Focal Points Blog

WikiLeaks: To Maintain Illusion of Independence From U.S., Canada Downplayed Role in Iraq Invasion

We’re honored to have Michael Busch dissecting the latest WikiLeaks document dump for Focal Points. This is the fifty-fourth in the series.

In the wake of 9/11, Americans were introduced to some of the uglier features of their government at war. On the one hand, we were witness to the petty politics of competing bureaucracies—small-minded battles over information that ultimately led to failures of security and bungled missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other hand, we became subject to the repressive character of secrecy regimes that defend Constitutional violations in the name of preserving the very principles—such as transparency—that bolster a democratic society. But according to new embassy cables published this week by WikiLeaks, the United States isn’t alone. Our neighbors to the north, it seems, have had their own problems with sharing information—amongst themselves and with the public.

During the chaotic period immediately following the American invasion of Iraq, the Canadian government was stuck scratching its chin over what to do with Mamdouh Mustafa, the sole Iraqi diplomat remaining in Ottawa. The Canadians had already kicked a handful of Iraqi diplos out of the country on suspicion of espionage by then, but Mustafa had been allowed to remain, even if kept under close watch.

In a cable dashed off roughly a month after the initial stages of the US invasion, the American embassy in Ottawa reported that the Canadians continued “to monitor closely the activities of…Mustafa, and had no indication that he was destroying Iraqi Government records or property.” The leadership in Ottawa was particularly keen, it would seem, to get inside of the embassy once Mustafa left the country so they could “remove items of an ‘undiplomatic nature’ from the premises of the Iraqi Embassy,” though what those items may have been is left a mystery.

But the bigger problem, beyond confiscating the leftovers of an abandoned embassy, was how to proceed with the diplomat himself. The Baath regime of Saddam Hussein had collapsed two days earlier, and according to the Canadian Foreign Affairs Desk Officer for Iraq, Chris Hull,

Mustafa…has given no indication of his future plans. Hull saw no basis for him to be granted refugee status, but said that if Mustafa makes such a claim he could remain in Canada while his case is being reviewed. The GoC could also decide to declare him persona non grata. The RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] is providing security for the Iraqi Embassy and is escorting Mustafa due to concerns about potential demonstrators.

Despite Canada’s official refusal to aid the American toppling of Saddam (which may have masked Canadian participation in the invasion, as new Cablegate documents suggest), the two governments worked closely together on the Mustafa situation.

The GoC has been very helpful to us…and we have concurred with their reasons for not expelling him from Canada. The GoC is now taking a wait-and-see approach on how to deal with him. The Foreign Affairs spokesperson has said it would be up to the new Iraqi government to decide whether to withdraw current diplomats.

By the following month, however, waiting around for a new government to magically appear in Baghdad seemed a distinctly less wise proposition than before. Whether at the behest of Ottawa or by his own volition, Mustafa returned to Iraq, as a second cable—written the following month—makes clear.

Thing is, the Foreign Ministry didn’t bother to let their associates in Canadian intelligence know. As the cable notes, while “the GoC had taken a decision to facilitate the return to Baghdad of Iraqi Charge d’Affaires…sources at post advise that CSIS (Canadian intelligence) was unaware of the…decision.” Not only did the ministry apparently want to keep the news hidden from their interagency partners, but they were also looking to cook the books to obscure the nature of Mustafa’s repatriation to Iraq. The government’s Middle East Division Deputy Director Graeme McIntyre requested that the United States smuggle Mustafa’s name onto “the worldwide list of former regime officials posted abroad whose departure USG previously had encouraged to different host governments,” a move Ottawa would find helpful in greasing the wheels of Mustafa’s exit from Canada.

The reason for this bit of bureaucratic deception, it would seem, had less to do with national security and everything to do with controlling the possibility for domestic political damage to the ruling Liberal Party, which was already falling apart at the seams.

