By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - 36 Comments
Three weeks ago, our vice-president for Sun News, Kory Teneycke, was contacted by the former deputy chief of staff to Prime Minister Harper, Patrick Muttart. He claimed to be in possession of a report prepared by a “U.S. source”, outlining the activities and whereabouts of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff in the weeks and months leading to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The report suggested that rather than being an observer from the sidelines, as he wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece after he entered Canadian politics, Ignatieff was in fact on the front lines and on the ground at a forward operating base in Kuwait, assisting U.S. State Department and American military officials in their strategy sessions. Muttart also provided a compelling electronic image of a man very closely resembling Michael Ignatieff in American military fatigues, brandishing a rifle in a picture purported to have been taken in Kuwait in December 2002.
What Mr. Muttart provided was apparently enough for the Sun papers to run a story that claimed Mr. Ignatieff was “was on the front lines of pre-invasion planning when he worked in the U.S.” Still, Mr. Peladeau believes this was part of an effort to discredit both Mr. Ignatieff and Sun media and that this episode should debunk any notion that the Sun is a tool of the Conservative party of Canada.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
For four years the people of Wootton Bassett, a town deep in the English…
For four years the people of Wootton Bassett, a town deep in the English countryside, have played a solemn role in Britain’s war life. Every time a serviceman is killed in Afghanistan or Iraq, his or her body is returned to the nearby base of RAF Lyneham and then driven slowly through the heart of the Wiltshire town. There, hundreds and often thousands of residents have stood silently as the cortège passes by on its way to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. (Before 2007, the repatriations occurred at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, and the route to the hospital skipped all the local towns.)
The tradition so touched Britain that last week Queen Elizabeth II did something no monarch had done in more than a century: she gave permission for the ancient town to add “Royal” to its name. It is a bittersweet recognition. In September, RAF Lyneham will shut down, and the repatriations will return to Brize Norton. It is now up to Oxfordshire to plan a route that continues the tradition that Royal Wootton Bassett started.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 9:25 AM - 4 Comments
The West plunges into another brutal Mideast conflict. How long will we have to stay this time?
A coalition of mostly Western nations, including Canada, has entered a war with loosely defined objectives and an uncertain end.
Following much-delayed approval from the United Nations Security Council for a no-ﬂy zone and the use of “all necessary measures” short of occupation to protect civilians, France, Britain and the United States launched a barrage of air and cruise missile strikes against Libyan air defences, armour and command centres last weekend. Canadian CF-18 fighters flew their first sorties over Libya Monday. Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s expansive Bab al-Aziziya complex in Tripoli was attacked Sunday night—suggesting, despite conflicting statements from nations fighting in Libya, that Gadhafi himself is a target.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs Monday that the Security Council resolution “does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gadhafi’s removal from power by military means.” Britain’s chief of defence staff, Gen. David Richards, said targeting Gadhafi was “not allowed under the UN resolution.” But Defence Secretary Liam Fox said striking at the Libyan leader was “potentially a possibility.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, who for weeks appeared reluctant to involve American forces in the Libyan war, said the mission’s goals centred on protecting civilians rather than regime change. Asked if these goals might be achieved with Gadhafi still in power, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said, “That’s certainly potentially one outcome.” Speaking in Chile Monday, Obama said Gadhafi “needs to go,” but suggested this might be accomplished using “a wide range of tools” besides military action.
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 7, 2011 at 12:09 PM - 1 Comment
Parties organized recent demonstrations in Baghdad
Two Iraqi political parties that led demonstrations over the past two weeks have been ordered to close their offices, reports the New York Times. On Sunday, dozens of armed security forces controlled by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki entered the offices of the Iraqi Nation Party and the Iraqi Communist Party and gave notice of their eviction. While the parties do not hold seats in Parliament, they are outspoken critics of Mr. Maliki’s government. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of demonstrators have rallied in Baghdad for government reforms and better services. Mr. Maliki’s cabinet responded that they were following through with a plan to return publicly owned buildings to government use, and that there was no political motive behind the evictions.
