking the ploys of an authoritarian state ...”

Mr. Harper has restricted access to ministers after cabinet meetings and barred reporters from observing photo opportunities.

Ministers are also required to restrict their public comments to the government's five key priorities and clear contacts with the media through the Prime Minister's office.

Mr. Mayes, a businessman and former mayor of Dawson City, Yukon and Salmon Arm, B.C., easily won the solidly Tory riding in the Jan. 23 election, replacing the retiring Darryl Stinson.

In his column, he writes that he was “perturbed” by the media's reaction to Mr. Harper's attitude to reporters.

“The media has blatantly painted a picture that our government is not open and transparent,” he writes. “We were elected just two months ago to run the affairs of the country for the people, not to accommodate the media.”

Along with business people, politicians and public servants, the media also has the public trust, he writes.

While not all media are bad, the Tory backbencher says, “boy, would the public get accurate and true information if a few reporters were hauled away to jail!”

But it will never happen “because the media would cry ‘censorship' and ‘authoritarian state' ... but the truth is we need ethical leadership from the media too.”

Mr. Mayes could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Mr. Wylie said he thought Mr. Mayes's comments were “a little over the top.

“If members of his government are trying not to paint themselves as extremists or fanatics, this is not the way to go about doing it.”

a little more to get you aquainted with colin mayes ... he was our mayor then went on to be a conservative mp (i could be wrong, and can't find the article again, but if memory serves me correctly, the / his voter support did not come from salmon arm proper, instead it came from other areas in the riding ... think a lot of voters got tired of him as mayor) anyway ... he was being 'sued'; and i don't know what the outcome of that was ... during the campaign he 'ducked' questions like crazy .... when harper came to visit during the campaign, harper didn't even know colin's 'name' ... he talked like the green-horn when 'elected' ... he talked about 'emerson' ... and even after tory's were muzzled he went on to talk about the 'gun registry' ... and then defiant of the harper muzzle ... judge, do people vote for the party or the candidate ...


numbers increasing

U.S. Casualties in Iraq:

for March 2006: 30
total: 2,337




death stands out, neither an accident nor the random result of a bomb

War and sacrifice
The Hamilton Spectator, Mar 31, 2006

Let there be no misunderstanding: Canada is at war. The combat death of Private Robert Costall -- killed at a tiny desert outpost during a pitched battle with Taliban fighters -- shatters any lingering naivete about the Canadian Forces' mission in Afghanistan.

Our soldiers there are not peacemakers, and certainly not peacekeepers. They are, regardless of definitions or declarations, fighting a war.

Two generations of Canadians have never known this. Canada's last war was Korea, where the fighting ended 53 years ago. (The last Canadian troops to die in close combat put themselves between warring Greeks and Turks in Cyprus in 1974.)

Now, we find ourselves at war again, and it is an unsettling and disconcerting place to be.

Canada's modern national identity is inextricably tied to our decades-long leadership role in peacekeeping. Lester Pearson, later a prime minister, is considered the father of modern peacekeeping, won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for it and was nominated to head the United Nations.

It's hard to reconcile that tradition with Canada's current -- and valid -- role in Afghanistan.

It must be said that there is no greater or lesser tragedy in how a soldier dies, whether by a roadside bomb, a vehicle or weapons accident, so-called "friendly fire" or in combat. Twelve Canadians have now died in Afghanistan -- 11 of them soldiers, one a diplomat.

But Costall's death stands out from the others because it was neither an accident nor the random result of a bomb. Not in most Canadians' lifetimes has there been such a deadly battle involving Canadian troops.

In the current summit, Prime Minister Harper will likely attempt to raise George Bush's consciousness of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. That will complement current banners hanging in the U.S. capital: "Canadian Troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Boots On the Ground. U.S.-Canada Relations. Security is Our Business."

Neither effort is inappropriate: It's important that the U.S. understand that in Afghanistan, Canada is there, is pulling its weight, and its soldiers are making great, sometimes ultimate, sacrifices.

The military will not release details of the circumstances of Costall's death.

Additional: Two separate probes have been launched by Canadian and United States military investigators to piece together what happened.


anyone in need of an army for hire?

Blackwater USA says it can supply forces for conflicts
BILL SIZEMORE, The Virginian-Pilot, March 30, 2006

Stepping into a potential political minefield, Blackwater USA is offering itself up as an army for hire to police the world's trouble spots.

Cofer Black, vice chairman of the Moyock, N.C.-based private military company, told an international conference in Amman, Jordan, this week that Blackwater stands ready to help keep or restore the peace anywhere it is needed.

Such a role would be a quantum leap for Blackwater and raises a host of policy questions.

Until now, the eight-year-old company has confined itself to training military and police personnel and providing security guards for government and private clients. Under Black's proposal, it would take on an overt combat role.

"We're low-cost and fast," Black was quoted as saying. "The issue is, who's going to let us play on their team?"

Unlike national and multinational armies, which tend to get bogged down by political and logistical limitations, Black said, Blackwater could have a small, nimble, brigade-size force ready to move into a troubled region on short notice.

Black's remarks were reported by Defense News, a military publisher that sponsored the conference where he spoke, the Special Operations Forces Exhibition.

Chris Taylor, a vice president at Blackwater's Moyock headquarters, confirmed the account.

"A year ago or so, we realized that we could have a significant positive impact with a small, professional force in stability operations and peacekeeping operations," Taylor said.

Blackwater is no stranger to volatile situations. As a security subcontractor escorting a convoy in Iraq in 2004, the company attracted worldwide attention when four of its workers were killed, mutilated and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.

Blackwater, most of whose workers are former members of elite military units such as the Navy SEALs, now provides security for the U.S. ambassador to Iraq under a contract with the State Department.

The reconstruction of Iraq has been hampered by insurgent activity, Taylor said, and Blackwater has the expertise to quell insurgent attacks if invited by the Iraqi government.

"We clearly couldn't go into the whole country of Iraq," Taylor said. "But we might be able to go into a region or a city."

Another place where Blackwater could help restore order, Taylor said, is the Darfur region of Sudan, where millions have been killed or displaced by civil strife. The company could send troops under the control of the United Nations, NATO or the African Union, he said.

Taylor and Black said the company would undertake such a mission only with the approval of the U.S. government.

Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written a book on private military companies, said the concept of private armies engaging in counter-insurgency missions raises myriad questions about staffing standards, rules of engagement and accountability.

"No matter how you slice it, it's a private entity making decisions of a political nature," he said.

"It gets dicey."




perhaps the world should cut off the u.s. until they comply

UN torture expert wants access to secret U.S. prisons in Europe
March 30, 2006

The United Nations' special investigator of torture said Thursday he is certain there are secret U.S. prisons in Europe and he wants access to them.

Manfred Nowak said he has proof secret U.S. prisons continue to operate in Europe. "I am 100 per cent sure. I have evidence," Nowak said in an interview.

He cited a U.S. refusal to provide details or records of interrogations later used in terrorism trials in Germany. He did not explain how that is proof of the existence of U.S. prisons in Europe and did not offer other examples.

Allegations of clandestine U.S. detention centres in Europe have sparked separate investigations by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights watchdog.

"It is totally unacceptable, even in the fight against terrorism, that a highly democratic country such as the United States of America is keeping secret places of detention," said Nowak, an Austrian law professor who reports on torture allegations to UN rights bodies and the General Assembly.

U.S. officials in Geneva were not immediately available to comment.

The United States neither confirms nor denies the allegations of secret prisons, because it refuses to comment on intelligence matters. It has noted the Council of Europe's report found no specific evidence to support claims of the existence of detention camps in Europe like the one in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a report released last month, Nowak and four other UN experts called on the U.S. government to close down Guantanamo Bay and "refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

The United States slammed the UN report, noting the UN experts declined an invitation to visit the camp because they would not be given full access to the detainees.

