Saturday, 22 October 2016

Iraq: One Mistake After Another

Yesterday, I read an article written by Toronto Sun columnist, Farzana Hassan, in which she warns of sectarian violence breaking out as Coalition forces gain ground against the so-called Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq (see: Sectarian violence will be an issue post-ISIL). She's right of course. In fact, she's just one of many people, including myself, who have been warning the world's leaders about sectarian conflict in Iraq for years. It's too bad the world's leaders haven't been listening. Indeed, the Pandora's box of ethnic and religious conflict in Iraq was opened when some of those leaders, notably President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, decided to invade the country and remove its dictator, Saddam Hussein, from power. Now of course, removing a ruthless dictator from power is never a bad thing. What is bad, however, is not having a sensible plan to deal with the aftermath. Saddam Hussein and his despotic regime was the only thing keeping Iraq together. But once his dictatorship was removed, all hell broke loose and none of our leaders in the Western world knew what to do.

The invasion of Iraq was just the first mistake. The second mistake was believing that once the people of Iraq were given the chance, they would create a vibrant, Western-style democracy. This was a very stupid assumption. It would be as if, after defeating and overthrowing the Nazi regime in Germany, the Allies decided that they would leave the country to its own devices after a year or two and assume that its people would create a modern, democratic state. Thankfully, that's not what happened. The Allied occupation of Germany lasted until the early 1950s, almost a decade after the end of World War II. During that time, the Allies set about transforming Germany into a Western-style democracy. Even after the Allied occupation formally ended, Western military forces remained in the country to oversee the German people's democratic transition. I remember a former professor of mine, who lived in Germany during the post-war years, telling me that as late as the 1970s, they were still being force-fed messages about the values of democracy. To make a long story short, building a modern, democratic state takes time. It's not something that happens overnight, or in just one to two years. So the presumption that once left to their own devices, the Iraqis would create a genuine democracy, was extremely short sighted.

Another crucial mistake that leaders like George W. Bush and Tony Blair made was keeping Iraq together in the first place. Two years ago, I wrote a blog post arguing for the partition of the country (see: Iraq: A Country Never Meant to be Falls Apart). I still stand by this argument today. As I said in my post two years ago, the country was never an exercise of self-determination for the people therein. It was an artificial construct of the former colonial powers, Britain and France. Several very distinct groups of people, most notably Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, were forcibly incorporated into a state designed by Western imperialists, not to mention a significant number of Christians that trace their ancestry to well before the Muslim Arab conquest of the region. The creation of what we now call Iraq was not only unjust, but was the catalyst for future conflicts.

When U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein and his regime from power, they had the opportunity to right a historic wrong by dismantling the Iraqi state and allowing its different ethnic and religious groups to govern themselves independently of each other. But instead, they opted to keep the colonial-era construct together, leading to the kind of sectarian conflict that people like myself and Toronto Sun columnist, Farzana Hassan, have been warning about. What the U.S. and its allies should have done after invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein was to divide the country into separate states, just like the victorious Allied forces did to the Austro-Hungarian Empire after WWI, when they gave each of the peoples of that former imperial realm the right to form their own independent nation-states. They could then have proceeded to transform these new states into democratic countries, just as the Allies did in Germany after WWII. But alas, it's too late for any of this to happen. And although Iraq may still break up into different states (in a way, it already has when you look at the facts on the ground), there likely won't be any transition towards true democracy, but rather the emergence of new local despots - something a region as undemocratic and bereft of freedom as the Middle East hardly needs.  

Friday, 21 October 2016

Wynne and the Liberals Have Got to Go. NOW!

Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government have been destroying the Province of Ontario with their reckless spending, endless scandals and just plain incompetence. So what do we do about it? Well, the Canadian attitude is usually to shut up and take it until the next election. I never liked this concept of sitting on one's hands until voting day and I especially don't like it now, because Ontarians just can't afford this government.

The next provincial election won't take place for almost two years. Two years is a long time. I wonder how many people will lose their homes or their shirts during that time, because they can't afford to pay their skyrocketing hydro bills, not to mention the mountain of debt that the Wynne Liberals will keep piling on for current and future generations to pay as long as they stay in power. Indeed, whoever succeeds the current government will have to inflict even more pain on Ontarians as they make the budget cuts necessary to clean up the mess that the Liberals have made of the province's finances. Logic dictates that the sooner the Wynne Liberals are kicked out of power, the easier it will be to repair the damage they've done.

The question is, how can we Ontarians remove our government before the law gives us the chance to replace them? Unfortunately, I don't have an answer, for inasmuch as I would love a coup d'etat to rid us of Wynne and her cronies, I know that we don't do that kind of thing in this country, for better or for worse. Still, it's not like outright rebellion is something completely alien to the people of Ontario. Anyone who studies Canadian history will know, for example, that an uprising took place against the government of Upper Canada (now the Province of Ontario) way back in the 19th century, before Confederation. But of course, I'm not advocating a violent overthrow of our provincial government. What I would like to see instead is something akin to what British Columbians did when their own provincial government tried to bring in a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). They fought the HST tooth and nail....and won! Meanwhile in Ontario, we sat on our hands and did nothing, allowing our government of incompetents to ram the HST down our throats. Imagine if we had pushed back like the people in B.C. did. Perhaps our province wouldn't be drowning in debt and our hydro bills would not be reaching the stratosphere. It's time folks in Ontario stopped being sheep and started being wolves. And what better way to start than to tell Wynne and the rest of the Liberal bunch to resign, because Ontarians just can't afford their policies anymore.     

