This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Genie Escaped

"To be honest my understanding of the Middle East is a lot deeper today than it was when I was prime minister, quite frankly."
"For sure we underestimated profoundly the forces that were at work in the region and would take advantage of change once you topple the regime. That is the lesson. The lesson is not complicated. The lesson is simple. It is that when you remove a dictatorship out come these forces of destabilization whether it is al-Qaeda on the Sunni side or Iran on the Shia side."
"I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I also apologize for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime."
"Airstrikes are not going to defeat [ISIL]. It does not mean it has to be our forces all the time -- it could be that our forces are in support. But be in no doubt, if you want to defeat these people you are going to have to wage a proper ground war against them. The only question for us is whether we are prepared to."
Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain : UN Middle East Envoy
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepares to address a forum on Britain in the World in London.
(Stefan Rousseau / PA via AP) Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepares to address a forum on Britain in the World in London.

History will always be re-written by those who find real events discouraging in retrospect. And so, the mantra that incorrect information had been received and relied upon on which to base the decision to invade Iraq was responsible for the invasion and for its long and far-reaching consequences is rather another in a long list of outright lies. Most people who were interested in the suspenseful period when President G.W. Bush was agitating for agreement internationally on a coalition led by the United States to invade Iraq and free it from its dictator recall the televised presentations by Colin Powell.

Colin Powell, the popular general who became part of the Republican administration because he was admired and trusted and even thought of as one time to be a potential future presidential candidate, was used and abused by the White House, as then-Secretary-of-State. He was their credible explainer of the situation, speaking of the Saddam administration carefully taking steps to keep its nuclear weapons from view, using special vehicles to take them from one part of the country to another so their presence would remain undetected.

But trust him, the man whom the White House manipulated; the weapons of mass destruction were there and they were threats to humanity and to the international community. There was a credible element there. It was fairly well known that Saddam Hussein was fascinated by weapons of attack, and contracted with inventors to create military field pieces capable of destroying at long distances, but most of this was nonsense, just as his attainment of nuclear weapons were, as justification of invasion.

It seems that G.W. Bush was critical of his father's decision as president during an earlier invasion to oust Iraq from Kuwait not to advance the international troops led by the United States and sanctioned by the United Nations right to the capital of Baghdad, at that time to take out Saddam Hussein; the elder Bush in his wisdom made the decision to leave Iraq intact under its Baathist tyrant. Perhaps he had a more well-rounded understanding of the violence-and-sectarian-prone demographics of the tribal Middle East than his son.

Perhaps his son was simply more arrogant in his ignorance and determined to do his father one better. Whereas France chose to stand down on this occasion, Great Britain became a champion of George W. Bush's vision as liberator of Iraq, only too happy to accept the premise that an invasion was inevitable because of the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of an Iraqi butcher. The irony is that the country that Iraq engaged in a brutal killing war for years is now on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons and now that Sunnis no longer sit in Baghdad's power seat, Iraq and Iran are best friends.

But it is precisely because the minority Iraqi Sunnis, in Saddam's absence, no longer control Baghdad, that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, growing out of that disempowered Sunni demographic, threatening the entire Middle East and beyond with its medieval brand of butchery now poses an international threat. When the Iraqi Shiite majority felt entitled to turning the tables on the once-powerful Sunnis, the stage was set for a sectarian revenge that would have the repercussions that has bifurcated both Iraq and its neighbour Syria.

On the one hand there is the government, no longer in full authority of the entire geography that once made up a country, and on the other there are the divisions created by rebels, Islamist jihadis and the Kurds who represent the only significantly capable and effective fighting force capable of defending the country and its disparate minority ethnic and religious parts from the atrocities of Islamic State. To admit to a 'misunderstanding' leading to a decision with such far-reaching consequences is the very least of a mea culpa pointing out the malfeasance of ignorance paired with power.

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Tribute To An Exemplary Man

"Certain things didn't happen in the best way but that doesn't take anything away from the immense privilege and opportunity of a lifetime, serving one of the best prime ministers our country has ever had."
"I consider him a father figure and always will."
Dimitri Soudas, former Conservative party executive director, and Prime Ministerial director of communications

"He reminded me of Pierre Trudeau. You could see his intellect working. He was very at home on policy -- very sure-footed."
"It was an impressive performance and he [had] the potential to be influential as a world leader."
Allan Gotlieb, former Canadian ambassador in Washington

"His decade in power changed this country in immeasurable ways and you know whether you agreed or disagreed with his politics, Mr. Harper is a man of enormous integrity who has dedicated his entire life to public service and continues to do so."
"I wish him the very best of luck."
"I understand he's thinking of offers in the private sector which will be a switch for someone who's dedicated his whole life to public service. But really, he's had an enormous impact and we're very proud as Calgarians that we had a prime minister for a decade who hailed from this city."
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi
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CBC News : Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, and (right) former Prime Minister Stephen Harper

