Archive for the ‘politics’ Tag

Paul Rogers: We won’t defeat ISIS without a dramatic change in tactics

On Sunday, September 18, 2016 the CBC’s Michael Enright broadcast an in-depth interview with Paul Rogers, who is the Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. Enright began with the following introduction:

We are now fifteen years into the global “War on Terror.” It has led to the ousting of regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and to the detainment or deaths of thousands of Islamist militants — along with a lot of their leaders.

It has also cost trillions of dollars and led to the deaths of at least 250,000 people — mostly civilians — many times more than the number of people who died on 9/11. That number doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands who were injured, and the millions who were displaced.

The War on Terror also played a part in the creation of ISIS, and in alienating and radicalizing people in the West and in the Muslim world.

What the War on Terror has not done is defeat terrorism. That might be because it has been prosecuted like a normal war, deploying tremendous military force to vanquish a foe.

Paul Rogers says the kind of war we’re engaged in against ISIS is an irregular war — one which cannot be won with sheer military might, technological superiority or strategic cunning.

And, he argues, irregular wars are the the kinds of wars we will find ourselves mired in through the decades ahead if we don’t change our approach to fighting — and preventing — them.

Paul Rogers is a Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University in the UK and the International Security Editor for the website www.opendemocracy.net , as well as a regular guest on The Sunday Edition. His most recent book is called Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins.

 

The interview is available on CBC’s podcast website: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/podcasts/arts-culture/the-best-of-the-sunday-edition/

Posted September 19, 2016 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Peacemaking

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The Human Right to Peace

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“War is definitely profitable for the sprawling defence industries around the world. So is the fear-mongering in which politicians indulge when they capitalize on the uncertainties in the modern world.”

Douglas Roche, in “The Human Right to Peace”. 2003, page 25

Giving Up Indifference for Lent

by Jim Wallis

Here is what Pope Francis said to the world in his Lenten message: “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.

IMG_0159Instead of giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, the pope seems to want us to give up our indifference to others. He continued: “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.

Francis’s focus on the “indifference to our neighbor” hit me hard as I am on the road for my new book America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. We have been to six cities so far — Chicago, the Twin Cities, St. Louis/Ferguson, Atlanta, New York, and Washington, D.C.; next we head to the West Coast. The “town meetings” we are doing have evoked some extremely honest conversation from very multiracial audiences.

 

Read the remainder of the column by Jim Wallis at: https://sojo.net/articles/giving-indifference-lent

Lighting Candles in Paris

Sunday November 22, 2015

LIGHTING A CANDLE AGAINST FANATICS

By Jim Taylor

In all the video since the attacks in Paris, a week ago, the image that sticks most in my mind is the picture of Parisians lighting candles in the darkness.
A friend, talking about the tragedy, burst out, “I feel so helpless! What can we do?”
French president Francois Hollande knew what he would do. “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,” he vowed. That weekend alone, a dozen French jet fighters dropped 20 bombs on the city of Raqqa in Syria, considered the headquarters of the Islamic State. The French Defence Ministry said they destroyed a command centre, a recruitment centre, an ammunition storage site, and a training camp.
The western media never give death counts for such attacks. But an independent study calculated that since the Syrian civil war started four years ago, an average of 144 people are killed every day. Some would be militants; most would be civilians.
Put that in context. More people have been killed in the Middle East conflicts — every day for the last four years — than died in the coordinated Paris attacks that so outraged us.
This is surely the wrong way to go about establishing peace.

THE IMITATIONS OF POWER
As Charles Pierce wrote in Esquire, “A 242-ship navy will not stop one motivated murderous fanatic from emptying an AK-47 into a crowded restaurant. An F-35 fighter plane will not stop anyone from detonating bombs at a soccer match. A missile-defense shield in Poland will not stop a platoon of fanatics from opening fire in a jammed concert hall.”
Andrew Bacevich expressed similar misgivings in the Boston Globe: “In this conflict, the West generally enjoys clear-cut military superiority. Our arsenals are bigger, our weapons more sophisticated, our generals better educated in the art of war, our fighters better trained at waging it.
“Yet most of this has proven irrelevant. Time and again the actual employment of that ostensibly superior military might has produced results other than those intended or anticipated… Instead, intervention typically serves to aggravate, inciting further resistance. Rather than putting out the fires of radicalism, we end up feeding them.
“In proposing to pour yet more fuel on that fire, Hollande demonstrates a crippling absence of imagination…”

THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE
During a period of prayer, another friend quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Her words reminded me of going on a tour of a potash mine in Saskatchewan, years ago. Our group donned heavy coveralls and headlamps. We went more than a kilometre underground.
In a massive cavern, huge excavators scooped up rich phosphate deposits. Our guide flipped a power switch. The floodlights went out. We waited for our eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. They didn’t. They couldn’t. A kilometre underground, there was no light at all.
Then our guide flipped his cigarette lighter. And that single tiny flame illuminated even the farthest corners of the cavern. It drove the darkness back.
Just as the candles on Parisian sidewalk memorials pushed back the darkness people felt.
It’s not fashionable these days to use metaphors of light and darkness as symbols for good and evil. It’s too easy to broaden the metaphor into racism — if dark corresponds to evil, then black people must be evil, right?
But the people of Paris were not thinking about political correctness, or metaphors. Instinctively, they lit candles, to shine light into their caverns of despair, of grief, of anger.

REASSURING OURSELVES
Martin Luther King had a second part to his line about darkness: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Vengeance cannot defeat vengeance; violence cannot counter violence.
The trouble is, of course, that we can’t see how tiny acts of kindness, generosity, or compassion are going to change the mindset of Charles Pierce’s “motivated murderous fanatics.”
In reality, I suggest, we don’t light candles to change the minds of fanatics. We do it to convince ourselves that even small acts matter. That it’s worth helping a wounded person, or welcoming a refugee, or creating a small oasis of peace in an angry world.
Somewhere, deep inside, we recognize that light itself is active, not passive. Even the lonely flame of a candle or cigarette lighter does something. By contrast, darkness is passive. You cannot turn on a dark that will extinguish the light.
We know that darkness takes over only if the light goes out. And so we gather on sidewalks, in churches, in homes, to comfort each other, to provide support, to renew our commitment to lives beyond violence.
To light our own candles. To help drive the darkness back.
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Copyright © 2015 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Harper Rules out Crackdown on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

‘We’re clearly not going to do it,’ PM tells Commons.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall, 9 Dec 2014, TheTyee.ca

Oilsands development

Oil prices recently incurred a 35 per cent drop. Oilsands image via Shutterstock.

Falling oil prices have made the possibility of placing restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions for the oil and gas sector a “crazy” endeavour according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper said Canada would not unilaterally impose restrictions on the industry.

The prime minister made his assertion during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday (December 9, 2014) when, once again, he was pressed by the New Democrats on when emission limits, promised since 2007, would be introduced.

Usually the Conservatives use that question, which often occurs daily from Opposition members, to attack the Liberal Party on its greenhouse gas emissions record, but on Tuesday Harper had a different answer.

We’re clearly not going to do it,” he said to cheers of approval from his party after saying that initiating controls “under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy.”

Harper said Canada is not willing to introduce restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, especially with oil prices recently incurring a 35 per cent drop.

“Regulating the oil and gas sector is something we would like to do, but we must do it on an integrated basis in a continental economy,” he said, in reference to working together with the U.S. on restrictions.

‘A new excuse’

But Greenpeace researcher Keith Stewart said the U.S. is already working on emission restrictions for the oil and gas sector, so all Canada needs to do is follow along, despite Harper’s insistence it’s not a good time.

“They’ve always had a new excuse as to why they’re not doing it,” Stewart said.

Stewart pointed to an internal memo sent from Environment Canada to the federal minister in 2013. That memo explained that the climate action plan, which the U.S. released in 2013, included emission restrictions for methane gas fracking.

He said the constant claims that restrictions on energy emissions would hurt the industry are blown out of proportion.

Stewart said the restrictions requested by environmentalists and Opposition parties would only result in a cost of 20 to 90 cents per barrel to the oil and gas industry, which he said is nothing compared to the recent price drop leaving oil at about US$65 per barrel.

“You’ve had a lot worse happen and it hasn’t changed things that much,” Stewart said. “What’s the cost of doing nothing?”  [Tyee]

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Suzuki comments on latest IPCC report – choices?

IPCC report is clear: We must clean up our act

Wind Farm in Germany
Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, now gets a third of its energy from renewable sources, and has reduced carbon emissions 23 per cent from 1990 levels and created 370,000 jobs. (Credit: David via Flickr)

It’s become a cliché to say that out of crisis comes opportunity. But there’s no denying that when faced with crises, we have choices. The opportunity depends on what we decide to do.