By John Parisella - Monday, March 7, 2011 at 9:12 AM - 4 Comments
The coming March 20 will mark the 8th year anniversary of the second Iraq…
The coming March 20 will mark the 8th year anniversary of the second Iraq war. While combat operations have been scaled back, the presence of American troops on Iraqi soil is not about to end soon. Listening to the cable news pundits debate how Obama should respond to Tunisia and Egypt—and lately Libya—you would think very little has been learned either there or in Afgghanistan.
The events in Libya are more complicated because of the violent repression, but they show the administration has resisted a march to war. Compare the comments of current Defense Secretary Robert Gates to those of Donald Rumsfeld in the buildup to the war in Iraq, and you will see the U.S. will now exhaust all the diplomatic efforts before ever engaging militarily. And well it should.
By Paul Wells - Friday, March 4, 2011 at 2:34 PM - 78 Comments
“Canada remains alienated from its allies, shut out of the reconstruction process to some degree, unable to influence events. There is no upside to the position Canada took.”
— Stephen Harper, August 2003
He was talking about Iraq, in the pages of this magazine, but I couldn’t help remembering that quote as I did a little research today on international reaction to the events in Egypt. That country’s capital, Cairo, has become a bit of a hot spot for high-profile international visitors lately. Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, has been to Cairo and other capitals in the region. So has Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd, U.S. senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Turkish president Abdullah Gul, the German ministers of (roughly) foreign affairs, trade and development, the EU‘s foreign-policy representative and Norway‘s foreign minister. France’s foreign minister Alain Juppé is to arrive in Cairo on Sunday.
I suppose it’s possible to write the lot off as rubber-neckers and grandstanders. I suppose also that each of them will go home with dozens of new contacts in a country that has a shot at a democratic transformation.
In the end, as Stephen Harper once said, Canada can’t stay isolated forever. “The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade.” Again, he was talking about Iraq, but I suspect it applies here too.
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 25, 2011 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
Baghdad locked down after ‘day of rage’
Iraq is the latest Middle Eastern country to see popular uprisings, after thousands took to Baghdad’s streets in a “day of rage”, similar to the recent protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Jordan. Other protests took place in Mosul, Hawja, Falluja and Kirkuk. At least five people have been reported killed, as the Iraqi military locked down the city and set up roadblocks. In Baghdad’s own Tahrir Square, hundreds of protests gathered to call for reform (not regime change), while soldiers took up positions around them. Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki urged civilians not to join the protesters, accusing them of being al Qaeda supporters and Saddam Hussein loyalists. The protesters say they are simply calling for political reform and better government services. “We don’t want to change the government, because we elected them,” a 24-year-old student told Agence France-Presse, “but we want them to get to work.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 6 Comments
Bush’s former secretary of defence is still swinging
Donald Rumsfeld is still at war. In his new memoir, Known and Unknown, George W. Bush’s former defence secretary takes aim at fellow Republicans. And one is blasting him back. Rumsfeld writes that Republican Sen. John McCain, who criticized him for sending too few troops to Iraq, had a “hair-trigger temper and a propensity to fashion and shift his positions to appeal to the media.” McCain, who had argued for a “surge” in the number of troops, went on Good Morning America this week to respond: “I respect secretary Rumsfeld. He and I had a very, very strong difference of opinion about the strategy that he was employing in Iraq, which I predicted was doomed to failure.” And, he added, “Thank God he was relieved of his duties and we put the surge in; otherwise we would have had a disastrous defeat in Iraq.”