"I wouldn't be surprised to see him try and carry on that work [influence on foreign relations] if there are donors who want to fund him to do that [set up his own foundation on international issues]."
"He had survived for almost ten years [as prime minister] which made him kind of an elder statesmen, so I think he was quite respected in those forums."
Tom Flanagan, formerly Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff
As Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper was viewed by many as stiff and unbending, a man who kept his emotions intact and to himself. That he was also a man of stern principles and great integrity was simply a recognition of the mettle of the man who expected much from himself as leader of the country and who delivered to the citizens of Canada his considered and appropriate responses to situations calling for them. Doubt greeted his initial minority government, to be swiftly replaced with trust and reliance on his judgement.

Certainly not from all quarters, but of a certainty from people who shared his thoughts and aspirations for the country and its people. It could not have been but a humbling experience for this man to suffer defeat in the October 19 election that brought Justin Trudeau to office as Canada's prime minister. For many, the disappointment of seeing Mr. Harper replaced by an amateur politician who had never before entering politics prepared himself in any way to assume that office, was a profound misery.

An intellectual, a man schooled in academic economics and with the experience of positions of significance behind him, replaced by a dilettante, a man with experience in snowboarding, bar-bouncing and drama classes, whose name-recognition offered him the entree to speaking engagements where his smiling presence seemed compensation to those who attended for his lack of knowledge and gravitas. Where Trudeau is egotistical and entitled, Mr. Harper has been unassumingly humble.

It cannot have been an easy decision to remain in the House of Commons, to stay on in his elected position as a Member of Parliament, from his former status as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Prime Minister of Canada, but Mr. Harper quietly took his seat and diligently took part in all Parliamentary votes. He has chosen now, to leave after the Parliamentary summer break, before Parliament resumes in the fall.

His was a steady hand at the helm of the ship of state. And those who supported him and worked alongside him speak now of paying homage to his decade as prime minister. "People who care about his legacy are rolling up their sleeves", said one of those in talks relating to sponsoring a think-tank in his name to focus on foreign policy directions for Canada.

Of a certainty history and the perspective of time will be kinder to his memory than the electorate that voted to retire this man who will be recognized as one of the finest Canada ever had as prime minister.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Stealth Infiltration : Incurious Acceptance

"In November 2014, while testifying before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, I raised the issue of Islamic clerics using mosque sermons to attack the foundational principles of Western civilization and liberal secular democracy."
"Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell was outraged by my testimony that at most Canadian mosques, the Friday congregation includes a ritual prayer asking, 'Allah to give victory to Muslims over the 'Kufaar' (non-Muslims).' In a heated exchange with me, the senator suggested I wasn't telling the truth, implying I was motivated by Islamophobia. Sadly, Sen. Mitchell is not alone in such views."
Tarek Fatah, Toronto writer, broadcaster, Muslim of reasonable faith

We refuse to believe what is before our very eyes. A succession of Muslim Canadians from Alberta travelled infamously to the Middle East to take up the scimitar to avenge Muslims whom they have been taught to believe have been victimized and slaughtered by armies of the West in a concerted effort to destroy Islam. Although the Internet is an undeniable source of inspiration for restive Muslim youth looking to identify with their 'cause' as defenders of the faith, there are ample real-time, real-life venues that provide more direct and personal connections to jihad, recruiting those same young Muslims.

In mosques and social centers, at conferences and in universities, agents of Islamist jihad have been busy persuasively convincing young men of their duty as Muslims to martyrdom and  jihad and they find an all-too-willing audience, all too often. Muslims listening to these lectures but who have no will to be recruited to violent jihad still have the mindset that it is a sacred duty that the young and the willing should fulfill. People like Tarek Fatah who dedicate their every moment in attempts to interdict and counter the anti-Western attitudes find themselves frustrated, their actions deplored.

Western attitudes toward foreign-sourced religious and ideological and political and social freedoms are relaxed and welcoming, seeing no threat posed by radicals other than when an unfortunate incident takes place and blood is shed and everyone rushes to declare their understanding that these are isolated incidents perpetrated by psychopaths. The general Muslim population declares itself shocked and complains of being lumped into the same barrel of suspicion as the rotten apples among them. Yet rotten or compliant, moderate or not, the inspirational source of jihad is Islam and the Koran.

Until a mass movement determining to expunge from the Koran and from Islam the passages that are so venerated and viewed as so critical to Islam that lead to suspicion and hatred and violence takes place to bring Islam to a place of respect for others and for others' religions and values, the claims of Muslims that those perpetrating hideous acts of barbarity and declaring themselves enemies of Western values are not true Muslims, ring false.

