24 August 2009

Arma virumque: undercurrents of violence

A dozen protesters carrying arms were observed in Phoenix, AZ where President Obama was addressing the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars. One was carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (illustrated above), and all were legal under Arizona law. Some days earlier weapons were observed near a presidential event in New Hampshire, another open-carry state. The Secret Service stated that armed demonstrators had "little impact on security plans for the president". The White House has been silent.
[AP, 17 August 2009]

Nothing could contrast more sharply the difference in political culture between Canada and the United States. Personally I am aghast.

Frank Rich wrote an insightful piece about the current menace of "provocateurs with guns" in yesterday's New York Times: "The guns of August". Threats against the American president have increased 400% over those against the previous incumbent.

17 August 2009

Afghanistan: should Canada be there?

When the Canadian government sent Canadian troops, inadequately prepared and poorly supported, into the cauldron of Afghanistan in 2002, it was no doubt to placate the United States for our non-participation in Iraq, and as a gesture of solidarity with NATO and UN. The cost in lives has been high. The result in the country of all Allied efforts has been problematical.

On 15 August 2009 a suicide bomber was able to pass various of levels of control at the most secure HQ ISAF * zone of Kabul, and detonate over 500 kg of explosive, killing 7 civilians outright, and injuring about 100 others, including some military.

Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of ISAF and US forces, was present nearby at a security briefing at the time of the incident, close to fortified embassies and government buildings, as well as the presidential palace. Taliban claimed credit. [The Observer, 16 August 2009]

* International Security Assistance Force

In an earlier blog, written in September, 2006, I wrote:
Meanwhile as casualties rise, an abundant crop of opium poppies still nourishes the [underground]narco-economy [of Afghanistan], corruption abounds at all levels of state, while Taliban, Al Qaeda ("the Base"), unlimited arms and money pass with impunity through the porous Pakistani frontier.
Not much has changed in the interval of three years.

Canadian casualties in the campaign to date: 127
Coalition casualties: 1315

Foreign military presence in Afghanistan: 88,000 (about 41 countries)
NATO presence: 32.000
incl. Canada 2,500
US presence (Operation Enduring Freedom): 56,000
Afghan National Army: 90,000