20 September 2007

Calgary's rogue cops

This summer, Calgary City Council voted against allowing "support our troops" stickers on municipally-owned vehicles. The City's police commission recently reinforced that decision by voting to forbid the stickers on police cruisers. Police Chief Jack Beaton sensibly pointed out it wouldn't be right for the force to display military support decals while denying other charitable organizations the same opportunity.

The president of the police union, Al Koenig, announced that officers will defy the policy. The cops don't seem to see themselves bound by democratic process, rules that apply to other civil servants, or the wishes of their chief. They will display the decals and to hell with City Council , the Police Commission and their boss. Koenig estimates 80 per cent of Calgary police cars display the stickers on any given day, and boasts officers have backup decals to replace any that are removed.

It's very comforting to know that 80 per cent of the cops on our streets make up their own rules. But then what are you going to do, arrest them?

Imperialism is alive and well

When the Western powers shed their colonies after WWII, the world breathed a sigh of relief. The reign of imperialism seemed at an end. Half a millennia of Europeans swaggering about the globe, enslaving, murdering, conquering and stealing, in general getting in the face of everyone else on the planet, was over.

Not so. With U.S. military bases ringing the Earth, and the Brits and Americans waging a couple of wars in Islam, clearly not all Western nations have given up on running the world just yet. Now the French want to get in on the act. Maybe they're feeling left out.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy
called the West's stand-off with Iran regarding its nuclear ambitions, "the greatest crisis" of recent times (not global warming, mind you), and French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner added, "We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war." The French are sounding like Bush and Cheney, and we all know how badly they want to bash Iran.

Let us hope cooler heads prevail over this imperial madness.
The United Nation's chief nuclear weapons inspector,
Mohamed ElBaradei, issued a timely reminder, saying, "I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons." Indeed.

The irony of course is that while the U.S., Britain and France complain about Iran's nuclear efforts, they violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty every day by not ridding themselves of nuclear weapons. They seem to feel they have the right to retain imperial power and the attendant responsibility to keep the wogs in their place.

06 September 2007

Gaza ... the West's Darfur

While the West righteously condemns the Sudanese government for the horrific chaos in Darfur, it remains mute on Israel's destruction of a society of 1.4 million people in Gaza.

An article in Tuesday's Globe and Mail outlined how effectively Israel is crushing Gaza. In an economy where 90 per cent of households survive on less than $2.50 a day, and unemployment approaches 40 per cent, over 3,000 small factories have closed because of Israel's blockade. According to a spokesman for the World Bank, "The pillars of Gaza's economy have weakened over the years. Now, with a sustained closure on this current scale, they would be at risk of virtually irreversible collapse." Isham Al-Iwaini, chairman of of the Palestinian Wood Industries Union, and owner of a furniture factory who has seen the number of his employees drop from 45 to two, says, "If Gaza loses the private sector Gaza loses everything," and he adds, "It will be Taliban."

And this because the Palestinians had the audacity to elect a government the West disapproved of. Israel does most of the dirty work in undermining Palestinian democracy, but other Western countries, including to our shame our own, are deeply complicit.

Israel justifies its assault on Gaza by referring to the threat posed by a few militants who fire rockets across the border. But is Sudan not under threat from violent secessionists in Darfur? It is indeed -- by determined fighters who do more than fire rockets, who have killed hundreds of Sudanese troops and have fought the army to a standstill.

Of course, the social disintegration resulting from the economic blockade of Gaza does not match the widespread rape, murder and dislocation inflicted on Darfur. Nonetheless, neither the threat to Israel nor the threat to Sudan justifies the collective punishment of millions of innocent people and the destruction of their society.

And we might keep an eye to the future. As entrepreneur
Isham Al-Iwaini implies, our casual dismissal of Palestinian suffering may well result in the devoutly religious Hamas being replaced by a fanatically religious Taliban. We in the West seem to never tire of creating extremists in the Middle East.