A speaker addresses the Hizb-ut-Tahrir conference in Mississauga, Ontario, on May 21

Among other instances of Islamist fundamentalism that Tarek Fatah writes of, is the recent conference by the Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, (an Islamist group outlawed in some countries) to discuss the re-establishment of a global Islamic caliphate. According to a Pakistani-Canadian writer with whom Mr. Fatah spoke afterward, people at the event, listening to the speakers gave them full credit for their views:
"The first speaker reminded Muslims that they are obligated to implement Allah's orders that fulfill the Islamic State. It is "not permissible for us to choose' he said, citing the Quran. However, he said it was necessary to win the public's hearts and minds; and to partner with people of power, citing examples from the life of the Prophet."
"At the end, a three-minute video was presented to demonstrate the collective oil and natural gas production capabilities of the Muslim world, the human capital needed to mine and process these resources ... the military power required to protect them and the types of weapons needed to make such a military effective."
And, as Mr. Fatah pointed out in his article published in the Middle East Forum, the current Liberal government of Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a man with no experience of the world, but who greatly values smiley-faces and selfies, has seen fit to authorize a $200,000 grant for a mosque in southern Ontario linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (another outlawed Islamist group), as part of the government's debt-ridden infrastructure development program.

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Looking for Justice in Rue Copernic Synagogue Bombing

The long-running case of Lebanese-born Palestinian Hassan Diab is back again in the news. This is a man identified by German intelligence agents to the French justice authorities as having been the key person responsible for the death of four French citizens and over 40 people who were emerging from a synagogue on rue Copernic in October of 1980 by setting off explosives packed onto a motorcycle. Mr. Diab was identified by German intelligence through their sources as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an militant arm of the militant Palestine Liberation Organization.

The PLO, of which the former Yasser Arafat was a founding member and its longtime chairman, was set up to 'liberate' Palestine. To do so it was determined to destroy the State of Israel, since the PLO and its members accused Israel of looting the historical lands of Israel from what they claim to be its legitimate owners, Palestinian Arabs. In previous incarnations, Palestinians were always considered to be Jews, and for good reason, since the Jewish presence in that portion of the Middle East was unbroken, despite the diaspora when Jews were forced in antiquity to flee their native geography.

Hassan Diab stands accused by French justice officials of murder and attempted murder. He claims he is entirely innocent; a man of peace who harbours no prejudice against anyone, and that this is a clear instance of mistaken identity. A French police drawing derived from questioning witnesses who dealt with Mr. Diab in Paris was instantly recognized by an old friend, a Mr. El Khalil who verified to French police that both he and Mr. Diab were members of the PFLP.

Although Mr. Diab denies even having been in Paris at the time of the bombing, evidence to the contrary exists in a purportedly 'lost' passport in the possession of another man, which was clearly stamped with an entry at the right date, to France. Mr. Diab later claimed to have lost his original passport and requested a replacement. There appears to be evidence that French authorities believe identify him as the bomber.
  • - Mr. Diab resembles police sketches of the bomber;
  • - His handwriting matches that of the bomber;
  • - He is identified by intelligence sources and former friends as having been a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine;
  • - His passport was used to get into France around the time of the 1980 bombing, in suspicious circumstances.

All of which he denies, as does his lawyers and his supporters. France requested his extradition from Canada and after much circumlocution in the form of judicial enquiries, it was eventually agreed by Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger that Mr. Diab be extradited, though he remained unconvinced with the evidential quality brought before him and contested. The then-justice minister verified his extradition and he was finally removed to France (he had been arrested initially in 2008 by the RCMP).

The latest brouhaha was Mr. Diab's release on bail a week ago by a magistrate's order, which three French justices later overturned, ordering him to return to custody. He had previously exhausted all legal avenues in Canada to delay his extradition to France to stand trial on the charges brought against him. At the very last he hoped that the Supreme Court of Canada would intervene, but they had refused to hear the case.

It is now up to a French court to assemble all its evidence and a trial to take place establishing either his guilt or his innocence. It is doubtful that both German and French intelligence could be so errant in prosecuting their search for responsibility in a terrorist atrocity that they have erred badly enough to hound an innocent man. If that is the case, however, then surely a trial will result in bringing the truth to light.

