And in non-census-related news…

A 20-year old letter allegedly written by Iranian “Green revolution” leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi to Iran’s then-president President Ali Khamenei is causing a lot of chatter within Tehran-watching circles this week. The letter was published on the website of the now-exiled past President of the Islamic Republic Abolhassan Banisadr and appears to expose a long-denied international assertion against the Iranian regime. The letter references the type of activity that suggests that Iran has participated in foreign terrorist attacks and has been fighting an aysymmetric proxy war against its enemies for quite some time now. Not that this is such a stunning revelation to anyone, but it is interesting nonetheless that internal government documents have come to light from within that acknowledges this.

Here is the letter, and I’ve reprinted a Google-translated excerpt below:

“After the plane is hijacked, we become aware of it. When the machine gun in a street opens in Lebanon and the sound turned it everywhere, we will know the case. After the discovery of explosives from our pilgrims in Jeddah, I’m aware of it. Unfortunately, and despite all the loss that the country has realized this move, yet like every time the operation can be called anytime the state occurs”

Our troops in Afghanistan are fighting an asymmetric battle against non-state actors in the south of that country. We’ve known for some time that factions within the Pakistan military have been sympathetic and supportive of Taliban fighters and we’ve known the same about Iran’s support as well. If the letter is valid, it helps the Iranian regime lose face over a lie it has laughably maintained among the international community. Though, such a “revelation” will come as a shock to no one. Iran for example provides billions of dollars in annual support to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Facing mounting opposition from opposition forces, Ahmadinejad has taken a hard-line stance to bolster his support among hardliners within his base. This, of course, is underscored by the development of a nuclear program to assert Iran’s independence, defense and dominance over the region. However, a nuclear program, while couched in anti-Semitic and bellicose terms, is at minimum state-to-state posturing.

The release of the letter that internally confirms that the regime has long participated in state-sanctioned proxied asymmetric attacks against not only foreign soldiers but against civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon among other countries, may simply be yet another element for fodder for an opposition posturing against a hard-line regime losing favour at home. This further suggests to Iranians that their leadership has been occupied with tangential foreign issues while domestic strife rises and quality of life diminishes.

To that point, this is also about two rival political factions blaming each other for failures in Iran’s history as an Islamic republic. Washington’s Daily Beast picks up on this thread,

“This letter has historical significance now,” Banisadr told The Daily Beast in a telephone interview. “At the time of its initial publication it was significant, too, because it clearly stated that the Iranian regime was involved in terrorist activities abroad; that these actions were not sporadic, but that it was the Iranian government that was engaged in terrorist activities.”

Neither Khamenei nor President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has commented on the letter. But people in Iran speculate that the letter re-emerged at this moment because Mousavi was threatening to reveal secrets in connection with the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, having been accused by current Iranian authorities of losing the war. And some hope that Mousavi’s secrecy standoff with the government might cast light on another dark moment in Iran’s history–the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, which reportedly cost the lives of thousands of people. Within Iran, the executions are a taboo subject. But last month, Mousavi alluded to them, suggesting that his cabinet was kept in the dark.

The Mousavi letter also seeks to establish the credentials of the opposition leader as someone who was in government and who was an insider to the regime’s history. This contrasts with Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Tehran who had little to no experience.

Upcoming political books

Today I received a list of upcoming books from Random House Canada for their fall season. The list is sent out to potential reviewers to provide publicity for the upcoming titles.

Here are a few that you might be interested in,

by George W. Bush (11/9/2010)
George W. Bush’s presidency in his own words. From rallying a nation after 9/11 to bringing it’s troops across the Tigris river in Baghdad. From tax cuts that stimulated the economy (and debate) to the continued growth of government and the banking sector bailout, this presidential account is sure to cause discussion.
by Ezra Levant (8/17/2010).
Ezra will do a multi-city tour to promote this book which makes a case for the Alberta oil sands against environmentalists who turn a blind eye to oil extraction in places such as Saudi Arabia and the Sudan where from it’s wars and genocide, Ezra calculates that each barrel of Sudanese oil has a tablespoon worth of blood spilled for its production. While the world inevitably continues to use cheap energy from oil, diminishing Canada’s production share only supports unethical alternatives.
by Tarek Fatah (10/19/2010)
Canada’s most famous ‘moderate Muslim’ voice speaks out against anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world held strongly among some of his co-religionists.
by Bob Rae (10/26/2010).
I’m going to read this book so I can figure out what the Liberal Party may be proposing in their platform on the foreign policy front (under Ignatieff or Rae as leader). We wonder if the book will rehash many of the guiding nuanced soft-power principles of the DFAIT establishment or if Rae (like Ignatieff used to) now believes in certain cold hard facts about the modern world and the actors now bent on destabilizing it.

Obama, Harper and Ignatieff

Extraordinary Rendition:
The extrajudicial transfer of terror suspects from one state to another, usually to states with lower standards on human rights in their treatment of prisoners.

Barack Obama on extraordinary rendition:

“Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” — LA Times

Michael Ignatieff on extraordinary rendition:

Arar is a case of rendition: the Torture Convention –Canada is a signator — forbids the rendition of anyone to confinement in a country where there is a reasonable chance that the person will be tortured. Arar claims he was tortured in Syria. But that’s not the only violation: the Americans can turn back a Canadian citizen to Canada, but surely have no right to deport him to a third country.