What choices will we make when confronted with the fact that 2014 will likely be the hottest year on record? According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global land and sea temperatures up to September’s end tie this year with 1998 as the warmest since record keeping began in 1880. “If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record,” a NOAA statement says.

The world’s warmest 10 years have all been since 1998, and last year carbon dioxide levels rose by the highest amount in 30 years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report, released November 2, summarizes three reports released over the past year on the physical science; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and mitigation. It offers a stark choice: Unless we quickly curtail our fossil fuel dependence, we face “further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

As a broadcaster, I’ve interviewed hundreds of scientists over the years, but I’ve never heard so many speak so forcefully and urgently as climatologists today. It’s a measure of the seriousness of the crisis.

What choices will we make? Will politicians close their eyes while fossil fuel industry executives shovel money at them and enlist propagandists to spread misinformation and lies? Will we listen to those who, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, continue to say the global warming they once claimed never existed stopped 18 years ago, or that human activity doesn’t contribute to climate change?

Or will we heed scientists from around the world who offer evidence that we still have time to do something about this very real crisis — and that confronting the challenge presents more opportunities than pitfalls?

Believing our only choice is between a strong economy and a healthy environment is absurd. Yet that’s the false option many political leaders and fossil fuel industry proponents present. Never mind the insanity of thinking we can survive and be healthy if we destroy the natural systems on which we depend; research shows taking measured steps to address global warming would have few negative economic effects and would offer numerous benefits. Failing to act would be disastrous for the economy and environment.

Energy conservation and clean fuels offer the greatest opportunities. Conserving energy makes precious, non-renewable resources last longer, reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, saves consumers money and offers many economic benefits. More than 100,000 Canadians are directly employed in improving energy efficiency, with total wages estimated at $8.27 billion for 2014.

The fast-growing clean-energy and clean-technology sectors offer similar benefits. Improved performance and cost reductions make large-scale deployment for many clean-energy technologies increasingly feasible. By focusing on fossil fuels, Canada is clearly missing out. Worldwide spending on clean energy last year was $207 billion. Canada spent $6.5 billion — a start, but we could do much better.

Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, now gets a third of its energy from renewable sources, and has reduced carbon emissions 23 per cent from 1990 levels and created 370,000 jobs.

In contrast, Canada subsidizes the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $1.3 billion a year, despite a 2009 G20 agreement to phase out subsidies. The federal Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner’s recent audit found Canada has no detailed plan to shrink carbon pollution and meet its international commitment, and has failed to release or enforce oil and gas sector emission regulations for our fastest-growing source of emissions, the oil sands, promised since 2006. Expanding oil sands and liquefied natural gas development will only make matters worse.

People around the world want leadership from elected representatives on climate change and pollution. Business leaders are getting on board. Will we take advantage of the numerous benefits of energy conservation and clean energy or remain stuck in the old way of just blindly burning our way through? The choice is clear.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Latest UN Climate Report – is Harper Listening?

Latest UN Climate Report Spells out Tough Work Ahead

And the world’s eyes are on carbon-spewing Canada. Your move, Harper.

By Nick Fillmore, November 5, 2014, originally published by: TheTyee.ca

ClimateSummit_600px.jpg

We would like to avoid what happened in Denmark, in Copenhagen, where the heads of state and governments thought they could reach an agreement in the very few, last few hours.‘ French President Francois Hollande told Canadian Parliament of the upcoming Paris climate summit.

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Canada’s dismal record on fighting climate change was brought into the spotlight twice this week — first with a crucial UN report spelling out the tough task ahead for the world’s nations, and second, with the president of France delivering an embarrassing lecture to the Harper government in our own Parliament on Monday.

Practically tongue in cheek, French President Francois Hollande, glancing at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told Parliament that he had no reason to doubt Canada’s commitment to reaching a global agreement on climate change when the final round of negotiations are held in Paris in December 2015.

But the president warned Parliament that negotiations must not be left to the last minute.

“We would like to avoid what happened in Denmark, in Copenhagen, where the heads of state and governments thought they could reach an agreement in the very few, last few hours. This is not possible,” said Hollande. “We have to find an agreement within the coming months.”