McIntyre said the GoC is particularly sensitive to the possibility of negative press coverage about Mustafa’s departure (and probably, the likelihood that left-leaning opposition MPs will attack the government decision as a “rights” violation etc.).

That way, “if Mustafa was accredited to Canada as a full charge, then it would appear” as if Canadian-American machinations had nothing to do with the diplomat’s return, because he would fall “into the category of ‘head of mission’ and is thus covered by the instruction from the Iraqi [foreign minister].”

The United States obliged, and with good reason: Washington owed Canada a pretty big favor. Despite then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s adamant public refusal to support the American adventure in Iraq, another WikiLeaked document clearly shows the behind-the-scenes reality to be quite different. As my friend Matthew Bondy, a conservative political columnist in Canada, has written, Chretien’s party “blew their nationalist trumpet with one hand and crossed their fingers with the other,” offering to “discreetly” assist coalition forces as they prepared to overrun Iraq even as the Liberals celebrated their foreign policy independence from Washington.

One bad turn, after all, deserves another.

Iranq: One Size Foreign Policy Fits All

At Right Web, Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib write:

Imagine there’s a Middle Eastern country with a history of rocky relations with the United States. Washington hawks insist the country poses a threat to both the United States and its allies. They undertake a PR campaign demonizing the country’s polity and make cocksure claims about its imminent acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. They also make dubious claims tying the country to the perpetrators of the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. The country’s name starts with the letters I – R – A. What country comes to mind?

Iraq and Iran both fit the profile.

In Iraq, years of pro-war drumbeating were kicked into high gear after 9/11, culminating in the 2003 invasion and occupation—and subsequent bloody civil war—based on inaccurate claims of WMD production and ties to Al Qaeda. The war came with enormous costs in blood and treasure, as well as loss of U.S. prestige and credibility—not to mention the price paid by Iraq.

Undeterred by these costs, many of the same people who led the push for regime-change in Baghdad now have their sights set on Tehran. Using the same playbook they used for Iraq, these hawks are again selling U.S. military strikes as a sort of “cakewalk.”

Few high-profile American commentators have openly called for a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran, but many of those who have are neoconservatives pundits, among them Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin[1] and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Reue lMarc Gerecht[2]. Others still, such as the AmericanEnterprise Institute’s (AEI) Michael Rubin, have called for assassinating Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[3]

To read the article in its entirety, visit Right Web.

Don’t Just Indict “DSK,” Charge the IMF Too

At IPS, Lacy MacAuley writes:

The hotel worker IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn allegedly sexually assaulted likely suffered in her home country as a result of IMF policies, like so many of the world’s poor.

Last month, I helped lead a march of hundreds of people to protest what we consider to be the International Monetary Fund’s criminal behavior during its yearly spring summit with the World Bank. Along with others, I raised my voice to say, “Arrest the IMF!”

Now, Strauss-Kahn is in a jail cell. According to witnesses and other evidence, he sexually assaulted a female hotel worker in a shockingly violent act in a posh suite at the Manhattan Sofitel hotel. When the worker he allegedly attacked bravely broke free, Strauss-Kahn fled the scene, leaving behind personal items such as his mobile phone. The worker, who is an immigrant from the West African nation of Guinea, immediately told others what had happened to her. Law enforcement personnel caught up with him at JFK airport and pulled him off of the airplane minutes before his flight to Paris was scheduled to depart.

While the alleged details are shocking, it’s no surprise to me that an IMF chief would exhibit violent, sociopathic behavior. After all, the IMF’s austerity policies have assaulted poor countries for years.

To read the remainder of the story visit IPS. Also see The IMF: Violating Women since 1945 by Christine Ahn and Kavita Ramdas at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Are Nuclear Weapons Required to Enforce Nuclear Disarmament?

Maybe this should be filed under the category of Watch Out What You Wish For. But in the event, however utopian-sounding, that Global Zero is achieved and every state in possession of nuclear weapons agrees to destroy them, how would it be enforced? The Global Zero movement’s own step-by-step plan drawn up in February 2010 refers only to an “agreed upon mechanism for resolving compliance disputes and, in the case of violations, enforcing compliance.”

