July 28, 2011

A good figure to keep in mind

From the ever-persistent Gareth Porter, a useful reminder that in Afghanistan, reports of numbers of detainees taken by ISAF forces habitually include the 90 per cent released for lack of sufficient evidence shortly thereafter. I'm afraid Gen. Petraeus really shouldn't have used those figures the way he did.

The corollary of course being that for every probable insurgent actually detained for any length of time and questioned, nine apparently innocent Afghans and their families get really pissed off at Western forces and their own government.

Posted by BruceR at 10:19 AM

July 27, 2011

Puts that Danish cartoon in a different light, donnit?

Globe, today:

[Kandahar] Mayor Ghulam Haidar Hamidi was killed and another person wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a corridor near Mr. Hamidiís office, said Zalmay Ayoubi, the spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor.

"It appears the bomber was carrying the bomb in his turban," Mr. Ayoubi said.

A turban bomber also killed five at Wali Karzai's funeral in Kandahar earlier this month.

Posted by BruceR at 07:49 AM

July 26, 2011

Mind if we call you Bruce?

For the record, this is not the website of NDP finance critic and B.C. Member of Parliament Bruce Ralston, and I am not him. Although I do think he's one letter short of a pretty cool name. But it's not inconceivable based on some of my prior life experience that someone could think I'd gone full Left Coast Leftist in my middle age, so I thought I should clear that up before Mr. Ralston becomes even more Google-able.

By the way, this is also not the blog of California plastic surgeon Bruce Rolston, which I admit would be a far less plausible mistake to make.

Posted by BruceR at 09:18 AM

The Ruger Mini-14: weapon of champions

Not yet commented on that I've seen in connection with the Oslo killings: the weapon Anders Brievik is posing with in this photo, and the only weapon he's known to have possessed with the capability to kill in the volumes he did, is a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle. No word on where he acquired it that I've seen.

This is, of course, the same weapon used by Canadian Marc Lepine to kill women engineering students in 1989.

Posted by BruceR at 08:45 AM

Hold your hats, here we go

The last time the economy cratered, I was in Afghanistan... about as recession-proof a job as one can get, really. Oh sure, we ran out of U.S. dollars for a while and the Canadian exchange rate plummeted, but when your food and board is all paid for and there's nothing much to buy anyway, you can survive on nothing a long time. And frankly, we had bigger problems.

It's a reasonable assumption that in a week or so, the global economy's going to crater again, for everyone except Russell Oliver. While it's undoubtedly been interesting to watch the U.S. political system falter and collapse over the debt ceiling, we are here in Canada just a little close to Charybdis on this one for my liking.

This is why I don't bother writing much about Afghanistan any more, by the way. Nothing there really matters that much by comparison. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, as a wannabe world traveller and occasional flyer I saw Islamic-inspired violence as a serious potential threat to me and my way of life. True, I feared for my many friends and relatives of Muslim descent, who risked being caught between violence and governmental indifference from reflexive haters in the greater community, and the hatred of fanatics claiming to speak for their faith in smashing their "apostasy". And when Western governments' fear-based assaults on long-enjoyed rights began to kick in, at airport check-in lines, and elsewhere, I publically criticized the overreaction... and I derided the colossally pointless American misadventure in Iraq practically from the start. But if you had said in 2002 or 2003 that you felt "Islamicist" violence had become a serious fear of yours, or that Afghanistan's capability to provide a safe haven for global outlaws needed to be seriously reduced, I would not have gainsaid that a whit, as I pretty much felt that way too, and still feel entirely justified in having done so back then.

That's changed now, however. Now I fear the greatest threats to the Canadian way of life today do not relate to anyone or anything in Afghanistan, but the forces of political reactionism, both in Washington D.C. and globally*. It's not that I think ill of Afghans or Afghanistan: I still wish them well. But they simply aren't central to anything in the lives of Canadians at this point, and probably shouldn't be expected to detract my attention or anyone else's from the far more serious threats that are looming out there.

*Not, to date, in Canada, however, where our rightist parties seem still safely dominated by cuddly fluffy classic "hold the course" conservatives in the Harper-ist vein. You may not always agree with their policies, either, but unlike Tea Partiers or Euro-nationalists it remains a credibility stretch for even their sternest adversaries to portray them as entirely unhinged.

Posted by BruceR at 08:40 AM