Released Sunday, the latest United Nations report on the threat of global warming is by far the most comprehensive to date, and includes the most serious warnings ever. It describes in detail the disaster ahead unless humankind can reverse carbon emissions by 2020 and then phase out emissions entirely by the end of this century.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was prepared to provide up-to-date information for governments attempting to deliver a new global treaty on climate change during the final UN Climate Summit next year.

The looming Paris summit presents a new challenge for the Canadian government in view of the fact that Canada remains, by some measures, the worst performer in fighting climate change of all industrialized countries.

Bad Canada

As hinted by the French president, Canada plays a leading role in destroying the atmosphere. Mechanical engineer John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota toldScientific American: “If we burn all the tarsand oil, the temperature rise, just from burning that tarsand, will be half of what we’ve already seen — an estimated additional nearly 0.4 C from Alberta alone.”

A federal election is scheduled to be held before the Paris summit. Over the next few months, Harper’s government will have to decide if it will adopt a more progressive climate change position — a move that, while unlikely, would probably win the Conservatives votes in the election. If another party becomes the government next October, it would have very little time to develop a new position in advance of the summit.

The IPCC strongly acknowledges that carbon emissions are rising at an alarming rate. While changes in the weather are not having a big impact in developed countries, climate chaos is already causing massive destruction and an estimated 150,000 deaths annually.

Even so, the IPCC report also offers hope. Panel chair Rajendra Pachauri said the world has the means to limit climate change. He said if the right solutions are put into place there can be continued economic and human development.

But considering the overall content of the report — as well as the harsh information in a number of earlier reports — it is questionable how much progress can be made because of a number of difficulties that must be overcome.

What must be done

The UN lacks the power to force governments to follow any particular course of action. While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sounds like he is in charge of a solid campaign for change, he’s really a concerned cheerleader. Moreover, Sunday’s report includes only vague — and questionable — suggestions concerning actions that should be taken to slow global warming. It says that:

  • Most of the world’s electricity should be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050;

  • Renewables will have to grow from the current 30 per cent share to 80 per cent of the power sector by 2050;

  • Fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would need to be phased out almost entirely by 2100. (However, the world has only one CCS plant in operation as the technology has not proven to be reliable);

  • Behavioural changes, such as eating less meat, can have a role in cutting emissions (a meek offer).

One ongoing issue that could delay progress concerns to what extent wealthy countries, which are responsible for much of the climate destruction to this point, are willing to assist less developed nations in covering the costs of mitigating the damage caused by climate change.

However, pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which was to raise $100 billion, have been slow to come in, so the UN now hopes governments and the private sector will commit $15 billion as starter capital. The Council of Canadians says the federal government should contribute $4 billion a year to the fund.

A serious issue ahead concerns whether the U.S. and China can reach a bilateral agreement on the burning of coal. If not, some countries may be reluctant to sign onto a binding deal next year.

UN officials fear that U.S. President Obama will not be able to sign a full agreement in Paris because the Senate, with many members receiving large donations from the energy sector, will veto the agreement, and the non-governmental sector is claiming that powerful multinational corporations are trying to hijack the entire UN climate process.

In anticipation of the release of the IPCC report, 55 Canadian environmental researchers and academics came together to urge the Harper government to begin fighting climate change in a serious way.

The group praised work carried out by lower levels of government to mitigate climate change. They pointed out that Ontario is phasing out coal-fired electricity plants and that Vancouver is promising to be the greenest city in the world by the year 2020, but they emphasized the country is lacking overall federal leadership to help co-ordinate such activities.  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal PoliticsEnvironment,

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (7)

Four Prime Questions about Harper’s Response to Ottawa Shooting

PM’s moves at home and abroad demand closer scrutiny.

By Murray Dobbin, November 3, 2014, TheTyee.ca

HarperFranken_600px.jpg

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Two weeks after the senseless murder of a soldier on Parliament Hill (and another earlier in Montreal) there are several things we know and many we don’t. Obvious questions have been asked and inconvenient ones have been left aside.

We know — and indeed could predict one second after the shooting — that Stephen Harper would use it as an excuse to expand the security and surveillance state he has been constructing.

We know that the shooting was not a terrorist act, but a criminal one, regardless of what the RCMP and CSIS, eager to enhance their political role and resources, are saying. (Within an hour of the shooting an over-eager CSIS official was declaring hopefully, “this will change everything.”)