As with Guantanamo, Nowak said he would only visit the secret prisons if he was granted full access to prisoners. He noted China allowed him to interview prisoners during a visit last year and before that trip Washington put pressure on the Chinese to permit the interviews.

He said he hopes Washington will reconsider its policy on terror suspects and allow him to investigate allegations of torture in detention centres outside the United States.

"How can I assess whether torture or ill-treatment is practised in any prison in the world if the only people with whom I can talk are the prison guards and the doctors but not the detainees?" he asked.

The United States is holding about 490 men at the military detention centre; some have been there for more than four years. They are accused of links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or al-Qaida but only a handful have been charged.

Nowak also said he would go to Chechnya this year because Russia accepted his condition of direct access to prisoners. He declined to speculate on how widespread the use of torture by Russian security forces might be in the volatile southern province and said he is still negotiating with Moscow on which detention centres to visit.


deaths by fabrication

Which soldier will be the last to die for Bush's Mistake?
Evelyn Pringle, March 29 2006

"For the first time in history, the US went to war because of intelligence reports claiming that a country posed a grave threat to our nation. We should accept nothing less than a full-scale, wide-open Congressional investigation into the issue of pre-war intelligence on the threat from Iraq."

The war in Iraq is a mistake. No its worse than a mistake. Lets quit pussy-footing around and call it like it is. The war in Iraq is a grand profiteering scheme gone awry and Americans need to take off their blinders and face the truth.

As the cost of the war leaves a deeper black hole of debt for our great-grandchildren, people need to ask themselves whether the hundreds of billions spent thus far have helped anyone other than reconstruction companies and defense contractors. It takes no thought, the answer is no.

And after that, to paraphrase a powerful John Kerry comment from the Viet Nam era, Americans need think about which soldier will be the last to die for this mistake.

Day in and day out, Bush is on TV saying we will not withdraw from Iraq. How much longer will Americans put up with this bumbling idiot?

The rumblings for impeachment are getting louder and for good reason. The British memo released this week on Bush's conversation with Tony Blair in January 2003, not only proves that Bush planned to take the country to war using whatever lies he deemed necessary, it also proves that there was no plan for post-war Iraq.

Bush is throwing good money after bad like a compulsive gambler, as our troops get sucked deeper and deeper into a bloody quagmire. The situation in Iraq has elevated beyond a disaster and all Bush wants to do is sink more tax dollars into the same failed policies that brought us to this point.

Over the past 6 months, we have heard a lot of accusations about "revisionist history" from Bush and his minions in answer to those who dare to question whether there ever was a real threat from Iraq.

However, there is an abundance of evidence that administration officials sought to portray Iraq as a deadly threat to the American people in the run-up to war. But as we now know, there is a great difference between the hand-picked intelligence that was presented to Congress and the American people when compared to what was actually in Iraq.

Americans were fed a fairy tale about fighting a war of liberation that would be short, cheap, and bloodless. The Bush administration was like a pied piper as it lead the nation into the Iraq disaster.

In hindsight, what is particularly troublesome is how naively the nation followed.

Looking back, there were countless examples of provocative rhetoric as they lead the country to war in Iraq. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush coined the phrase "Axis of Evil," while pointing at Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.

In October 2002, the White House Press Secretary said regime change in Iraq could be accomplished with "the cost of one bullet."

On March 17, in his final speech to the American people before the invasion, Bush took one last opportunity to bolster his case for war. The centerpiece of his argument was the same message he brought to the UN months before, and the same message he hammered home at every opportunity in the intervening months, namely that Saddam had failed to destroy the WMDs and presented an imminent danger to the American people.

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments," he said, "leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

In a public address on March 19, 2003, Bush told the world: "Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder."

Three years have passed, and the US has yet to find a single shred of evidence to confirm the official reason that our country was sent to war; namely, that Iraq's WMDs constituted a grave threat to the US.

On January 28, 2003, Bush said in his State of the Union Address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

We now know that the CIA said that claim was false as early as March 2002 and that the International Atomic Energy Agency had also discredited the allegation. But they just went ahead and used it anyways.

On February 5, Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council: "Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets."

In a radio address on February 8, 2003, Bush told the nation: "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons - the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

The fact is, after 3 years, we have not found any of these items, nor have we found those thousands of rockets loaded with chemical weapons.

On March 30, 2003, Rumsfeld said in an interview on This Week, of the search for WMDs: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat."

However, Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003, and Tikrit on April 14, 2003, and the intelligence Rumsfeld spoke of has not led to any WMDs.

Whether or not intelligence reports were bent, stretched, or fabricated to make Iraq look like an imminent threat, it is clear that the administration's rhetoric played upon the fear of the American people about future terrorism attacks.

But, under close scrutiny, most of the statements had nothing to do with intelligence; the were merely designed to prey on public fear. Through smoke and mirrors, the face of bin Laden was morphed into that of Saddam. Bush himself blurred the image in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union Address when he said:

"Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans - this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."

Not only did the administration warn about more hijackers carrying deadly chemicals, it even went so far as to say that in the time it would take for UN inspectors to find 'smoking gun' evidence of Saddam's illegal weapons, the US was at risk of a nuclear attack.

Condoleeza Rice by the Los Angeles Times, was quoted as saying on September 9, 2002: "We don't want the 'smoking gun' to be a mushroom cloud."

Talk about fabrication, where did the term mushroom cloud come from? What was this statement based on?

On September 26, 2002, just two weeks before Congress voted on a resolution, Bush himself pushed the case that Iraq was plotting to attack the US. After meeting with members of Congress that day, Bush said:

"The danger to our country is grave. The danger to our country is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons.... The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material, could build one within a year."

These are his words. Bush said Saddam is "seeking a nuclear bomb." Has he ever produced any evidence to back up this allegation? No. And, his rhetoric continued that day in the Rose Garden, where he said:

"The dangers we face will only worsen from month to month and from year to year. To ignore these threats is to encourage them. And when they have fully materialized it may be too late to protect ourselves and our friends and our allies. By then the Iraqi dictator would have the means to terrorize and dominate the region. Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX - nerve gas - or some day a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally."

And yet, 3 years later, we have not seen a shred of evidence to support this claim of grave dangers, chemical weapons, links to al Qaeda, or nuclear weapons.

Four days before a vote on the resolution, on October 7, 2002, Bush ramped up the scare tactics and stated: "We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy - the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade."

Bush then went even further by saying: "We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gasses.... Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."

During his speech at the Cincinnati Museum Center, he also elaborated on Iraq's nuclear program and said:

"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahideen' - his nuclear holy warriors.... If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year."

This is the kind of outrageous rhetoric that was given to the American people to justify war with Iraq. This is the same kind of hyped fabricated evidence that was given to Congress to sway its vote on October 11, 2002.

And most importantly these are examples of the same kind charges that the Bush administration now tries to say were never made, like we're deluded idiots.

Saddam is no longer in power. But in reality, so what? The Iraqis are worse off. They still don't even have the basic necessities of life like clean water, sanitation provisions, and electricity. They've had to watch family members imprisoned, tortured, and killed for 3 years without Saddam in charge.

And our soldiers are still dying in record numbers. Not a day goes by that there is not another attack on the troops who are saddled with trying to restore order to a country on the brink of anarchy.

Bush told the American people that we were compelled to go to war to secure our country from a grave threat. Are we safer today than we were on March 18, 2003?

For the first time in history, the US went to war because of intelligence reports claiming that a country posed a grave threat to our nation. We should accept nothing less than a full-scale, wide-open Congressional investigation into the issue of pre-war intelligence on the threat from Iraq.