Stephen Harper on extraordinary rendition:

What I would like to see is obviously the United States government come clean with its version of events [Arar rendition], to acknowledge … the deficiencies and inappropriate conduct that occurred in this case, particularly vis-a-vis its relationship with the Canadian government [Canada wants to hear that] these kinds of incidents will not be repeated in the future.”

Same-sex marriage:
Stephen Harper on same-sex marriage:

“I have no difficulty with the recognition of civil unions for non-traditional relationships but I believe in law we should protect the traditional definition of marriage.” — Stephen Harper interviewed by the CBC

“We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we’ll accept the democratic result of the people’s representatives … I don’t see reopening this question in the future.” — Stephen Harper after MPs reject to re-open same-sex marriage debate

Michael Ignatieff on same-sex marriage:

For Liberals gay marriage is an equality issue. The [Liberal] government’s position gets the balance right. We will not compel religious communities to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs, but we will not deny marriage rights to Canadians on grounds of sexual orientation.

Barack Obama on same-sex marriage:

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. … I am not somebody that promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.

Enhanced interrogation:
Michael Ignatieff on enhanced interrogation:

“As Posner and others have tartly pointed outif torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be “waterboarding” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning — if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. . Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had “given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.” We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.”

The Globe and Mail infers Stephen Harper’s government’s stance on enhanced interrogation by other governments aided by Canada:

“The Harper government knew prison conditions were appalling long before The Globe and Mail published a series of stories last April detailing the abuse and torture of prisoners turned over by Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan’s notorious secret police, documents released this week show.” — The Globe and Mail

Israel:
Michael Ignatieff on Israel:

“I was a professor of human rights, and I am also a professor of the laws of war, and what happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict

“Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself … Hamas is to blame for organizing and instigating these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among civilian populations.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hamas conflict

Barack Obama on Israel:

“My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction”

Stephen Harper on Israel:
[The] source of Israel’s strength and success, in my view, is its commitment to the universal values of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. …

… Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada, because, as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.

In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side-by-side with the State of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so, and we will continue to stand with Israel, just as I have always said we would.

I know that we all hope and pray that someday freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will be a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.

Abortion:
Stephen Harper on abortion:

“I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion” — Speech at 2005 CPC Policy Convention

Michael Ignatieff on abortion:

Strong majorities of Canadians believe that while abortion should be rare, it should be a protected right for all women. … I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.”

Barack Obama on abortion:

“I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors, and their families and their clergy… When you describe a specific procedure [partial-birth abortion] that accounts for less than one percent of abortions that take place then naturally people get concerned, and I think legitimately so.” — Barack Obama

Iraq:
Stephen Harper on Iraq:

On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Michael Ignatieff on Iraq:

The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president … But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.

Barack Obama on Iraq:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. — Barack Obama, October 2nd, 2002

On capital punishment:
Stephen Harper’s government on capital punishment:

Citing the “wrong signal” it would send to Canadians to plead for mercy for convicted killers, the Conservatives said they would no longer attempt to convince the United States or other democratic countries to commute death sentences meted out to Canadians.

The government later said it would review such situations on a “case-by-case basis.” — Montreal Gazette

Michael Ignatieff on capital punishment:

Canadians do not support capital punishment… I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.

Barack Obama on capital punishment:

“While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment” — Barack Obama from The Audacity of Hope

CBC misuses images of Canadian soldiers

The following story was aired during The National last night on CBC. The story describes U.S. President George W. Bush’s veto of Democrat legislation limiting funding for the Iraq war.

Here is the story (video contains full report):

As I’ve pointed out in the video, CBC uses video footage of a Canadian soldier (with flag patch on his gear) and what looks like Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan (the clip after the one I point out). While the “file pictures” do initially show American marines in Iraq, the ambiguous use of the images of Canadians in the same report does raise concern.

Some observers have noted that some Canadians do not discern the difference between the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Consider the NDP, a party which would lump the conflicts together and set its communications strategy to speak to these particular Canadians:

“Mr. Speaker, Canadians recognize that this government is too close to George Bush, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Incredibly, the U.S. Congress is passing a law that will give the President the power to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva conventions.

Documents show that this government is fully aware of the fact that prisoners we hand over to the Afghans can be given to U.S. authorities.

What assurances is this government seeking that prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities are not sent on to Guantanamo Bay or to secret U.S. prisons?”Dawn Black, NDP Defense Critic

“Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

One week ago his colleague, the Minister of National Defence, said, with respect to the prisoners taken in Afghanistan, “They have every right, though, for a tribunal to determine whether in fact they have status as a prisoner of war or have status as an unlawful combatant. Canada stands by that determination process in accordance with international law”.

One week later the United States has still not set in place any tribunals. I want to ask the minister, will Canada refuse to turn over any prisoners to the Americans until they have given us an assurance that these tribunals will be established? Or will we show total contempt for the law under the Geneva conventions and simply let George Bush run Canadian foreign and defence policy?”Svend Robinson, former NDP MP

and consider the role of the CBC in reflecting a difficult, troubling and complicated world to Canadians:

“Canadians are increasingly uncomfortable with Canada’s role in Afghanistan. On the nightly news we see growing destabilization, growing counter-insurgency on our part, insurgency on the part of the Afghans, more civilian deaths and increasingly more Canadian deaths.”Peggy Nash, NDP MP

Canada and its allies are experiencing successes in Afghanistan. The NATO mission in Afghanistan is different from the American war in Iraq. To lump the two together and deem collective failure is irresponsible and misleads Canadians.

As for the CBC, the ambiguity in the report doesn’t help.