In his disturbing new book How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III (Simon & Schuster), which we’ve been citing in a series of posts, Ron Rosenbaum asks:

. . . wouldn’t the inspection regime require explosive weapons powerful enough to blow open sealed underground bunkers where prohibited nuclear mischief might be going on?

Answering his own question, he writes:

In fact, the inspection regime would somehow have to be the most powerful political entity on earth, perhaps relying on a monopoly of nuclear weapons itself, and thus deterrence, and we’re back where we started.

In other words, Global Zero could provide us with the worst of both worlds: for conservatives, world government (new world order!). For Global Zero supporters: disarmament turned inside out, becoming instead a means by which the existence of nuclear weapons in perpetuity is guaranteed.

Fukushima Has Become the Sequel to “Groundhog Day”

Groundhog Day(Pictured: Bill Murray and friend attempting to escape from Fukushima.)

Remember that 1993 film in which the Bill Murray repeats the same day over and over again? The Japanese nuclear crisis has also become déjà vu ad nauseum (please excuse mixed romance languages). Fukushima news reports today aren’t appreciably different from those shortly after the earthquake and tsunami. On May 18 the New York Times reported (note two words emphasized):

Amid widening alarm in the United States and elsewhere about Japan’s nuclear crisis, military fire trucks began spraying cooling water on spent fuel rods at the country’s stricken nuclear power station late Thursday after earlier efforts to cool the rods failed, Japanese officials said. . . .Earlier Thursday Japanese military forces tried to dump seawater from a helicopter on Reactor No. 3, making four passes and dropping a total of about 8,000 gallons as a plume of white smoke billowed. . . . Video of the effort appeared to show most of the water missing the reactor and the Japanese military later said the measure had little effect on reducing the temperature in the pool where the spent rods are stored. . . . The developments came as the authorities reached for ever more desperate and unconventional methods to cool damaged reactors, deploying helicopters and water cannons in a race to prevent perilous overheating in the spent rods of the No. 3 reactor.

Unconventional, maybe, but no longer new. In fact, it’s a reprise of what was attempted when the cooling problem emerged shortly after the earthquake and tsunami. From the BBC on March 17:

Thursday’s attempt to use helicopters to dump seawater on to the Fukushima power station is almost certainly unprecedented in more than half a century of nuclear power operations around the world. Long-range video footage indicates why it is not a more widely-used technique: it does not appear to work. Water cannon — tried, with similar results — seemed a similarly desperate measure.

Desperate in March, it must be a deeper shade of desperate now, which would seem to be indicated by this, from the May 18 Times article.

The decision to focus on the No. 3 reactor appeared to suggest that Japanese officials believe it is a greater threat, since it is the only one at the site loaded with a mixed fuel known as mox, for mixed oxide, which includes reclaimed plutonium [and which] would produce a more dangerous radioactive plume than the dispersal of uranium fuel rods at the site. . . . In the worst case, experts say, workers could be forced to vacate the plant altogether, and the fuel rods in reactors and spent fuel pools would be left to melt down, leading to much larger releases of radioactive materials.

In early April, Australian TV news is even more discouraging.

. . . One expert says the radiation leaks will be ongoing and it could take 50 to 100 years before the nuclear fuel rods have completely cooled and been removed. “As the water leaks out, you keep on pouring water in, so this leak will go on for ever,” said Dr John Price, a former member of the Safety Policy Unit at the UK’s National Nuclear Corporation. . . . “The final thing is that the reactors will have to be closed and the fuel removed, and that is 50 to 100 years away.

Meanwhile, from the May 18 Times story:

The United States’ top nuclear official followed up his bleak appraisal of the grave situation at the plant the day before with a caution that it would “take some time, possibly weeks,” to resolve.

Looks like we can look forward to yet more sequels of Japan’s Groundhog Day.