It is in the compelling national interest to examine what we were told about the threat from Iraq to determine once and for all whether the intelligence was faulty or distorted.

The purpose of such an investigation is not to engage in "revisionist history." It is to get at the truth. The American people have valid questions that deserve to be answered.


of course the u.s. would deny it

Iraqi girl tells of US attack
Mar 30 2006, ITV UK

A young Iraqi girl has exclusively given ITV News a shocking first hand account of what witnesses claim amounts to mass murder by US troops in the war-torn country.

Ten-year-old Iman Walid lost seven members of her family in an attack by American marines last November. The interview with Iman was filmed exclusively for ITV News by Ali Hamdani,our Iraqi video diarist.

If Iman's story is true - and it has been disputed by the US military - human rights workers say it is the worst massacre of civilians by US troops in the country.

Iman tells of screaming soldiers entering her house in the Iraqi town of Haditha spraying bullets in every direction.

Fifteen people in all were killed, including her parents and grandparents. Her account has been corroborated by other eyewitnesses who say it was a revenge attack after a roadside bomb killed a marine.

US authorities have launched an investigation to determine whether the killings were the result of self defence, crossfire or murder.

Initially, the US marines issued a statement saying that a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians, while eight insurgents had been killed in a later gunbattle.

US military officials have since confirmed the 15 civilians were actually shot dead.


freedom of religion, your land or their land

Indonesia students grill Blair
31 march 2006, Egyptian Gazette

JAKARTA British Prime Minister Tony Blair got a taste of the depth of Muslim opposition to his policies on Iraq yesterday when he was subjected to tough questioning by teenage students in Indonesia.

Sweeping away the diplomatic niceties of their elders, students at Darunnajah Islamic boarding school in Jakarta made clear their opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq and asked Blair searching questions about the Middle East, freedom of religion and the right of students in Britain to wear Muslim dress.

"That's a very, very difficult issue," Reuters quoted Blair as he wrestled with a question from one girl about whether female Muslim students in Britain could wear headscarves at school.

The student brought up the case of a British girl who recently lost a legal battle to be allowed to wear full Islamic dress at school.

"We leave it up to the individual school. Some schools permit this, some schools do not ... There are different views in my country about this," Blair said.

The school visit was part of Blair's packed agenda during his 24-hour visit to Indonesia, the first to the most populous Muslim country by a British prime minister in 21 years.

The questions for Blair from the Muslim students, sitting on a platform with the boys on the left and girls wearing scarves on the right, only got harder.


abu ghraib dog handler, never prosecuted

"Big Steve" and Abu Ghraib
Mark Benjamin and Michael Scherer, March 31, 2006

Salon has uncovered more allegations against a civilian interrogator accused of abuse at the prison. Why has he never been prosecuted?

FORT MEADE, Md. -- The man known as "Big Steve" did not attend the court-martial this month of Sgt. Michael J. Smith, an Army dog handler at Abu Ghraib. But no one could miss his looming presence in the courtroom. According to both the prosecution and defense, "Big Steve" was deeply involved in the abuse committed by Smith, who was convicted March 21 for using his dog to terrify prisoners.

"Big Steve," whose real name is Steven Anthony Stefanowicz, worked as an interrogator for military intelligence at Abu Ghraib. But he was no ordinary soldier. Stefanowicz was one of dozens of civilian employees from Virginia contractor CACI International hired by the Pentagon to work at the prison.

According to a military policeman who testified at the court-martial, Stefanowicz directed the abuse in one of the most infamous incidents captured on camera at Abu Ghraib: A prisoner in an orange jumpsuit being menaced with an unmuzzled dog.

"I was told by his interrogator, Big Steve, that he was al-Qaida," testified Pvt. Ivan Frederick II. "He said, 'Any chance you get, put the dogs on.'"

According to Frederick, Stefanowicz would periodically instruct the military police when to pause from using the animals. "He would come down in between and we would pull the dogs off and he would go in and talk to him," said Frederick, who was sentenced in October 2004 to eight years in prison for his own role in the abuses.

Defense counsel Capt. Jason Duncan referred directly to a photo of Smith using his black Belgian shepherd, Marco, to terrify the prisoner, whose name is Ashraf Abdullah al-Juhayshi. He asked Frederick: "And Steve was then telling him to do that?" Frederick replied: "Yes, sir."

The role of Stefanowicz and other civilian contractors accused of abuse remains one of the murkiest aspects of Abu Ghraib. Stefanowicz was first identified as a perpetrator of abuse nearly two years ago by two high-profile Army investigations, known as the Taguba and Fay reports -- but he has never been charged with a crime.

Now, more allegations about his role have emerged, including testimony from Smith's court-martial and in Army investigative materials obtained by Salon. In addition to the use of dogs to terrify prisoners, those allegations include the use of sexual humiliation and stress positions, and denying prisoners medical care. At Fort Meade, Stefanowicz was not on trial, nor was he called to the witness stand. But throughout the proceedings he was a reminder of key unanswered questions about Abu Ghraib -- including why no one beyond a small group of enlisted soldiers has been prosecuted.

Stefanowicz was a near-constant presence in the military intelligence wing of the prison, someone whom military police said they knew by his gruff manner and towering stature. Soldiers who worked there described Stefanowicz -- a former Navy reserve intelligence specialist at the Defense Intelligence Agency -- as a human giant, standing roughly 6-foot-5, well over 240 pounds, with a full beard and an intimidating manner. At least three soldiers, an officer and another civilian contractor have said that he orchestrated or engaged in abuse.

In an interview with Army investigators on April 6 and 7, 2005, Cpl. Charles Graner accused Stefanowicz of leading abuse. Graner, who is serving 10 years in prison for crimes he committed at Abu Ghraib, was granted immunity from further prosecution in exchange for his cooperation.

Graner had worked as a prison guard in Pennsylvania, and recalled arriving at Abu Ghraib in October 2003. "When we had come to the block I had come in with a correctional officer's mindset of care, custody and control," Graner said in the interview, a transcript of which was obtained by Salon. "I'm going to do the least amount of work possible and get paid for it, because that's what corrections officers do. And that lasted for about a day, and then I met Big Steve."

Graner told Army investigators that he followed Stefanowicz's orders because Stefanowicz worked with military intelligence, which was in charge of prisoners. Graner said Stefanowicz gave instructions about "harassing, keeping off balance, yelling, screaming" and stripping prisoners naked. Under Stefanowicz's direction, according to Graner, prisoners could be put on sleep plans: 20 hours awake, four hours of rest. They could be put in stress positions. They could be sexually humiliated.

Graner described the treatment of a prisoner, nicknamed "Taxi Driver" by U.S. soldiers, which he claimed had been ordered by Stefanowicz in late October. The prisoner, whose name has not been made public and is being withheld by Salon to protect his identity as a victim, later gave an account of his abuse. It included tactics Graner said Stefanowicz had ordered. "He put red woman's underwear over my head," the prisoner told Army investigators, describing his treatment by a military policeman. "And then he tied me to the window that is in the cell with my hands behind my back until I lost consciousness."

Stefanowicz and other contractors arrived at Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003 as it became an intelligence hub in the battle against a burgeoning and deadly insurgency. With an urgent need for more personnel, the Army hired CACI interrogators, as well as civilian translators from San Diego-based Titan Corp. The demands of the war forced the Army to expand the use of contractors to an unprecedented degree, with civilian employees providing a number of services previously handled by soldiers -- including some of the most sensitive operations such as intelligence gathering.