Others may be weighing in as well. Rumsfeld also takes on the image of Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state, as a voice of dissent in the Bush cabinet. “The media image of Powell battling the forces of unilateralism and conservatism may have been beneficial to Powell in some circles, but it did not jibe with reality. The reality was that Powell tended not to speak out at National Security Council or principals meetings in strong opposition to the views of the president or of his colleagues.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, January 21, 2011 at 4:03 PM - 10 Comments
Former British PM warns of challenge from Iran
Tony Blair appeared on Friday for the last time in front of the Chilcot inquiry, which is investigating the lead-up to the Iraq war. The former British PM said he “regrets deeply and profoundly the loss of life” during the Iraq war, clarifying previous comments he made during his previous testimony in which he expressed no regrets in taking the decision to go to war. His statement was met with cries of “too late” from the public gallery. Blair’s testimony revealed that he had told George W. Bush that he could “count on us,” and admitted disregarding Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s warning, which the former Prime Minister called “provisional,” that invading Iraq without the backing of the UN would be illegal. Blair also took the opportunity to warn about the destabilizing threat presented by Iran, saying the West has a “wretched policy, or posture, of apology for believing that we are causing what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing. The fact is we are not.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 7, 2011 at 5:32 PM - 188 Comments
The Environment Minister observed yesterday (around the 12-minute mark of that interview) that Canada is a supplier of ethical oil—a phrase recently employed by Ezra Levant—because the revenues derived from that oil are not used to “fund terrorism or the destabilization of other governments.” This may or may not beg questions about the origins of our own oil imports.
The latest release of Statistics Canada’s Energy Statistics Handbook lists our sources of crude oil and equivalents going back to 1989. Our noted individual sources in 2010 (through September) were, in order: Algeria, the United Kingdom, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia and the United States.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 4:37 PM - 7 Comments
Radical anti-U.S. Cleric returns from exile
Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose militia displayed the toughest resistance against the American military, returned to Iraq on Wednesday following a three-year exile to cries of “long live the leader!” Sadr’s militant movement fractured following his self-imposed exile to the holy city of Qum in Iran in 2007, when his militia was defeated and divided. But in the 2009 local elections, they made an impressive comeback and proved to be shrewd political negotiators. Sadr is said to be the only viable opponent to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His arrival in Iraq was eerily reminiscent of Ayatollah Khomeini’s triumphant return to Tehran following Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Whether he stays in Iraq long enough to become the leader his followers are hoping for is uncertain. At the very least, Sadr’s return to Iraq is an event that will certainly complicate Iraqi democracy, its stability already fragile in its infancy.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 10:05 AM - 1 Comment
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appointed to a second term
Iraq’s parliament has appointed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to a second term in office, ending a deadlock that paralyzed the country for nine months. Back in March, ballot-box results showed the coalition led by al-Maliki, a Shia, trailing the Sunni-backed bloc of Ayad Allawi , a former interim leader, by a handful of votes. The new government led by al-Maliki includes all the major factions in Iraq’s political landscape, but the arrangement already shows signs that the political infighting isn’t over. Members of parliament, in fact, could not agree on candidates for the ministries of interior, defence and national security, which analysts say are key to promoting sectarian agendas within the country.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 4:40 PM - 0 Comments
Leaked military documents reignite the debate over hiring private security firms in Iraq, and Afghanistan
On May 2, 2006, a convoy led by Blackwater private security contractors drove over a roadside bomb in Baghdad. An Iraqi ambulance arrived at the scene and its driver was killed by “uncontrolled small arms fire.” A U.S. Army military intelligence unit interviewed witnesses and reported in a classified document that local Iraqis “are saying that the ambulance driver was shot by Blackwater.” But when the investigating soldiers contacted the tactical operations centre of Blackwater (now renamed Xe Services), “to try to confirm details of the incident,” the centre staff “would not confirm or deny at this time.”
This anecdote from the chaos of the Iraq war was contained in the more than 300,000 classified military documents released by the group WikiLeaks last week. Spanning six years of the conflict, they provided fresh evidence that security contractors killed Iraqi civilians, inflamed tensions with local people, and escaped accountability. In another case, the convoy of an American private security company named Custer Battles shot up civilian vehicles on an Iraqi road and then handed out cash to keep the locals quiet. A few days later, a different convoy of the same company fired on U.S. military police. In yet another incident, at a dangerous Iraqi checkpoint, a firefight unfolded when members of three separate security firms—two American and one British—shot at each other. While the documents posted on Wikileaks.org are heavily redacted and do not include contractors’ names, un-redacted versions provided to the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel and several other news organizations confirmed those previously reported incidents of civilian killings, and brought new ones to light.