Call for Attacks on Libyan Infrastructure Provides Glimpse of NATO’s Real Motives

Gen. Sir David Richards(Pictured: Gen. Sir David Richards, supreme commander of Fredonia.)

According to the New York Times (5/16/11), Gen. Sir David Richards, “Britain’s top military commander,” is proposing that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) target Libyan “infrastructure,” including electrical power grids and fuel dumps, in government held areas.

Frustrated by the two-month old stalemate, Gen. Richards told the Times that “The vice is closing on [Muammar el-] Qaddadi, but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military activity.” The British are playing a major role in the bombing campaign, and Gen. Richards was in Naples, the command center for the war in Libya, when he talked with the Times.

The Times went on to write, “The General suggested that NATO should be freed from restraints that precluded attacking infrastructure targets.”

Let us be clear what “infrastructure” means: “The fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants and schools” (Random House Dictionary, Second Edition).

Now let’s see what the 1977 Protocol Addition to Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 says on the business of attacking “infrastructure.”

In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.
— Part IV, Section I, Article. 48

It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuff, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works.
— Article 54

It is prohibited for the Parties to the conflict to attack, by any means whatsoever, non-defended localities.
— Article 59

In short, you can’t bomb power plants, electrical grids, water pumping plants, or transport systems that service the civilian population, even if the military also benefits from them. As Article 50 states: “The presence within the civilian population of individuals that do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.”

The pressure to step up the bombing and widen the delineation of targets reflects the fact that the war has turned into a stalemate. “We need to do more,” Gen. Richards told the Times, “If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Qaddafi clinging to power.”

That last statement appears to be a violation of United Nations Resolution 1973, which called for “protection of civilians,” a “no-fly zone,” “sanctions,” a “freeze of assets” and an “arms embargo.” Nowhere does 1973 mention regime change and getting rid of Qaddafi.

So are we being dragged into a war whose goals violate UN Resolution 1973, and whose means violate the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts? It is hard not to answer that question in anything but the affirmative.

More of Conn Hallinan’s work can be found at Dispatches From the Edge.

Sans Insurance, a Nuclear Meltdown Can Become a Financial Meltdown

Way to stay unruffled, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK). The headline at NHK’s website yesterday reads “TEPCO to review cooling operation.” Sounds sober enough — until you find out why it plans to conduct that review.

Tokyo Electric Power Company will have to review its plan for stabilizing the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility after a large amount of radioactive water was found in the basement of one of its reactor buildings.

The utility says it discovered an estimated 3,000 tons of contaminated water in the basement of the damaged Number 1 reactor building.

It “discovered”? How does that go overlooked? Never mind: how the water wound up in the basement is light years more frightening.

TEPCO says fuel rods in the Number 1 reactor melted down and created a hole in the bottom of the pressure vessel. It says the containment vessel also appears to be damaged and highly radioactive water has leaked into the basement of the building.

As if that’s not bad enough, Agence France Presse reported:

Ruling-party lawmaker Goshi Hosono, special aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, said. . . . reactor three has not cooled down as hoped earlier, saying it was more of a worry to him than reactor one.

Perhaps as a consequence (from the same article)

Japan on Sunday started the first evacuations of homes outside a government exclusion zone. . . . Some 4,000 residents of Iidate-mura village as well as 1,100 people in Kawamata-cho town . . . began the phased relocations. . . . Although Iidate-mura and Kawamata-cho are 30 kilometres (20 miles) away from the plant, they have consistently received high amounts of radioactive materials due to wind patterns.

All at huge cost to the state, of course. But, surprisingly, of all the institutions to come out of this without taking a financial bath, you’d think the last is insurance. But, for those who may be unaware of it, when it comes to insuring nuclear-power plants, insurance companies keep their exposure to a minimum. Juergen Batz reports for the Associated Press.