A copy of an Army e-mail obtained by Salon lists the names of 39 CACI employees who worked at the prison from Oct. 1, 2003, through Dec. 31, 2003, as well as 63 employees of Titan or a Titan subcontractor who worked there. Of that group, the Fay report from August 2004 identified three CACI employees, including Stefanowicz, as candidates for prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Fay report also identified two Titan employees who should be considered for potential prosecution.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Stefanowicz, or explain its inaction to date. "There are prisoner abuse allegations that remain open that were referred to the special prosecution team in the Eastern District of Virginia," a spokesman said.

"It is clear that the Department of Justice has more than enough evidence to indict 'Big Steve' and several other corporate torturers," said Susan Burke, an attorney with Burke Pyle LLC who is suing CACI International on behalf of several detainees in a civil case that names Stefanowicz as a defendant.

Stefanowicz's attorney, Henry E. Hockeimer, said that his client has done nothing wrong. "Common sense would say that if they had something that was significant, he actually would have been charged by now," Hockeimer told Salon. Hockeimer maintains that the actions of his client, who no longer works for CACI, were "appropriate and authorized."

Court proceedings and other testimony tell a different story.

During the Smith court-martial, government prosecutor Maj. Matthew Miller alleged that in late 2003 Stefanowicz learned that Smith and another dog handler, Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, were harassing detainees with their dogs. As Miller portrayed it, Stefanowicz decided to "piggyback" his interrogations, or exploit the ongoing abuse to leverage more information from the terrified prisoners. Duncan, the defense counsel, portrayed things differently, alleging that Stefanowicz ordered the abuse himself. Stefanowicz "was one interrogator who believed he had approval to use dogs in the prison," Duncan told the courtroom in his opening statement.

Smith, whom Army prosecutors sought to portray as a "rogue cop," will spend 179 days behind bars and be stripped of his rank for several incidents, including the abuse of al-Juhayshi.

The Fay report supports claims that Stefanowicz directed the use of dogs on al-Juhayshi. The report found that it "is highly plausible" that Stefanowicz "used dogs without authorization and directed the abuse in this incident as well as others related to this detainee." It also said that Stefanowicz directed the use of dogs on more than one occasion. It described a separate incident in which an unidentified soldier accused Stefanowicz of yelling, "Take him back home," while military police used a dog to menace a prisoner in his underwear. The report quotes another unidentified soldier who says it was "common knowledge" that Stefanowicz directed the use of dogs on prisoners.

In his interview with Army investigators, Graner said abuse of the prisoner known as "Taxi Driver," which had begun in October 2003, continued that December. The prisoner, who had received treatment for apparent appendicitis, allegedly was still being interrogated by Stefanowicz. According to Graner, Stefanowicz ordered that the prisoner not receive his prescription pain killers. "I was, per Steve, not to give the pain medication to Taxi Driver," Graner recounted, because he "was one of the main people that they wanted to break or get information from."

Hockeimer, Stefanowicz's attorney, said the claims of a convicted abuser should not be trusted. "Whatever Graner says has zero credibility," Hockeimer said.

But others, including high-level officers, have alleged misconduct by Stefanowicz. Col. Thomas M. Pappas, a former commander of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, testified at the Smith court-martial after agreeing to an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony. (Pappas was implicated in the abuse scandal himself, and received nonjudicial punishment by the Army in May 2005.) Pappas testified that Stefanowicz had "overstepped his bounds and I reported that to my staff and had them report that to the contracting office." Pappas did not describe Stefanowicz's misconduct in detail during the trial, other than mentioning that the CACI interrogator had inappropriately addressed Pappas by his first name.

Pappas also testified that Stefanowicz, who served in a military intelligence role but was not a uniformed soldier, posed a "different dilemma" at Abu Ghraib. "We had to raise the issue off-site" with the Army officer responsible for managing his contract, Pappas said of the problems with Stefanowicz. Pappas did not identify the Army contracting officer.

The contracting arrangement makes it more difficult to determine whom Stefanowicz reported to and what his orders were, says Deborah D. Avant, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, who has studied the rise in military contracting since the end of the Cold War. "The chain of command becomes quite problematic," she said.

Military investigators have raised similar criticisms about Abu Ghraib. The Fay report cited evidence that "contractor personnel were 'supervising' government personnel or vice versa" at the prison.

In addition, the contracting arrangement between CACI and the government was unorthodox. In its urgency to hire interrogators and translators during summer 2003, the Pentagon cut through the red tape of awarding a new contract by using an existing contract CACI had with the Department of the Interior -- an atypical arrangement that broke several contracting rules, according to an April 2005 Government Accountability Office report. "The process of procuring interrogation and other services for DOD broke down at numerous points," the GAO found.

Legal experts say Stefanowicz and other civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib cannot be held criminally liable under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which in 2003 held that only civilians hired through a contract directly with the Defense Department could be prosecuted for crimes overseas.

The contractors could potentially be prosecuted under civilian laws, though that would lead into complicated and largely untested legal territory. According to Scott L. Silliman, executive director of Duke University's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, one option would be to use a section of the Patriot Act, which covers crimes committed by U.S. citizens at military facilities abroad. Prosecutors could also potentially use the War Crimes Act of 1996, which makes it illegal for an American to violate the Geneva Conventions.

Back in 2004 -- even before the latest allegations -- military investigators left little doubt that Stefanowicz was a perpetrator of abuse at Abu Ghraib. The Fay report found that he had directed the use of dogs on prisoners, forced a prisoner to wear women's underwear, kicked a prisoner into his cell, failed to report abuse, and lied to investigators. The Taguba report found that he instructed military police to abuse prisoners in an effort to "set the conditions" for interrogation. "He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse," Taguba concluded about Stefanowicz.

It remains unclear whether any charges will be brought against him.


a young couple, a young son ...

Families at Edmonton Garrison badly shaken by death of soldier in Afghanistan
March 31, 2006

They know the risk soldiers must take, but military families have been particularly shaken by the death of Pte. Robert Costall during a firefight in Afghanistan this week.

Everyone knows more such attacks are possible, Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant said Thursday. Insurgent activity is expected to increase over the spring and summer as improving weather makes it easier for Taliban forces to move. The prospect of more firefights is creating stress on the Edmonton Garrison.

"The level of apprehension among the families in Edmonton is really elevated. It is higher than I have seen on any mission before," said Grant, commander of Land Force Western Area.

For the moment, however, the enormity of her personal loss has gripped Chrissy Costall, who is only slowly coming to terms with her husband's death as family and friends do what they can. Costall also left behind their one-year-old son.

"She is going through an extremely difficult time dealing with the fact that her husband has been killed," said Grant, who spoke to the widow briefly. "A young couple with a young child. One can only imagine the difficulty she is going through right now."

Grant said three other Canadian soldiers wounded in the battle were members of a quick-response platoon called in to help when the forward operating base was attacked by several dozen Taliban fighters firing automatic weapons and grenade launchers.

Two of the wounded were being treated in Afghanistan and a third was to be looked after in a hospital in Germany. Their injuries were described as minor.

The names of those soldiers, all members of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, were not released.

Many soldiers on the sprawling Edmonton base, the largest in Western Canada, have mixed feelings about the battle that took Costall's life.

While his death underscores the risks they face, many are itching to go overseas to help their comrades.

"Speaking to some of them, they wish they were over there with their buddies," Grant said. "They are looking forward to the time that they can deploy. That is what they joined for."

The military will not release details of the circumstances of Costall's death.

Two separate probes have been launched by Canadian and United States military investigators to piece together what happened.

A U.S. serviceman and at least eight Afghan National Army soldiers also died in the battle at the base about 110 kilometres from Kandahar city.

Grant said the ferocity of the attack may be the Taliban's way of sending a message to coalition countries that they are determined to retake Afghanistan.

The general said the performance of Canadian soldiers during the firefight should also tell the insurgents something.

"The casualties on the Taliban side were significant," Grant said. "It will send a message to the Taliban that Canadian soldiers are truly professional. That will make them rethink why they would attack coalition forces."