By Andrew Potter - Monday, October 18, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
What life is like inside Afghan detention facilities
If there is one thing the hysteria over the “detainees” scandal that preoccupied Parliament for most of last winter points to, it is a widespread resolve amongst Canadians to distance ourselves as far as possible from the abuses of executive authority that stained the American record in Iraq and Afghanistan. The names of prisons like Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram will remain synonyms for the moral collapse of the leadership of the West.
We tend to forget, though, that Canadian officials are themselves just as keen to be seen upholding the Geneva Convention and the basic principles of due process. That is pretty much why I found myself in southern Afghanistan last week, part of a journalistic foursome touring the buffed-up detainee centre at Kandahar Airfield, and, a day later, the infamous Sarposa prison in Kandahar City itself.
By Michael McCullough - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Why do 40 per cent of big Canadian firms not do any business outside our borders?
Trent Sukovieff is savouring the comforts of his hometown of Calgary after spending the past four months in Iraq. “It’s like Christmas, New Year’s and everything all rolled into one,” he says of his visit. These days, home for Sukovieff and his fiancée is Dubai, where he heads up the Middle East headquarters for Waterworks Technologies, the company his father Len founded.
Building a water-treatment plant in Iraq is a tricky business, requiring patience and sensitivity to the local culture, Sukovieff says. Procuring a nut or bolt of a certain size, available at any hardware store in Canada, might take a week in the war-torn country. If you need something done right away, you can’t just call head office; they’re all asleep, so the support of a full-service office in nearby Dubai is a necessity.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 4 Comments
Obama has reached out to hostile nations and criticized Israel. Is his soft diplomacy really working?
Barack Obama’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and during his first days in office revolved around the promise of change, notably when it came to how America would relate to the Muslim nations of the Middle East. “We seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” he said in his inauguration speech.
“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:01 AM - 26 Comments
Britain’s new foreign secretary says the coalition government will move forward with a judicial inquiry into his country’s alleged complicity in torture.
“So far ministers have stuck to the mantra that ‘we never condone, authorise or co-operate in torture’,” Hague wrote. “But this does not dispel any of the accusations. If anything, there is now a direct and irreconcilable conflict between such ministerial assurances and the account given by Mr Mohamed. That must be resolved.”
He added: “We cannot sweep these allegations under the carpet. Until the full facts are known, Britain’s name and reputation will be dragged through the mud – not least by the terrorists and extremists who will exploit these allegations for their own propaganda.’
“It is vital to remember that torture does not help us defeat terrorists; it helps them to try to justify their hostility to us.”
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
Many in Iran fled for Iraq after the 2009 election and crackdown
Iran’s northwestern border with Iraq is mountainous and sparsely populated. It has long been traversed by smugglers. Much of the illegal alcohol Iranians drink is carried over the mountains here. The region is also a popular escape route for political dissidents fleeing the country. Ahmad Batebi, whose face became iconic when the Economist magazine ran a cover photo of him holding up the blood-spattered shirt of a fellow protester, slipped across the border while on temporary leave from prison in 2008. Popular blogger Alireza Rezaei fled by the same route earlier this year. But dissidents who make it into Iraqi Kurdistan are not free from threats by the Iranian government. Iran has a consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, and Iranian dissidents say Iranian security agents are active there.
“I have been threatened so many times that I’ve lost track,” Hoomam Sadiyeh, an activist from the mainly Kurdish city of Mahabad in northwest Iran, told Maclean’s. Sadiyeh has been in northern Iraq since 2004. Late last year he received an email from a sender identifying himself as Habib: “Silly boy, you might think we won’t be able to reach you, but we can reach you a lot easier than you might think. Also we know who your fiancée is and when she might be returning. We don’t want to hurt anyone. So stop what you’re doing.”