Japan’s Fukushima disaster, which will leave taxpayers there with a massive bill, brings to the fore one of the [nuclear-energy] industry’s key weaknesses — that nuclear power is a viable source for cheap energy only if it goes uninsured. The cost of a worst-case nuclear accident at a plant in Germany, for example, has been estimated to total as much as $11 trillion, while the mandatory reactor insurance is only 3.7 billion. . . . “Around the globe, nuclear risks — be it damages to power plants or the liability risks resulting from radiation accidents — are covered by the state. The private insurance industry is barely liable,” said Torsten Jeworrek, a board member at Munich Re, one of the world’s biggest reinsurance companies. . . . In financial terms, nuclear incidents can be so devastating that the cost of full insurance would be so high as to make nuclear energy more expensive than fossil fuels.

In fact

Tepco had no disaster insurance.

Despite Fukushima, many, including those to whom it’s vastly less catastrophic for the environment than coal, remain unmoved in their advocacy for nuclear energy. But, the environmental effects of Fukushima aside, purely in financial terms, the world can scarcely afford more than one of these accidents every, say, ten years.

The New York Times Backs the Administration’s Tenderize-the-Taliban Policy

On May 12, the New York Times did a very curious thing.

In an article entitled “Indian and Afghan Leaders Forge Deeper Ties in Meeting” by Alissa J. Rubin and Sanger Rahimi, the newspaper failed to mention that during his visit to Afghanistan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had endorsed peace talks between the Taliban and the government of Hamid Karzai.

The Times’ piece—buried on the back pages—led with an agreement by the two governments to “move ahead on a strategic partnership” and then prattled on about aid. The words “Taliban” and “talks” never appeared.

In contrast, a May 13 Reuters article led with “India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, backing Kabul’s peace plan to reconcile with the Taliban-led insurgents.” According to Reuters, the Prime Minister said, “Afghanistan is embarked upon a process of national reconciliation. We wish you well in this enterprise.”

A BBC broadcast also led with the “Taliban talk” news, and the print version put it in the third sentence. To date the New York Times has yet to report the fact that India abandoned its previous opposition to opening talks with the Taliban.

How could the Times miss a story like that? There are only two explanations. One, that the two reporters are the kind that would have asked Mary Todd Lincoln if she liked the play. Two, that the reporters put the breakthrough remarks into the story, and an editor in New York took them out.

As a whole, Times coverage of the Afghan War has not been very good, certainly not nearly as good as the reporting by the McClatchy newspapers, let alone the international press. But their reporters have rarely demonstrated incompetence, and there is nothing in the record to suggest that Rubin and Rahimi are not good reporters. They could have missed what is probably the most important development in the past year—if so, time for reassignment to the Metro Desk—but it is much more likely that higher ups in New York left it on the cutting room floor.

Bad news sense? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

On May 14, the Times wrote an editorial entitled “Pakistan After Bin Laden” where the following paragraph appears:

The Obama administration also needs to take a harder look at military aid to Pakistan, to determine what is vital for counterterrorism and what might be tied to specific benchmarks, like apprehending the Taliban chief, Mullah Omar, and members of the Haqqani network.

In short, the Times is arguing that Pakistan should take out the very people whom the Karzai government will need to talk with in any negotiations with the Taliban. There is an old rule in the business of negotiations: don’t arrest or kill the people you want to talk with. That is, unless you don’t really want to have talks. The Israelis have developed this into a science: as soon as it looks like there are going to be talks between Israel and the Palestinians, they build some new settlements, knowing that the provocation will torpedo any negotiations.

The Times is a strong supporter of U.S. Gen. David Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which consists of attacking the Taliban in order to weaken them prior to a political settlement. The idea is that if they are first beaten up, the insurgents will be more pliable during negotiations.

However, since the Taliban show no signs of throwing in the towel—indeed, U.S. civilian intelligence agencies pretty much agree that the war is going badly and the situation is not likely to improve—the Times’ position is a formula for continuing the war.

The 2010 “surge” of troops into Afghanistan has been largely a bust. The south, where most troops went, is quieter, but hardly pacified, and insurgent attacks have increased in other areas of the country, particularly in the east and the north. This past year has been the deadliest for both Coalition troops and Afghan civilians.