We know that the enhanced security measures and police powers will do nothing to help us understand, let alone deal with, the root causes of what the Harper government claims is an existential threat to Canada and the West (but is content to deal with symptoms).

We know that there will be no additional resources from governments to deal with mental illness as Mr. Harper plans to cut billions from medicare. There will be no revisiting of the issue of gun registration in spite of its obvious importance in dealing with such incidents. And there will be no effort on the part of our Christian fundamentalist PM to counter the anti-Muslim backlash he knows he is contributing to by hyping the terrorist threat.

The bigger questions remain to be asked and so they won’t likely be answered. They include:

1. What freedoms must we now erode and why? Mr. Harper, who eagerly adheres to the (simplistic) idea that jihadists “hate our freedoms,” might reasonably be asked to explain why he is so eager to destroy those freedoms in response to the jihadists’ “war” against the West. Isn’t that exactly what they want — or does Harper want to rid us of freedoms so the jihadists won’t hate us so much? Wouldn’t a genuine response be to celebrate and enhance our freedoms even more (perhaps by ending the auditing of groups critical of the government)?

2. What is producing Canada’s homegrown jihadists? This is another question the government seems decidedly uninterested in: what is it about our Western societies — supposedly the model for the entire world, morally, culturally and socially superior — that alienates some young people so much that they can suddenly decide it’s all right to kill innocents and it’s worth dying for a cause so remote and alien to their lived experience that it is scarcely possible to believe they can understand it let alone truly embrace it? Could it possibly have anything to do with 35 years of neoliberal assault on community and consumer capitalism’s failure to provide meaning to their lives beyond purchasing the next electronic gadget?

3. What is the most effective response to Islamists? Yet one more question not being asked is what would a rational, enlightened (we are enlightened, right?), effective response to so-called “radical” Islam look like? The “this changes everything” gang certainly don’t intend to change Canada’s foreign policy or recommend a change to its allies. Yet it is key to any long-term solution.

There are countless experts and historians who are eager to address the issue. And we know what they would say about Stephen Harper’s efforts to transform Canada from a moderate, middle power with a history of virtually inventing UN peacekeeping, into a shrill, warmongering nation ever ready to rattle its (insignificant) sabre at any opportunity.

The fact that these two unconnected killings were not terrorist acts doesn’t mean such acts cannot or will not happen. And while Mr. Harper puts on his warrior’s armour and militarizes the government’s response, he ignores the impact of his reckless Middle East foreign policy on escalating such threats. Canada’s ham-handed policies actually do put us at risk.

According to a report in the National Post, on Sept. 21, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani “urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans…. Rely upon Allah…. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict.”

This threat is clearly connected directly to Canada’s policies and its determination to join the war against ISIS. Harper, in what has become his standard adolescent response to events in the Middle East, bravely declared he would not be “cowed by threats while innocent children, women, men and religious minorities live in fear of these terrorists.” Yet Canada’s contribution is laughably minuscule — but just big enough, perhaps, to put us at risk of a future attack. And all, as usual, for domestic political consumption as evidenced by the total inability of the government to explain its mission.

To their credit the opposition parties in Parliament, the NDP and the Liberals, voted against the ISIS mission for most of the right reasons: what exactly was the mission, what were the government’s expectations, how was success being defined, what Canadian interests are being served and why six months? Not one of these questions was answered and instead the questioners were treated to the usual contempt from the prime minister.

4. Can we learn from how we got here? We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. It’s worth tracing back to its origins. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, and the key architect of the mujahedeen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the U.S. began arming, financing and training the original handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in 1998, Brzezinski revealed his impoverished imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

ISIS would not exist had the U.S. not created its predecessors. And this failure of imagination is replicated year after year in the White House, in the Strangelovian world of NATO and now in Ottawa. Imperial hubris, wilful ignorance, political opportunism and sheer incompetence still determine Middle East policy. Harper enthusiastically bombed Libya, with the unintended but predictable consequence of handing over thousands of tonnes of sophisticated weapons to another branch of radical Islamists. He gives Israel absolute carte blanche in its savaging of Palestinians, alienating even moderate Arabs throughout the region, and now he pointlessly tweaks the tail of the ISIS tiger.

His every act in the name of Canada creates more jihadists. We are just lucky that an attack on Canada initiated by ISIS is extremely unlikely.  [Tyee]

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Canada and climate change

Canada has the worst climate change record in the industrialized world

This is embarrassing.