Another Iranian dissident in Iraq, who asked not to be identified because his family is still in Iran, recently received a threatening email from his former prison interrogator.
Sadiyeh said the flow of Iranian dissidents into Iraq increased after the 2009 presidential election and the crackdown that followed it. He said the pressure to which these activists are subject in Iraq has had an effect. Many have stopped their political activities. Others have fled to Europe, some illegally. Sadiyeh had originally planned to stay in Iraq. Now he, too, has registered with the United Nations as a refugee and hopes to live elsewhere.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 12:50 PM - 3 Comments
Research suggests the devices are useless, and possibly dangerous
In 2008-09, the Iraqi government spent $85 million to purchase 2,000 bomb detectors for use at security roadblocks across the country. Problem is, they don’t work.
The device, produced by ATSC (U.K.) Ltd., is a dowsing-rod-style bomb detector—basically, a piece of gun-shaped plastic with a metal wand sticking out of one end. It requires no batteries—it’s supposedly charged by the user’s body—and claims to detect dangerous materials thanks to a piece of paper that is “electrostatically matched” to the “ionic charge and structure” of ammunition, bombs and other contraband.
If that process of detection sounds ridiculous, it is: explosives experts, the British government and the U.S. Justice Department have all confirmed that the devices are useless. “They are positively dangerous in giving a sense of assurance that is exceedingly ill-founded,” says Sidney Alford, a British explosives engineer. “Lives have almost certainly been lost in consequence.”
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 59 Comments
The grilling the former British PM is getting over invading Iraq suits the enemy just fine
It’s supposed to be Sept. 12—that’s to say, the post-9/11 era. For over seven years the entire Western world was forced to live out a kind of geopolitical Groundhog Day in which Bush, Cheney, Rummy and the rest of the gang woke up each dawn to the same eternal Tuesday morning in September, the same long shadows of the Twin Towers, the same undying certainty of another six decades of hard, cold, martial winter. It wasn’t only the ideologically opposed among the campus left and the Euro-elites: the vast mass of a once supportive citizenry got ground down, too, exhausted by the very lingo of the “war on terror” and anxious to inter it with the Bush presidency. That’s why Barack Obama was cheered from Berkeley to Berlin. He offered liberation. To invert the old line, war may be interested in him, but he wasn’t interested in war. And in those heady days of late 2008 that seemed almost plausible.
Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, as Churchill said, although he might feel differently if he had to sit through an Obama state of the union. But what about law-law? In the United States, the United Kingdom and even Canada, it’s not enough to move on to Sept. 12: the Bush era itself has to be put on trial. In London, something called “the Chilcot inquiry” has been investigating the process by which the country signed on to the Iraq invasion. For weeks, the usual bunch of shifty grandees have killed any potential awkward line of inquiry with the all-purpose brush-off, “You’ll have to ask Mr. Blair about that.” So finally they did, summoning the now reviled prime minister into the witness box to grill him on the “legality” of the Iraq invasion. Outside, protesters denounced “Bliar,” as his name is now universally spelled: “BLIAR LIED! THOUSANDS DIED!” Like a pedophile serial killer, he was smuggled into the building before dawn, lest the mob turn on him: “The People vs. Ex-Generalissimo Bliar”—or, at any rate, as near as his former comrades on the left seem likely to get to hauling him up before a war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
A week in the life of Sandra Bullock
A week in the life of Sandra Bullock
For the first time in her career, the star of umpteen romantic comedy flicks is receiving critical praise for her acting. Bullock’s starring role as a mother of two who takes in a struggling football star in The Blind Side has already garnered her a Golden Globe for Best Actress, and last Saturday she was honoured with another trophy—this time at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. There’s only one major stop left in awards season—the Oscars—and Bullock is considered the front-runner.