Is that what the Times wants? Indeed, wants it so badly that it won’t report that there has been a major diplomatic breakthrough? If you don’t print the news that you don’t like, it didn’t happen?

Boy, that’s a relief.

More of Conn Hallinan’s work can be found at Dispatches From the Edge.

WikiLeaks: Canada’s Harper Embodies American Right’s Worst Tendencies

Stephen HarperWe’re honored to have Michael Busch dissecting the latest WikiLeaks document dump for Focal Points. This is the fifty-third in the series.

Recent cables published by WikiLeaks from the American embassy in Ottawa paint a less than flattering picture of Stephen Harper. The Canadian prime minister, whose Conservative Party took a commanding majority in nationwide elections last week, has built his political success on a platform of aggressive nationalism concerning the country’s Arctic sovereignty, pro-business economics, and keen avoidance of doing anything about climate change.

But from the perspective of American diplomats, Harper has a decidedly different list of priorities he pursues in private. In a cable that dates to January 2010, US Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson outlines what he sees as prime minister’s top five policy objectives.

Not surprisingly, “Harper’s top goal for 2010 is remaining in power,” which Jacobson notes will force the country’s conservatives “to claim credit even when it is not due to them.” While Harper has enjoyed unrivalled personal popularity throughout Canada, his party was not as warmly embraced. “Harper failed to convince the public to give them a majority” in successive federal elections during 2004, 2006, and 2008, though Jacobson notes that a new round of elections in 2010 might prove beneficial to the party.

Conservatives arguably have the most to gain in a new election, given the many self-inflected wounds suffered by the Liberals under [Michael] Ignatieff over the past year. The Conservatives nonetheless do not wish the public to blame them for a new and still unwelcome election.

In fact, it’s not clear if Harper’s Conservatives have much going for them beyond Ignatieff’s incompetence to effectively organize a viable opposition.

Liberal disarray and disappointing fundraising in the second half of 2009 leave the Liberal party in poor shape to face an election, which Ignatieff now admits that the public does not want. Nor have the Liberals hit upon a potentially winning issue. They and the NDP have tried to turn the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces to Afghan authorties in 2006 and 2007 into a major embarrassment for the government. So far, the public isn’t biting (51 percent remain unaware of the issue…), and it is far from clear that there is much political utility for any of the opposition parties in making a major push to continue this probe.

According to the cable, Harper’s second priority, after preserving his own employment, is to “re-grow the economy.” While the prime minister and his associates have taken the lion’s share of credit for helping steer the ship of state through the turbulent economic waters of the 2008 financial and economic crisis, the US embassy in Ottawa wasn’t so sure these claims were the entirely accurate. “The jury is still somewhat out on whether long-standing monetary and fiscal policies were the main factors,” the cable notes, “or whether Canada’s huge resource base and openness to international trade were not at least as much factors.” It didn’t matter, though because “the Conservatives have in any event pretty much succeeded in convincing the public that they are more trustworthy on this issue than the Liberal would be.” Still, “The Conservatives do not appear to have any bold measures up their sleeves to improve the economy, but appear content to wait for…a rising global economy—especially the US—to life all boats.”

Harper and his gang might have been waiting to ride the coattails of an American recovery, but it’s clear that the Canadian prime minister didn’t like Washington’s methods for stimulating the economy. From the embassy’s perspective, Harper had developed something of an obsession with what it considered his third priority: overturning provisions in the American Reconstruction and Recovery Act. Harper had addressed this issue “so often with President Obama that it has become somewhat of a private joke.”

While American protectionism was centrally important to the Harper government and his big business allies, it wasn’t clear to Jacobson than the topic was all that important to anyone else, or that any success on this front would be of much political utility. “The public—but not the business community—has largely lost track of the dispute…so even a failure in the talks might hurt Conservatives less than would been likely only a few months ago. None of the opposition parties has any better plan on how to reverse any US inclinations.”