Costall's body is expected to be flown to Canada by the weekend. Funeral arrangements were pending.


corporate sponsor?

Cheney and Halliburton Hold Title - Top Earners In Iraq
Evelyn Pringle, March 31 2006

"If Cheney is to be believed, the conspiracy to pick on Halliburton is a global effort because as of July 2004, the French, British, Nigerian and US governments were all investigating Halliburton's activities while Cheney was CEO, for paying over $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for a $6 billion contract to build a natural gas plant in Nigeria."

There has never been an investigation into Cheney's involvement in awarding Halliburton no-bid contracts making the company the number one war profiteerer in Iraq. Apparently people have forgotten about the March 5, 2003 e-mail between the Army Corps of Engineers and a Pentagon employee that stated the contract "has been coordinated w VP's office."

People also seem to have forgotten that Cheney continues to own stock in Halliburton. Stock that has risen in leaps and bounds since its former CEO moved into the White House and developed the most prolific war profiteering scheme of all time.

A study released in June 2005, originating from the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), revealed that overall, Halliburton had received roughly 52% of the $25.4 billion that has been paid out to private contractors since the war in Iraq began.

Halliburton was the top profiteer when it came to funds belonging to the citizens of Iraq as well. A March 18, 2004 audit report by the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General, titled, "Acquisition: Contracts Awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority by the Defense Contracting Command-Washington," determined that the CPA and its predecessor, the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, had circumvented federal contracting procedures since the early days of the occupation.

The audit found that federal procurement rules were not followed in 22 of 24 contracts awarded by the Defense Contracting Command and that defense department personnel conducted "inadequate surveillance" on more than half of the contracts; did not "perform or support price reasonableness determinations;" and allowed activity that was "out-of-scope" of the original contracts.

An analysis of the data released in August 2004, showed the CPA had awarded 85% of the contracts to US and UK firms and that Iraqi companies received a mere 2% of the contracts paid for with Iraqi funds. Halliburton received 60% of all contracts paid for with Iraqi money.

Halliburton's contracts are "cost-plus" deals and according to Peter Singer, author of "Corporate Warrior," when the government gives out cost-plus contracts, "essentially it rewards firms when they add to costs rather than rewarding them for cost savings," he said.

Halliburton employees told Knight Ridder about a scam where the company ran up costs by having employees drive empty trucks back and forth across Iraq.

"There was one time we ran 28 trucks, one trailer had one pallet (a trailer can hold as many as 26 four-foot square pallets) and the rest of them were empty," said David Wilson, who was the convoy commander on more than 100 runs. Four other drivers who were with Wilson confirmed his account for Knight Ridder.

Halliburton's contract allows the company to pass on the cost of the truck runs and add between 1% and 3% for profit. "Trucking experts estimate that each round trip costs taxpayers thousands of dollars," according to Knight Ridder.

But if you listen to Cheney, people are just picking on Halliburton because they don't like him. Not so. I would be mad at any company that billed me for driving empty trucks across the desert, but it just so happens that Halliburton is the company at the wheel.

Other whistleblowers described how employees were instructed to abandon or torch new trucks, worth $80,000, if they got a flat tire or had some other minor problems, so that Halliburton could purchase new trucks with taxpayer dollars.

People must have been picking on Halliburton long before Iraq because under Cheney's watch, the company was caught ripping of the government time and time again. In 1997, the GAO caught the company charging $85.98 for a sheet of plywood that only cost $14.06. In a 2000 follow-up investigation, Halliburton was caught billing taxpayers for cleaning the exact same office space 4 times a day.

So what happened as a result of these expensive drawn-out investigations? In 2002 Halliburton paid a $2 million fine for defrauding the government. The investigation probably cost more than $2 mill.

In January 2004, two Halliburton employees were caught red-handed taking $6.3 million in kickbacks from a subcontractor in Iraq. The company gave the $6.3 million back, claimed it fired the employees, and went on like nothing ever happened.

I guess Cheney would have us believe that 2 guys stuffed $6.3 million in their back pockets without Halliburton's knowledge. Well call me cynical or whatever, but I don't buy it.

This time around, the Bush team not only ignored the blatant misconduct, it gave Halliburton another $1.2 billion contract, a move that even upset republicans. Rep Tom Davis, Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform stated: "It's incomprehensible that the [Bush] Administration could give Halliburton another billion-dollar contract without fully investigating such serious criminal wrongdoing."

And that ain't all. In June 2004, the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency completed a review that found Halliburton had billed for 36% more meals in Iraq than it had served to the troops, resulting in an overcharge estimated to be as high as $186 million.

In July 2004, the GAO reported that when Halliburton acted as a middleman for the operation of dining halls, costs were over 40% higher.

So what kind of punishment did this misdeed bring? The DCAA told Halliburton to send all bills to their agency for approval before submitting them for reimbursement.

In an August 16, 2004, memorandum, the DCAA "identified significant unsupported costs" submitted by Halliburton and said "while contingency issues may have had an impact during the earlier stages of the procurements, clearly, the contractor should have adequate supporting data by now."

When DCAA examined 7 task orders with a combined proposed value of $4.33 billion, its auditors identified unsupported costs totaling $1.82 billion.

On September 16, 2004, the Pentagon found that $34.2 million of the costs associated with KBR's task order of the Iraqi oil infrastructure contract were unreasonable, including $14.9 million in overcharges and $17.7 million in "unsupported" costs.

On March 14, 2005, a Pentagon audit discovered $108 million in overcharges by KBR for delivering gasoline to Iraq. The minority staff of the House Government Reform Committee later determined that the total overpayment through April 1, 2004 was $167 million

And that still ain't all. In another case of fraud, government auditors found Halliburton claimed to have lost over $60 million worth of government property in Iraq, including trucks, office furniture and computers.

Stuart Bowen, auditor of the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority, said that 6,975 of 20,531 items on Halliburton's ledgers were unaccounted for.

"This occurred because KBR did not effectively manage government property," his report said. "As a result," Bowen said, "we projected that KBR could not account for 6,975 property items from an inventory of 20,531 valued at $61.1 million."

The June 2005 DCAA study revealed new evidence of Halliburton fraud to include the company: (1) overcharged or presented questionable bills for close to $1.5 billion; (2) lost 12 pre-fabricated bases worth over $75; (3) billed $152,000 to provide a movie library for 2,500 soldiers; and (4) submitted inconsistent billings, e.g.: video cassette players $300 in some instances, and $1000 in others; $2.31 for towels one day and $5 on another.

If Cheney is to be believed, the conspiracy to pick on Halliburton is a global effort because as of July 2004, the French, British, Nigerian and US governments were all investigating Halliburton's activities while Cheney was CEO, for paying over $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for a $6 billion contract to build a natural gas plant in Nigeria.

In this investigation, former Halliburton employees are ratting out Cheney himself. Ex-Halliburton consultant, Attorney Jeffrey Tesler, testified under oath in May, 2004 that he made bribery payments to Jack Stanley, while Stanley was president of Halliburton subsidiary KBR, and also made payments to Halliburton executive William Chaudran. His testimony was backed up by banking records and Tesler said CEO Cheney approved the payments.

Cheney had better not get too comfortable because his criminal empire may soon come crashing down around him. If democrats take back the house and the senate next November, I think its safe to say that investigations will follow.


media unions not impressed

perhaps the unions will have more leverage to have this issue come to an end!

Media unions condemn Tory limits
March 29, 2006

Canada's two biggest media unions are condemning Prime Minister Stephen Harper for what they call "undemocratic" and "frightening" attempts to limit journalists' access to cabinet ministers.

In an ongoing battle with the parliamentary press gallery over media access, Harper this week held the first unannounced meeting of the full federal cabinet in recent memory.