GARY COLEMAN, who played Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes, was arrested in Utah on Monday on domestic violence charges
Heartbroken Canadians have rallied behind Haiti in inspiring ways. A multi-network Canada for Haiti telethon raised $40 million, including federal contributions, in just one hour. (In comparison, America’s telethon, Hope for Haiti—which featured some of the biggest stars in film and music—raised US$60 million over the entire broadcast.) Canada is also delivering much more than money to the earthquake-ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince. Along with troops and medical aid, Ottawa is fast-tracking Haitian adoption cases so that homeless foster children can arrive here as soon as possible. Rebuilding Haiti will take many years and many more dollars, but in these early days, Canadians have every reason to be proud.
Stop the head shots
It was a stern punishment—and a justified one. Patrice Cormier, the junior hockey player who landed a vicious elbow to an opponent’s head, has been banned from Quebec’s junior league for the rest of the season. It was a gutsy decision, considering that Cormier is a major star (he captained Team Canada at the recent World Junior Championships) with a bright pro career ahead of him. The NHL must take note. For years, the big league has mused about the need to get tough on head shots—but never acted. As the Cormier case shows, if you want to rid the game of dangerous, inexcusable cheap shots, you need to target the cowardly perpetrators.
Denouncing a tyrant
Are Venezuelans growing tired of Hugo Chávez’s tyrannical rule? Cable companies in the country yanked Radio Caracas Televisión Internacional off the air after it went against new rules requiring networks to carry certain programming, including Chávez’s speeches. In response, thousands of university students took to the streets, protesting the president’s iron grip on the media. An election is scheduled for September, and the winds of change may be picking up steam.
A new chapter?
This week offered two bits of encouraging news for bookworms worried that Amazon’s new Kindle e-reader will make hardcovers and paperbacks a thing of the past. Famed Winnipeg bookseller McNally Robinson has emerged from a short stint in bankruptcy protection (the company filed in December) saying it still believes there is room for growth in the traditional book market. Its main rival, Indigo Books & Music, is already proving that point. The country’s largest book retailer announced a 29 per cent increase in quarterly profits, even though online business fell 2.7 per cent, thanks to surging sales at its bricks-and-mortar stores.
A scary new report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests that young adults are at risk for heart disease. Along with the obvious—that more and more young people are morbidly obese— the report reveals that the number of Canadians between 20 and 34 with high blood pressure has almost doubled over the past decade. Ontario thinks it may have the solution: starting in 2011, it will be illegal to sell junk food or pop in every school. A good start, perhaps. But considering that most schools are down the street from a convenience store, the ban sounds more like lip service than hip service.
Gail Shea, the federal fisheries and oceans minister, got a pie in the face from a PETA protester during a photo op in Toronto. Surprise, surprise. Another tasteless prank from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the same organization that once compared slaughterhouses to Nazi gas chambers—and just honoured Canadian director James Cameron for an “inspiring message” he never meant to convey. Said PETA: “Viewers will recognize how the plight of Avatar’s catlike Na’vi people, who are faced with being driven off their land by a greedy corporation, closely echoes the real-life plight of animals on earth.” Maybe the folks at PETA forgot to wear the special 3-D glasses.
Iraqi extremists are doing their darndest to disrupt the country’s path to democracy. On Monday, three bombs went off outside large hotels in Baghdad, killing 36 people, all while international officials are working frantically to make sure that the country’s March elections actually happen. Meanwhile, the news in Afghanistan is equally discouraging. A new U.S. report expects security problems to increase in 2011, in part because the Taliban is getting better at bomb-making.
Don’t blame veils
A parliamentary report is urging the French government to ban Muslim women from wearing full face veils on public transport, in hospitals, schools and government ofﬁces. The niqab, said Bernard Accoyer, speaker of the National Assembly, is “a symbol of the repression of women and of extremist fundamentalism.” Unfortunately, he is only half right. The niqabs themselves are not the problem. In fact, many Muslims choose to wear the veil—not because they are oppressed and following orders. The real problem is the other half: the women who are forced to cover their faces by radical fathers and husbands. France—and Canada, too—should figure out a way to punish those specific men, not every woman.