The cable paints Harper as particularly dismal on environmental politics, a topic the American embassy considered important to the prime minister’s future success despite his personal disinterest. The document points out that Harper agreed to attend the historic 2009 multilateral negotiations in Denmark to stem the worst effects of environmental degradation.

Harper somewhat grudgingly went to Copenhagen for the UN summit on climate change, but only after President Obama announced that he would attend. PM Harper’s participation was virtually invisible to the Canadian public, and there was considerable negative coverage of his failure to play a more prominent role—or even to sit in on the President’s key meetings with world leaders.

Jacobson correctly suggests that Harper’s lackluster performance at Copenhagen left his government in the unenviable position of looking at once detached from what many consider the most important international security issue facing mankind, and a lap dog to American power.

Environmental Minister Jim Prentice was sent out to do the media scrums and to insist that Canada was a helpful participant and would work closely with the United States on a continental strategy on climate change. Now he must come up with some proposals that make Canada not seem merely to be going slavishly along with whatever its American “big brother” decides to do—which will not be easy.

Making matters worse,

A substantial proportion of the Canadian public and industry…are opposed to Harper taking a leading role and are even opposed to him following any likely leads set by the Obama administration. In that respect, given Canada’s role as a major petroleum and natural gas producer, he will have an even more difficult political balancing act that will the United States or the Europeans.

But once again, the Conservatives would be bailed out, Jacobson predicts, not by their own creative thinking or popularity, but by the opposition’s incompetence. “No big, sexy initiatives are likely from the Conservatives…Luckily for the government, the Liberals also do not have any great ideas up their sleeves.”

Most interestingly, given the election results of last week, the cable notes that “getting out of Afghanistan as gracefully as possible” would be Harper’s fifth and final major priority over the coming year. Despite his original gung-ho support for NATO operations in Afghanistan, Harper more lately repeatedly insisted that Canada would begin withdrawing its presence in the country by the end of 2011.

Diminishing public support for the mission, a sense that Canada had dones more than its share, and unspoken relief that the US surge will let Canada off the hook all argue against any Canadian political leader rethinking Canada’s strategy, at least for now. Absent a federal election in which the Conservatives win an actual majority…the likelihood at present is that Canada will withdraw on schedule, as gracefully as possible.

Harper changed his message while campaigning in April, announcing that “I have never said there’s no risks in Afghanistan,” defending his decision, without consulting the parliament, to extend the country’s commitment in Central Asia by three years. The plan would leave roughly 950 of the 2,500 troops currently in the country behind to train Afghan and military personnel. With a new majority, however, we may expect to see other tweaking of previous Harper promises with regards to the Afghan state-building project.

Pakistan Makes It Hard to Defend From the “They Don’t Value Human Life” Libel

With knowledge that elements of its army and ISI obviously provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden, Pakistan’s Q ratings, already low, are tanking. They’re about to bottom out, now thanks to this, courtesy of Andrew Bast at the Daily Beast-Newsweek (unclear where one ends and the other begins):

According to new commercial-satellite imagery obtained exclusively by Newsweek, Pakistan is aggressively accelerating construction at the Khushab nuclear site, about 140 miles south of Islamabad. The images, analysts say, prove Pakistan will soon have a fourth operational reactor, greatly expanding plutonium production for its nuclear-weapons program. . . . Although the White House declined to comment, a senior U.S. congressional official who works on nuclear issues told Newsweek that intelligence estimates suggest Pakistan has already developed enough fissile material to produce more than 100 warheads and manufacture between eight and 20 weapons a year. “There’s no question,” the official says, “it’s the fastest-growing program in the world.”

Between harboring bin Laden, allegedly responsible for thousands of deaths (if he’d been captured and tried we might know for sure) and now this, Pakistan had better be careful. Otherwise that most racist of all libels — “They value human life less than us” — will stick.

Page 170 of 227« First...102030...168169170171172...180190200...Last »