He defended the move by saying meetings of cabinet are private and Canadians do not have the right to know when they are held. Cabinet makes the government's major decisions.

TNG Canada, which represents media workers at the CBC and newspapers in many parts of the country, says the change is worrying because less access means Canadians know less about what the government is doing.

"Any effort to control the media or restrict the flow of information to the public worries us because it chips away at a free and democratic society," said Arnold Amber, director of TNG Canada.

"It also flies in the face of Harper's promises to make government more honest, transparent and accountable."

Amber said his union is considering ways to put public pressure on the Conservatives to lift the media restrictions.

Peter Murdoch of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union said MPs should also be upset and should use a Commons committee to take Harper to task.

"The media is accustomed to news management and spin, but hiding ministers from reporters is bizarre as practice and frightening as policy," said Murdoch.

"As representatives of Canadian journalists, we are alarmed at this tactic. It smacks of totalitarianism, not the democratic process we are used to in this country."

Traditionally, cabinet meetings have been announced in advance and reporters would gather outside the cabinet room to buttonhole ministers as they entered or departed.

By holding the meetings in secret, Harper has effectively banned journalists from the area where cabinet convenes, allowing ministers to come and go unobserved.

A heavier than usual contingent of Commons security staff patrolled the halls of Parliament during Tuesday's cabinet meeting, barring reporters from areas they had routinely frequented under past governments.

The Prime Minister's Office had no comment.


asking for asylum in canada

War deserter tells of atrocities
March 30, 2006

A "trigger-happy" U.S. army squad leader shot the foot off an unarmed Iraqi man and soldiers kicked a severed head around like a soccer ball, a U.S. war deserter told an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing Thursday.

Joshua Key, the first U.S. deserter with combat experience in Iraq to apply for refugee status in Canada, told the board he witnessed numerous atrocities committed by U.S. forces while serving eight months as a combat engineer.

Key, 27, said he was never trained on the Geneva Convention and was told in Iraq by superior officers that the international law guiding humanitarian standards was just a "guideline."

"It's shoot first, ask questions later," Key said of his squad's guiding principles. "Everything's justified."

Key is one of five members of the U.S. armed forces asking for asylum in Canada.

But the Oklahoma native is unique in that he is the only applicant that has combat experience in Iraq, said Key's lawyer, Jeffry House. The other are seeking asylum in Canada to avoid being sent there, he said.

"He has boots-on-the-ground experience about what the actual conduct of the war in Iraq is," House said outside the hearing.

With visible bags under his eyes, Key told the hearing he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and frequently has nightmares over what he witnessed in Iraq.

He recalled participating in almost nightly raids on homes of suspected insurgents in Ramadi and Fallujah as a member of the 43rd Combat Engineer Company.

He said that while the raids seldom turned up anything of interest, he often saw soldiers ransack the homes and steal jewelry or money, while superior officers looked the other way.

He also said several Iraqis were shot dead, and that they were cases of soldiers "shooting out of fear and inventing reasons afterward."

In Ramadi, Key said he saw the beheaded bodies of four Iraqis beside a shot-up truck and witnessed several members of the Florida National Guard kick a severed head "like a soccer ball."

Key also said he witnessed one of his "trigger happy" platoon's squad sergeants shoot part of an unarmed Iraqi man's foot off in Khaldia, a village between Fallujah and Ramadi. The man was sitting on a chair outside a store and had raised his foot as a sign of disrespect, he said.

Key added he was never questioned about the incident and was not aware of any charges being laid.

Keith Brennenstuhl, the IRB member overseeing the hearing, ruled at an earlier hearing that the board would not consider the legality of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Key also described seeing U.S. soldiers indiscriminately kick and scream at two hooded and naked detainees while escorting them to a grassy area to relieve themselves.

Brennenstuhl asked Key whether he received any interrogation training before dragging detainees out of their homes during raids.

"The only thing we were told was how to keep them quiet," Key said, explaining that soldiers cuffed prisoners' hands behind their backs and put hoods over their heads.

"Could they breathe?" Brennenstuhl asked.

"I guess it wasn't my concern," Key responded, adding that officers said the hoods were designed "to humiliate them."

Key, the father of four young children, told the hearing he joined the army for steady pay and medical coverage for his family. He said he initially went to Iraq as a willing participant because he believed U.S. intelligence claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

But Key became disillusioned with the war during his service and decided to abandon his contract with the army during a two-week leave from Iraq in November 2003.

He and his family lived on the run in Philadelphia before crossing the border at Niagara Falls, N.Y., on March 3, 2005.

Key now works as a welder in Fort St. John, B.C. He and his wife Brandi have four children between the ages of seven months and six years.

If returned to the United States, Key said he believed the army would "make an example" of him as a way to deter other possible deserters.

Lawyers from all parties will submit their written submissions in the coming weeks before the board rules on Key's application.


Thursday, March 30, 2006



you be the judge?

{[aticle in todays ottawa sun] Ignatieff: "Today, we are concerned about our soldiers in Afghanistan. So we should be. But service in Afghanistan is in the best traditions of our people. From Vimy Ridge to Juneau Beach, from Rwanda to Bosnia, we have earned our place in the world of nations by service and sacrifice.

I've been to Afghanistan, once when the Taliban were in power and once since then. I've got faith in the Afghans who are pushing their country out of the ditch. It's good that Canadians are putting their shoulders to the wheel to help them."}

there is much more to the article which is a really good read. the snippet is the only part i would like to hear more of ... not just afghanistan, but more depth into the future of our forgien policy as a whole. because i think he has potential.

Canada in the World
Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff, Etobicoke-Lakeshore
Ottawa Citizen, March 30, 2006

Ever since I entered Parliament in January, people have been asking me: “Why have you gone into politics? As in: "Are you nuts?"

No, I'm not nuts.

This is my country, after all.

As a child, I played in the barns of my uncle's dairy farm in Richmond, Quebec; I swam off the rocks at my aunt's place in Georgian Bay; when I was a young teacher out in British Columbia, I remember sailing up Howe Sound and watching the sun burn the mist off the ocean; as a father, I rocketed down the Kicking Horse River in a raft with my children; as a husband, I stood with my wife among the graves of the Hungarian pioneers - her people - who settled the country near Esterhazy, Saskatchewan.

This is my Canada. These are the memories that made me who I am. This is the river that runs through me, as it runs through you.

This is the place that defined my political allegiances. This is the place I call home.

My father came off a boat in Montreal harbor in 1928, a refugee from Russia. He became an ambassador for his country. Canada made him who he was, and he repaid his debt with a life of public service.

Now it's my turn.

My family taught me to think of Canadians as a serious people. Steadfast, tough, courageous. During World War II, my mother worked in London with the French Resistance. One of her closest friends was a young Canadian who parachuted into France in 1943 to fight fascism. His name was Frank Pickersgill. He was captured by the Nazis and died under torture in Buchenwald. He died so that other men and women could live in freedom.

At our best, we are that kind of people.

Today, we are concerned about our soldiers in Afghanistan. So we should be. But service in Afghanistan is in the best traditions of our people. From Vimy Ridge to Juneau Beach, from Rwanda to Bosnia, we have earned our place in the world of nations by service and sacrifice.

I've been to Afghanistan, once when the Taliban were in power and once since then. I've got faith in the Afghans who are pushing their country out of the ditch. It's good that Canadians are putting their shoulders to the wheel to help them.

Critics say I've been out of the country a long time. They seem to miss the years spent teaching at UBC, at the Banff Center for the Fine Arts, the documentary series I made for the CBC, the television shows I hosted for TV Ontario, the Massey Lectures I gave on CBC radio, the books and articles I've devoted to Canadian problems. I don't feel I've been away at all.

