Archive for January, 2008

Manley Gives Harper Green Light to Prolong the War

January 24, 2008

Manley Gives Harper Green Light to Prolong the War  

Watch Steven Staples on CTV News responding to the Manley report

Dear supporter,

This week John Manley delivered his report on the future of the war in Afghanistan, and Prime Minister Harper was not disappointed. Rather than trying to find a way to end the war, Manley delivered a prescription to prolong it. 

As you may have seen on TV, we were very active, speaking to journalists about the report, calling for an end to the conflict and a peaceful solution to stop the suffering.

Below is our analysis on the Manley report, published today by Now Magazine in Toronto. Looking ahead to the resumption of Parliament next week, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that Harper does not win a long-promised vote to extend the mission beyond February 2009.Best, 


24 January 2008 
The case for more war
Panel on Afghanistan gives PM a rationale 
for dragging out the conflict
Ottawa – John Manley and his panel on the future of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan have delivered a late Christmas gift to Stephen Harper.
Their report hits all the right notes, endorses the government’s conduct of the war and calls on Canada to keep doing the same thing it has been – just more of it.No rebranding of the mission is on offer.
Pre-release speculation was that Manley would urge a shift in the mission away from combat to training Afghan troops. Call the war training instead of combat, even though there is little difference, and maybe the Liberals will come on side.
At his press conference Tuesday, January 22, Manley sat in front of a photo of Afghan children and declared that the mission should continue indefinitely beyond 2009, until the Afghan army is able to continue the fight on their own, on condition that NATO provide an additional 1,000 troops to Kandahar province to assist Canadians, and the government acquire helicopters and unmanned surveillance aircraft.
There was some mild criticism of the government’s current approach, identifying a need to focus more on diplomacy and reconstruction, and calling on the prime minister to play a more active role in pressing for greater support from NATO.
But this is really just window dressing around what is a major endorsement of the current military mission.The demand that more troops be deployed by NATO or else Canada will withdraw next year is likely a bluff, since an additional 1,000 troops could easily come from the U.S., which is already sending over 3,000 more Marines to Afghanistan.

The report and press conference were largely a rehash of previous government announcements and demands. They had the requisite finger-pointing at NATO for not providing enough troops and at Pakistan for not securing its border where insurgents cross freely into Afghanistan, and the obligatory tribute to the bravery of our soldiers.

Was there any real possibility that Manley would come out with any new ideas to end the war, now dragging into its seventh year at a cost of $100 million a month, with Canadian casualties approaching 80? Probably not.

The panel itself was unbalanced, consisting of hawks from the Conservative and Liberal parties whose shared area of expertise is not the needs of Afghanistan but the desires of Washington.

Even more disappointing, the panel held its interviews with government and military officials and a smattering of development groups behind closed doors. Sure, individual Canadians concerned about the war were welcome to send them an e-mail, but that’s the modern equivalent of slipping a letter under the locked doors – hardly a legitimate public process.

The government and opposition parties will respond to the report in coming days, laying the groundwork for the return of Parliament next week.

Harper will no doubt use the report to argue that the military mission should be extended to 2011, two years beyond its current commitment to February 2009. The NDP and the Bloc Québécois will no doubt oppose the report’s recommendations.

Attention will focus on the Liberals now. After all, Harper has promised to put the extension of the military mission to a vote, and he needs at least some Liberal support. Stéphane Dion has repeatedly said he will not endorse an extension of the Kandahar combat mission beyond 2009.

When Harper set up the Manley panel last October, he had several objectives in mind. First was to delay having to make a decision on the Afghanistan conflict, and the panel has bought him time to rebuild support for the unpopular war. Second was to gain approval for the war and its extension, which Manley delivered nicely.

But Harper, in appointing a former Liberal MP to head the panel, probably hoped Manley would be able to reposition the mission in a way that might win the government some support from the Liberal benches in a vote on extending it to 2011.

And on this point, Manley has probably let Harper down. In reading through the report and listening to the press conference, I didn’t find much the Liberals could vote for.

Manley was clear that training did not mean abandoning combat – a central Liberal demand. As well, there was no mention of reducing or moving troops in Kandahar, another key Liberal demand.

In this regard, one can commend Manley for not trying to falsely portray training the Afghan national army as something distinct from combat, because it is not. In fact, the way the Canadian Forces train Afghan soldiers is by engaging in combat, fighting side by side.