Sunday, 9 October 2016

TTC Has No Thanksgiving Spirit

It's the Thanksgiving long weekend, and how has the TTC decided to give thanks to its riders? By closing the Bloor-Danforth subway line from St. George station to Pape station and relegating commuters to shuttle buses for the duration of the weekend, including Thanksgiving day. As if having to ride in hot, sweltering, stone-age subways during the summer wasn't bad enough, the incompetents at Toronto's mass transit monopoly have decided to stick it to riders again by closing half the subway line at a time when many people should be using it to visit family and friends during this long weekend.

Yes, I understand that it's sometimes necessary to close part of the subway system so that upgrades and maintenance can be performed, but forcing a closure on this long weekend smacks of utter stupidity. According to police, the Thanksgiving long weekend creates more traffic in the Province of Ontario than any other weekend during the year.  So if there's any time for all of Toronto's subway system to be fully operational on a weekend, it's now. The last thing Toronto needs on this Thanksgiving long weekend is more cars on the road and more potential for impaired driving. I sincerely hope that nobody loses their life this long weekend, because someone got drunk behind the wheel of a car when he or she could have taken the subway if it had been running.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Trudeaumania 2.0 Nothing But a Farce

It's been almost a year since a federal election in Canada swept the Liberal Party back into power under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. I assume a lot of people were celebrating that night. People who thought that they were going to see real change take hold in this country.  I still remember the headline in The Toronto Star, which along with the CBC led the cheerleading section for the Trudeau Liberals, proudly proclaiming, "It's a New Canada," the morning following the election. I can't believe people are so naive. Indeed, even people I know personally who have good heads on their shoulders voted for Trudeau the younger. But of course, even smart people can do some really stupid things, like voting in a fraud to be the prime minister of this great country.

Justin Trudeau is nothing but a washed-up drama teacher with a famous last name. Whereas his father was a visionary with his own original ideas for making Canada better, his son is a person, who in the great Liberal Party tradition, hijacks the ideas of others and presents them as his own. During the election that brought him to power, Justin Trudeau stole the traditional agenda of the NDP and presented it to voters as his own, fooling them into believing that he and the Liberals were the true agents of change.  And unfortunately, voters bought into this lie.

No Change. Just More of the Same

One of the slogans that supporters of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau like to use is, "Canada's Back!" But Canada never went away. The Liberals did for a while, reduced to third party status at one point, and I couldn't have been happier, because I thought that the lifetime idea plagiarists got what they deserved. Actually, if I had it my way, the Liberal Party would cease to exist. But unfortunately, they're back and they haven't changed one bit. They brought back the same Liberal policies of the past.  Policies like multiculturalism without regard for democratic values, an immigration policy focused on bringing anyone into the country who the Liberals think will vote for them when they become citizens, and of course, pretending to be the party of compassion for refugees and aboriginals until the photo-ops end and the marginalized once again become an afterthought for the party until the next election. The Liberals also brought back the same bunch that were part of the last government run by the party.  Folks like Stephan Dion, John McCallum and Ralph Goodale. In short, the white cats have just taken over for the black ones, as has been the case throughout all of Canadian history. Hell, even Thomas Walkom, the national affairs columnist for The Toronto Star, is beginning to see through Justin Trudeau's charade (see: Trudeau government remains oddly Harperesque). So for those people who still think Trudeau the younger is a true harbinger of change and lovingly smile every time he takes a selfie (especially if he has his shirt off), it's time to face the truth. There is no change. There will be no change. It's just more of the same.   

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Someone Needs to Stand Up to Putin's Russia

Syria continues to burn, as does the Donbas region of Ukraine.  Putin's Russia has killed thousands with it's relentless military aggression that shows no signs of abating.  And what have the world's democracies done about it?  Have they created a no-fly zone in Syria?  Did they deploy troops to Ukraine to prevent further Russian incursions into the country?  Nope.  Their only response has been a few sanctions here, a few words of condemnation there, and lots and lots of trying to talk Putin into stopping his ruthless quest for more land and power.  Is any leader in the free world actually going to grow some backbone and stand up to the Russian dictator?  Little hope of that any time soon, I fear.

The United States, led by Neville Chamberlain-esque President Barack Obama, now looks weaker than ever in the face of Putin's aggression.  Remember when Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a game-changer?  All talk and no action.  Chemical weapons have been used in Syria on multiple occasions by Putin's ally, fellow dictator Bashar Al-Assad, and Obama has just sat on his hands and twiddled his thumbs.  Not that the rest of the democratic world's leaders have done much better.  The leaders of Europe, for instance, don't seem to care about what's causing thousands of Syrian refugees to rush to the continent for safety.  Did it ever occur to them that if they would get off their asses and take concrete actions to end the bloodbath in Syria, they wouldn't have to deal with throngs of desperate people seeking refuge?  Obviously not.  Well, to the leaders of the free world, I say, WAKE THE HELL UP!  Failure to take practical steps to curb the aggression of Putin and his allies has only emboldened them and will continue to embolden them.  Before you know it, the Russian dictator's tanks could be in the streets of several NATO capitals.  In fact, Putin has even said on one occasion that his forces could be in five NATO capitals in just two days.  Hence, I would say that it's about time for the free world to act.

At the end of the day, the only thing that power-hungry leaders like Putin understand is force.  So for example, if Putin's forces continue to bomb civilians and Western-backed forces in Syria, I say the West should bomb Assad's forces in order to protect those civilians and support the forces of freedom in the country.  If Putin continues to deploy thousands of troops and heavy weapons in Ukraine's occupied Donbas and Crimea regions, then NATO should do the same in free Ukrainian territory and on the European borders with Russia.  To sum it all up, if Putin wants to play hardball, then the free world should oblige him.  I'm not advocating starting a war with Putin's Russia, because I know that Putin and his allies are not yet ready to start World War III.  But if the free world doesn't act now to challenge the Russian dictator's pattern of aggression, he and his friends will have a big head start on the world's democracies once they are prepared to wage a global conflict.