Until that trial takes place and the matter of guilt or innocence is finally established, a man who purportedly engaged in terrorist acts (there is an additional accusation that another attack had taken place in Antwerp on another synagogue) must await justice. Roger Cukierman, president of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF and a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, speaks of the need to find the perpetrator of those attacks and bring him to justice.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Mother's Anguish

"No, no, not Shafee!"
"That boy now is not my son. That is not the son I raised."
"My kids were perfect. What suddenly happened?"
Maha Elgizouli, Sudanese immigrant, Britain
Maha Elgizouli with her two sons, Mahmoud Elsheikh (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh
Maha Elgizouli with her two sons, Mahmoud Elsheikh (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh  Credit: Buzzfeed News 
"We thought this [his radicalism] was just a phase … the flavour of the month. For me, understanding the images portrayed on websites and even in the news bulletins, deaths mounted by the western powers bombarding people … this ignited the sense of anger, of a drive to right things in their own way."
"But understanding as well that this second generation [of immigrants] suffer from an identity crisis. They’re no longer fully educated in their own background and heritage and culture and they are not fully accepted in the new society. Coming from a Muslim family, they are asked: ‘What do you know about your religion?’ So maybe this is the drive deep into understanding this part of their identity."
"Unfortunately the lenient way of our government here in tackling the radicalisation machinery in the mosques was complacent … So they go there [to the mosques] and they listen to a version of Islam which is synonymous to Isis and al-Qaida and all these radical terrorists. So they have the propensity to [believe] this erroneous version of Islam.
"We tried to handle this in a mild, considerate way, but before we could do anything he [his son] just left."
Rashid Sidahmed ElSheikh, translator, London 
El Shafee Elsheikh
El Shafee Elsheikh. Photograph: Facebook

Western recruits to Islamist jihad appear to be among the most brutal of the psychopaths attracted to the ideology of violent jihad reflecting the zeal of the 7th Century progenitors of a religion that had so recently been introduced to the Bedouin world of the Middle East. In a landscape of tribal suspicions and incessant territorial wars, this was a religion tailor-made by an Arab who saw an opportunity to unite disparate tribes under a flag of a zealot-like god demanding total obedience.
Clockwise from top left: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines,, Alan Henning, Peter Kassig, Kenji Goto ... Victims of Mohammed Emwazi , known as "Jihadi John."

That surrender to the demands of an powerful spirit promising to lead a war-obsessed population to widespread conquest motivated followers to ally themselves with a superior winning philosophy, fealty to a religion that would represent all things to all people, a religion that demanded constant obeisance through five-time-daily reminders in calls to prayer to the divine interlocutor, and a faith requiring never-ending conquest through the scimitar and the Shahada.

To state the obvious in complete surrender with the pledge of acknowledgement that "There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger", pledges the speaker to a lifelong devotion of Islam that will henceforth inform every minute of every day in a social, political, religious guidance that eschews individuality and human rights other than the obligation to venerate Allah and pay everlasting respects to his prophet.

That call, the purity of an Islamist functionality encompassing all that matters to the faithful, has a powerful appeal to the human spirit of tribal allegiance. The social community of the West simply is not invested with the same degree of sacrifice to an overpowering and to many, meaningful connection. The depth of the appeal does owe something to the promises meted out to Muslim men who see great appeal in the culture of patriarchy and misogyny.

And one of the assurances given recruits to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is that of the availability of women content to establish themselves as household slaves, and the opportunity to acquire as many wives as a single man can accommodate. El Shafee Elsheikh whose family arrived in Britain as Sudanese refugees has only two wives, but he is young at 27, and the opportunity exists for him to acquire more.

He is thought of as being among a handful of British-born recruits who had volunteered their services as ISIL 'jailers' whose task it was to torture and terrorize and on certain occasions, stage beheading videos for wide dissemination as a recruiting tool, one that attracted the attention of would-be jihadis, and caused Western sensibilities to recoil in horror at the atrocious waste of  human life, but which the British-accented killers revelled in.

According to former hostages who managed to live and escape, the 'Londoners' also referred to as 'Beatles', repeatedly beat, water-boarded and staged mock executions in their zeal to adequately terrorize prisoners. The most notorious of these was "Jihadi John", later identified as Mohammed Emwazi who had beheaded American, Japanese and British hostages, and was himself killed in an American drone strike.

As cruel as Emwazi had been, using a dull knife to saw off the head of one of the hostages, El Shafee Elsheikh, nicknamed Ringo, was thought to represent the most vicious of the four, and the leader of the group. A former U.S. counterterrorism official identified him. According to his family and friends some of whom he remains in contact with, he is alive and lives in Syria with two wives and a number of children.

His shocked mother, Maha Elgizouli, describes her son as a "regular Londoner", who championed the Queens Park Rangers soccer team and who worked diligently as a mechanic. He had married an Ethiopian woman who was living in Canada when he was 21, she said. When she was unable to move to London to live with him he became frustrated, and left for Syria where he married a Syrian woman and later welcomed his Ethiopian wife when she arrived in Syria.

It seems obvious that Islamic State in Syria fulfills his needs and as such has his loyalty. He can procreate at leisure while enjoying the opportunity commit ferocious atrocities and to kill at random. What more could any enterprising young man with an enthusiastic penchant for torture and slaughter whose pursuit entitles him to Paradise on Earth and in Heaven possibly wish for?

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