But yes, I've also been a war reporter, human rights teacher, journalist and I've seen a lot of the world. Sometimes you only see your country clearly from far away.

I saw it clearly in eastern Croatia in 1992. I had just crossed a UN check point and had been taken prisoner by a half a dozen armed men high on alcohol and ethnic nationalism. A young UN peacekeeper arrived, as I was being bundled away. He cocked his M 16 and said, 'We'll do this my way.'
And they did.

That young soldier was from Moncton, New Brunswick.

I saw my country clearly watching a policewoman escort frightened families to and fro across a mined no-man's land in another part of Yugoslavia. When I asked her why she was doing dangerous work in a foreign country she said, with a smile, 'It beats writing traffic tickets in Saskatoon.'

I saw my country clearly in the young Canadians who took my classes at Harvard. I saw how eager they were to test themselves against the best the world has to offer.

So this is my Canada and these are my Canadians. We are serious people.

I've tried to be a serious person. Being serious means sticking to your convictions. I went to Iraq in 1992 and saw what Saddam Hussein had done to the Kurds and the Shia. I decided then and there that I'd stand with them whatever happened. I've stuck with them ever since. Whatever mistakes the Americans have made, one day Iraqis will create a decent society. When that day comes, Canadians should be there to help because their struggle is ours, too.

I've always believed that Canada should fight for a world in which force is never used except in a just cause.

I'm proud that Lloyd Axworthy named me to the International Commission on Sovereignty and Intervention. It reported to Kofi Annan on the rules that ought to define when it is right to use force in international affairs.

Our report said that countries like Canada have a 'responsibility to protect' people when they are faced with genocidal massacre or ethnic cleansing.

Canada can only discharge this responsibility when the cause has the support of the people of Canada; when it has the support of the UN or a coalition of free peoples; and when the cause furthers international and Canadian security.

I'm in politics to speak up for a Canada that takes risks, that stands up for what's right. A Canada that leads.

We are a serious people.

For a long time, however, we haven't taken ourselves seriously enough. We need to ask more of ourselves.

For the first time in history, we now have a real claim to being able to solve problems that have dogged human life for millennia: hunger, disease and environmental destruction. We have the science. We have the money. What we lack is focus and determination.

Forty years ago, a Canadian prime minister set the standard for international citizenship at 0.7 per cent of GDP in overseas aid to developing nations. Forty years later, we still have not met Mike Pearson's targets.

The time for excuses is over. We need to fulfill our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals before 2015. We need to meet this target, but we need to do more. We need to focus development aid to those who can really use it. Let's stop spending money supporting regimes that abuse their people. Let's find development partners who govern in the interests of their people.

Let's remember that Canadians are the people of ëpeace, order and good government.î The single thing the developing world needs most is good government. We should be the country that leads the world in governance, in helping governments in the developing world to govern more justly.

We need to bring the same leadership to the environment.

The old excuses - the science isn't clear, action will undermine our economy, our problems are really our neighbors' fault - are just excuses.

Let's stop blaming others. Let's get our own house in order.

We take pride in our support of Kyoto, but Canada's performance on greenhouse gases is dismal, ranking 27th of the 29 OECD countries in per-capita emissions.

We possess vast amounts of the world's water supply, but we are poor stewards of this vital asset.

So let's get serious. Let's move the environment from the margins of public policy to the centre.

Let's clean up our lakes and rivers. In my riding of Etobicoke Lakeshore, we take pride in the national treasure of Lake Ontario, but the water isn't clean enough for kids to swim in. This isn't good enough. We need a federal initiative to clean up the entire Great Lakes watershed from Lake Superior to the Grand Banks. Fairness to the generations of Canadians that follow us mandates a new approach.

Let's make the case for why environmental action is smart business. Let's follow Stephan Dion's leadership and do what we have to, right away, to meet our Kyoto commitments.

Let's be the very best in the world at making cleaner cars, cleaner trucks and world class public transportation system.

Let's work with the provinces to invest in public transit and rail before our great cities are completely gridlocked.

The Canadian Arctic is a crucial piece of the global refrigeration system. This system is breaking down. The science is clear. Global warming is happening. Working with other nations in the Arctic Council, we must take leadership in stabilizing the global climate system.

In understanding Canada's place in the world, we need to think of ourselves not just as defenders of our own sovereignty, but as stewards of the global commons.

From 'the responsibility to protect' to 'human security', Canada has been a leader in putting good ideas into circulation and then getting them accepted into practice. Without us, there wouldn't be an International Criminal Court, and without us, no Land Mines Ban.

But to lead with ideas, we have to know where we are. We leveraged our influence in the 20th century by tying our fortunes to the United States.

But if the 20th century belonged to the United States, it's possible that the 21st will belong to China and India. Canada will have to adapt: reducing our economic dependence on the United States, increasing our trade with the new giants of the international system, working to create stability in a world where old forces are weakening, and new forces are rising.

The 21st century will be convulsed by vast global flows of labour and capital. As a result, all societies are becoming multicultural. All societies are opening to the world. All societies are struggling with the challenge of maintaining stable and democratic political orders among peoples from different faiths, ethnicities and national origins.

Canada is uniquely placed to show the world how to do this better.

Since 1867 we have been demonstrating that three founding traditions - aboriginal, French and English - can share the land together and create a democratic system in which citizens are both free and equal, in which minorities receive the same respect as the majority.

It is not easy trying to maintain common bonds of citizenship in a nation split into five regions, two language groups, ten provinces and three territories.

This is a formidable task, but we have never succumbed to the demons of division.

We have survived two referenda on separation. We will win a third were it to be forced upon us. Sovereignists want to oblige Quebecers to choose between parts of their very souls and to choose Canada or Quebec. Quebecers have always refused this choice.

Quebecers will remain Canadians because our country respects their right to be Quebecers and Canadians, in whatever order they choose. Canada has never imposed a unitary patriotic creed on its citizens. We've built Canada on respect for the freedom that we enjoy - within the limits of the law - to decide what being Canadian means to each of us.

So Canada will prevail whatever separatists have in store. But that does not mean all is in order in the Canadian house.

Quebec did not give its assent to our constitution, and until it does so, our union remains on an uncertain foundation. We must create the conditions of goodwill that will enable us to build a constitutional foundation with the full-hearted assent of all the partners in our federation.

To create these conditions of goodwill, tomorrow , we need to practice the federalism of recognition and respect today.

The federal government must respect the legitimate jurisdictions of the provinces, the cities and the aboriginal orders of government. Federal authority should have the confidence to move beyond frantic displays of its relevance by constant intrusion into other partners' jurisdictions. It should concentrate on being a competent manager of its own jurisdiction.

Who can say, for example, that the federal government is a competent manager of its responsibilities towards aboriginal peoples?

Recognition means understanding that all provinces are not the same, but all are equal. Quebec is entitled to practical recognition of the distinctiveness of its language, culture, civil law and its history. It is entitled to be master of its own house within the Canadian federation.

Quebec is also entitled to play its part in international negotiations where its provincial jurisdictions are involved.

But respect is a two-way street. All provinces should respect the legitimate jurisdiction of the federal government.

It is charged with the defence of the country, the protection of its borders , the development of national infrastructure and a national economic market, as well as safeguarding the rights of citizenship. That all Canadians hold in common. Without respect for these federal domains, we cannot have a country.

The federal government does not possess a monopoly in foreign affairs, but it is appropriate for it to co-ordinate Canada's external presence to work together with provinces to ensure that Canada speaks with one voice, even if the voice that speaks for Canada comes from a province.

Respect and recognition also imply clarity. Mr. Harper's strategy of calculated ambiguity towards Quebec's international aspirations is a dangerous game. Already Mr. Duceppe salutes Mr. Harper's gambit on UNESCO as the first petit pas towards an independent foreign policy for Quebec.