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 1:19 PM - 6 Comments
A channel celebrating the former dictator debuted on Nov. 28
Saddam TV is on the air. A mysterious television channel dedicated to celebrating former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein made an unexpected debut across the Arabic world last week. The so-called Saddam Channel, launched by al-Lafeta TV, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, has no actual programming: instead, it presents a flattering montage of still pictures that show Saddam dressed in uniforms, a variety of suits, even straddling a white horse. Accompanying the pictures are recordings of Saddam’s speeches and poetic recitals, and a patriotic song urging viewers to “liberate our country.”
The Saddam channel is shrouded in mystery—nobody knows who is bankrolling it, or from where exactly it is being broadcast. The Associated Press tracked down a man in Damascus named Mohammed Jarboua, who claims to be running the channel, but he balked at divulging too many details due to “threats that the Iraqi government will shut it down [and] kill its employees.” He also denied reports that the channel is being funded by Baathist loyalists, former members of the outlawed Sunni-dominated political party Saddam once led.
Other versions of the station’s origins have also surfaced. The man who headed Saddam’s defence team at the start of his trial in 2004, Jordanian Baathist Ziad Khassawneh, claims it is supported by wealthy Iraqis in Lebanon, Syria, and other parts of the Arabic world, although he declined to mention who they are. The launch of the Saddam Channel on Nov. 28 coincided with the third anniversary of Saddam’s execution, according to the Islamic calendar. Officials in Iraq have labelled the channel “an attempt from the dissolved Baath party to return to Iraq’s politics,” but are undecided about shutting it down.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 1:54 PM - 8 Comments
It’s startling how quickly Iraq has fallen off of our collective radar. There are good reasons for this, I suppose. Notwithstanding carnage such as the bombings suffered by Baghdad this week, the level of violence continues to trend sharply downward. He wont get it, but former president George W. Bush deserves credit for reversing Iraq’s slide into anarchy with his troop surge gamble, which he approved in the face of opposition from just about everyone. President Barack Obama derided the strategy and is now mimicking it – albeit with less resolve – in Afghanistan.
This morning I was reminded of how far Iraq has come, how far it still has to go, and why we can’t yet afford to look away. I met with members of La’Onf, a network of Iraqi civil society groups committed to human rights, democracy, and, above all else, non-violence.
This year, Rights and Democracy, a Canadian institution created by Parliament in 1988 to promote and defend democracy and human rights abroad, awarded La’Onf its ‘John Humphrey Award,’ which comes with at $30,000 grant. Ibrahim Ismael and Saba Al Nadawi were in town to accept it. Continue…
By Julia McKinnell - Monday, December 7, 2009 at 11:46 AM - 4 Comments
Don’t talk about how ‘wasted’ you got when he calls home. And never mail risqué photos.
“My best advice? Never, and I mean never, talk about your marriage with another man,” writes the wife of a U.S. marine who fought in Iraq. “You may need to let off steam but it’s best to go to the other wives, your chaplain or your therapist. Men LOVE to make it better for lonely military wives,” writes Mollie Gross in Confessions of a Military Wife, a new tell-all book that’s packed with advice for other military wives, culled from the author’s experience living at Camp Pendleton in California. “Even if you do not have feelings for that man, he will develop feelings for you.”
In a recent phone interview with Maclean’s, Gross describes military life for wives as stepping back into the 1950s—most women don’t work and are full-time housewives, raising kids. “I did notice a lot of the wives drinking on a daily basis. It shocked me. I encourage women to ask themselves, what can I learn while my husband is away?” She suggests learning to sew or learning French or taking a cooking class. When her own husband, Jon, was deployed, Gross honed her skills as a stand-up comedian, which is her current career in Los Angeles now that he’s back.