When Parliament returns, the report will ensure that the issue continues to be a key part of parliamentary debate.

Even more, the war may play a role in spurring on an election. If Harper moves quickly to a vote on extending the mission without assured Liberal support, Canada’s combat role in Kandahar will be a key election issue.

Steven Staples is the director of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute



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January 24, 2008 at 6:42 pm 1 comment

Stop the deployment of laser weapons to Afghanistan

January 4, 2008

Stop the deployment of laser weapons to Afghanistan

Dear supporter, 

The Harper government has bought new laser weapons to deploy in Afghanistan.

Send your letter to the Prime Minister.

These laser weapons, sometimes called laser dazzlers, are mounted on rifles, and are intended to temporarily blind, or “dazzle” people. General Rick Hillier says he wants soldiers to use them to keep Afghans away from military checkpoints and vehicles. But the truth is, these weapons may be more dangerous than General Hillier thinks, and could inadvertently blind innocent civilians – permanently! That’s why we need to be sure laser weapons are being passed through a rigorous, transparent testing mechanism.

I ask that you please join me in sending a letter to Stephen Harper, demanding that he take the following steps:

1) Place a moratorium on the deployment of laser weapons;

2) Undertake the development and implementation of a transparent review process for assessing whether new weapons violate international law;


3) Test any new weapons currently under consideration for purchase by Canada.

All the best,


Military sets out plan to test high-tech weapons

National Post
Monday, December 24, 2007
Byline: David Pugliese

  OTTAWA – The Canadian military has submitted details to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva about how it will test new weapons such as laser “dazzler” systems for use in Afghanistan.

But an Ottawa think-tank is pushing for greater scrutiny of such purchases and how new high-tech weapons are used in the field. The Rideau Institute argues that the policy is simply a draft document and shows that Canada hasn’t moved forward in meeting its obligation under the Geneva Conventions to put protocols in place governing the fielding of new arms.

The Defence Department has set aside a little more than $10-million for the purchase of laser dazzlers for use in Afghanistan.

The Canadian Forces is looking at buying the devices designed to temporarily blind individuals as part of its efforts to reduce the number of innocent Afghans killed or wounded by troops for failing to heed warnings not to approach military convoys. The systems are capable of disrupting the vision of a person 50 to 500 metres away, depending on the specific type of model used.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hillier said the military has put the dazzlers through some tests but no decision has yet been made on whether to purchase them for the Afghanistan mission. But the Defence Department has submitted to the Red Cross a draft of a policy it would follow for the fielding of such new weapons.

In meetings in 2003 and 2005, officials with the Defence Department and Foreign Affairs met with the Red Cross to discuss improving procedures for examining the capabilities of weapons at the time of purchase. This was being done to comply with a protocol of the Geneva Conventions meant to ensure that a nation can show that a new weapon does not violate treaties the country has signed.

But Anthony Salloum, program director of the left-leaning Rideau Institute, said the draft policy the Defence Department produced shows little progress has been made on the issue of testing new weapons.

“All they’ve come up with in the last two years is a draft policy,” he said. “It’s not much and considering the promises the government made in 2005 it seems like they’ve gone backwards on this issue.”

Defence officials declined to be interviewed on the laser dazzler issue and did not answer questions about testing procedures. The department instead e-mailed a transcript of questions and answers raised about the systems during a recent Commons defence committee meeting.

The Foreign Affairs department has not responded to requests for comment made a month ago on the subject of weapons testing and the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Salloum said the laser dazzlers fall into the same category as Tasers, as they are untested and could harm innocent people.

Canada has ratified a treaty that prevents the use of weapons that cause permanent blindness. The manufacturers of the dazzlers acknowledge they can damage a person’s eyes if improperly used at close ranges. Being hit by a dazzler is like looking directly into the sun.

Gen. Hillier said medical reports on the health effects of the dazzlers are being examined. “We are not going to be using something that clearly would be against international conventions that we’ve signed on to,” he told the Commons committee.

But if tests show that the dazzlers can do the job, the general said, the systems will be purchased.

The military wants to mount the dazzlers on rifles and vehicles, mainly for use in protecting convoys. It’s hoped the systems can reduce the number of Afghan civilians killed or injured by soldiers after failing to heed warnings to stop at checkpoints or to not approach convoys. At least 22 Afghans have been wounded and another nine killed in such incidents.

January 4, 2008 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

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