This game has to stop. In dialogue together, Canada and Quebec must demarcate who does what in international relations so that Quebec's aspirations for a voice in international domains can be reconciled with the right of Canada to co-ordinate our nation's presence in the world. If we display our jurisdictional quarrels to the world, we will reduce Canada's standing , but Quebec's too.

In promoting a politics of recognition and respect within the federation, we need to change the way we think about national unity. For too long we have equated national unity with the challenge of Quebec.

If we remember the immense role that Quebecers since Laurier have played in the making of our nation, if we recall the continual tradition of political innovation that has flowed from Quebec and inspired the rest of Canada, from the Quiet Revolution onwards, it is clear that Quebec has never been the Canadian problem.
Quebecers have always been part of the solution.

Today, we need to re-think the question of national unity. We are divided by much more than language. We are divided by race, religion, class and ethnicity. We are divided into town and country, rural and urban, eastern and western, northern and southern regions. As population concentrates in our cities, our regions and small towns feel left behind.

Canadians long to be more united. They know that we are more than 10 provinces and territories strung together like a string of beads along the 49th parallel.

Unity does not mean a domineering Ottawa. It does not mean a federalist steamroller. Instead of thinking that unity must require a domineering federal government, we need to understand that unity means a strong federation in which orders of government take responsibility, display accountability, and respect each other's domains.

We are far from that ideal.

Some provinces are running up huge surpluses while others are struggling to balance their books. This horizontal imbalance in the federation threatens to weaken Canada's capacity to maintain roughly equal conditions of citizenship for each of our people, regardless of the province in which they live.

The right way to fix this is not to rob Peter to pay Paul, not to confiscate the wealth of rich provinces with new energy taxes, but to create a 10-province equalization standard that counts all of the fiscal capacity of the provinces and then uses federal tax dollars to equalize the condition of those provinces still behind.

There is also a vertical imbalance between a federal government that runs up surpluses, while several provinces struggle to fund their ever rising costs in education and health care. There is a right way and a wrong way to fix this problem. Permanent transfer of tax power to the provinces would damage the national unity of our country. Gutting Ottawa's power to collect taxes won't make the country stronger.

A federalism of respect and recognition points to another solution: just as we need to negotiate a 10-province standard for equalization, we need to negotiate a new 10 province standard for transfers to help provinces meet their spending needs in education and health. These need to be comprehensive, multi-year agreements between orders of government so that each can plan and budget and neither feels subject to blackmail on the one hand and lawless whim on the other.

Behind the issue of fiscal imbalance, we need to address a deeper question: what is the federal government for? What is its essential purpose in the federation? I believe that the federal government has one core function: to maintain the national unity of our country by sustaining the indivisibility of Canadian citizenship. It is the only order of government with this specific task.

Equality of opportunity means that all Canadian citizens enjoy roughly comparable rights, responsibilities and services.

The chief threat to our country is the weakening of the bonds of common citizenship. It is good for provinces to experiment with new ways to deliver health care and contain costs. But we have fought for 50 years so that health outcomes do not depend on income. We do not want them to depend on the accident of location either. Defending the basic principles of the Canada Health Act is vital to maintaining the equality of our citizenship.

The federal government is charged with maintaining a national economic space. Do we truly possess one if Quebec workers are barred from working in Ontario and vice versa? If professional credentials recognized in one province are turned down in another? If students from one jurisdiction have to pay more to study in another province? If there is not one national securities market but 10, with separate regulators for each?

We cannot promote equality of opportunity without a national strategy to improve our productivity and our capacity for innovation.

Such a strategy doesn't mean more government intervention. Indeed it may mean less: cutting through red tape that hampers exporters; breaking down inter provincial barriers to the free movement of labour and capital; cutting back on the cozy rules that protect our banks insurance and telecommunications companies from needed foreign competition.

A national productivity strategy implies a productive government: one that uses tax dollars frugally, that eliminates waste, that cuts taxes whenever it can be done without endangering common services.

Besides making government itself more productive, a national productivity strategy has to invest in infrastructure - to build the national gateways in Halifax and Vancouver for global export traffic and the national links to move goods, energy supplies, people and information in between.

A national productivity strategy invests in people. A productive future requires sustained, multigenerational investment by government, corporations and people themselves, in post secondary education, science and technology research.

I have spent a lot of my life in higher education. When I was in the classroom, I always knew I was not just in the business of teaching a subject. I was teaching hope and self-belief, the key engines of productivity.

A national productivity strategy is an opportunity strategy. We cannot be productive unless all Canadians participate.

Our society lives by the promise of opportunity equally distributed to all. We know how far short we fall. Aboriginal Canadians, visible minorities new to our country, and the working poor lack opportunity, security and skills. We are wasting our seed corn.

The federal government has long been charged with providing income security for Canadians. We must take steps to enhance the equality of life chances for the working poor. Canadians working 35 hours a week earning minimum wage are making less than $15,000 a year. These hard working Canadians are now under-represented in our income security regime. We need to make certain that our system provides the incentives for them to remain or return to the labour market, work hard, while removing the fear and insecurity that blights their potential.

Let us commit ourselves to a Canada where no one goes hungry at night, where no one is denied a world class education because of their race or ancestry; where we bet the future of our country on the proposition that if we can unlock the hidden talent of every citizen, we will always pay our way in the world.

We cannot afford to waste the productive talents of new immigrants. If we fail to recognize credentials, if we fail to invest in language training and re-settlement assistance, we risk creating new citizens who feel betrayed by their Canadian home.

We need to recast our immigration policies as a crucial element of a national productivity strategy. The federal government should increase its investment in programs that re-train immigrants, that top up their credentials, that apprentice them in Canadian companies so that they can gain Canadian experience. If they can't get recognition of their credentials in one province, the federal government should assist them to move to provinces that will recognize their skills.

In a globalized economy being open to new experience is the key to success, being provincial a sure way to be left behind. If you ask a representative group of young Canadians how many of them have actually lived outside their own province, studied in another jurisdiction or worked outside of their region, you would be dismayed by how few have done so. We cannot be a country unless we know each other, unless we have lived with each other, unless a Canadian from Chicoutimi has been to Banff, and a citizen of Whitehorse has had the opportunity to study in Halifax.
Innovative federal policy has helped to deepen our national experience. The Canada Council, the CBC, the research councils in the social sciences and humanities have all helped to deepen and extend the networks of knowledge and connection that tie us together as Canadians.

An essential deepening of our common experience has been the promotion of bilingualism: increasing the numbers of English speaking children who grew up in French immersion, as well as the number of francophones who learn English in order to advance in the global economy.

But the federal government can do more to promote a national experience: by offering bursaries, internships and tax credits to help young Canadians to study and work in other provinces and to serve overseas in humanitarian and development work.

To build a country, we must create citizens, and to create citizens, we must create shared national experience. We need to make it easier for Canadians to get about their country and begin to feel a love for it in their bones.

My Canada is held together by a spine of citizenship, common rights, responsibilities and common knowledge so that we truly feel we are one people. This is not just an important priority of political leadership at the federal level. It is, in my view, the only priority.

This is a different view of Canada from the one offered by Stephen Harper. He stands for a decentralized, re-provincialized Canada, with growing differentials between the regions and provinces, with growing differences between rich and poor regions and rich and poor individuals. It is a sauve qui peut Canada. His is also an idea of politics which sees government as the problem, when it is often the solution. When Canadians are presented with the choice between the slow provincialization of our country and a Liberal vision that seeks to use government to sustain the equality of our citizenship, I know how they will chose.

I believe in Canadians. I believe in you. As I said at the beginning, we are a serious people.