Canada is dead last among industrialized nations in a new climate change performance index.

“Canada still shows no intention on moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries,” says the report released by Germanwatch, a sustainable development advocacy group.

The index takes into account a variety of indicators related to greenhouse gas emissions, development of emissions, climate policy, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Canada particularly stands out when comparing its low scores on emissions, renewable energy investments and climate policies.

 

This shouldn’t come as much surprise to Canadians.

Back in June, when U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans for historic reductions in carbon emissions, Stephen Harper reversed his long-standing wait-and-see what the Americans do position on emissions, shifting to a new line that he had actually solved the problem two years ago.

That, of course, isn’t true. Earlier this month, an audit conducted by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found the federal government’s policies to reduce emissions has only gotten us 7% of the way to meeting Canada’s Copenhagen Accord targets.

On the other hand, we’re dealing with a government that believes increased fossil fuel use has a correlation with improved air and water quality.

Photo: ojbryne.

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (6)

Harper tries to intimidate us into perpetual war

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

Stephen Harper insisted last week that we will not be intimidated by terrorism. He then did everything he could to ensure we will be intimidated by terrorism.

I’ve always been confused by the assertion that we won’t be intimidated by terrorism. Has anyone ever suggested that we should be intimidated by terrorism, that because a man ran into the Parliament buildings brandishing a rifle, we should abandon parliamentary democracy?

Obviously not.

But Harper wants us to be sufficiently intimidated that we will allow the fight against “terrorism” to take centre-stage and suck up all our energy — unlike, say, threats that are just as likely or more likely to kill us, like Ebola or climate change. (These threats don’t much interest Harper. He’s made only made a small contribution to fighting the Ebola epidemic; and he’s actively obstructed attempts to organize global action against climate change.)

Not so with terrorism, which dominated the political agenda all this week, with lots of hype about Canada and our institutions being under attack — even as there was growing difficulty in explaining the difference between the “terrorist” murders of two soldiers and the non-terrorist murders of three RCMP officers in Moncton. The main difference appeared to be that the Moncton murderer was not a follower of Islam, so didn’t fit into the government’s terrorist category.

The real danger is that we will be intimidated — not by terrorists or mentally ill killers, but by Stephen Harper — into accepting an aggressive “war on terror” agenda. Those who don’t jump on board will soon be reminded: if you’re not fighting terrorism, you’re with the terrorists.

Under this kind of pressure, Canadians may end up accepting an agenda that we’ve wisely resisted in the past, and that most Canadians regard as a failure.

It’s worth recalling that Stephen Harper tried to push Canadians into George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Canadians (and Americans) now overwhelmingly regard that invasion as a disaster, and believe western interventions to fight terrorism have only made the world more dangerous, according to pollster Frank Graves.

Graves points to what Canadians would like to see instead: “Overwhelmingly, Canadians want to see their leaders re-think their reliance on military and security-oriented approaches to the terrorist threat, in favour of approaches more in keeping with our core values as a nation.”

Well, we can pretty much forget about that.

Already, the Harper government has moved to beef up the surveillance and police powers of the state.

This is always worrisome, but particularly so under this government, which has aggressively used state power, including invasive tax audits to harass charities — notably  environmental charities — that have opposed government policies.

In fact, the Harper government has gone so far as to suggest some charities have terrorist links.

As the late Jim Flaherty said, “there are some terrorist organizations, there are some organized crime organizations that launder money through charities, and make donations to charities.”

What new measures then might the Harper government use to spy on or clamp down on allegedly terrorist-connected environmental groups that threaten to derail its pipeline agenda?

In the new anti-terror atmosphere, we can also expect plenty of pressure to fall in line when it’s time to extend the six-month bombing mission in Iraq; curtailing it, after all, would be giving in to terrorists, practically coddling them.

Certainly there will be little tolerance for arguments like the one advanced this week by Ron Paul, the maverick former Republican presidential candidate, who noted that Canada’s past avoidance of U.S. military interventions was wise: “staying out of other people’s wars makes a country more safe.”

Of course, risking our safety can be justified — if the war is justified and worth fighting.

But the danger is that we won’t even have a chance to properly assess our bombing mission in Iraq.

Any attempt at thoughtful evaluation will be pre-empted by the need to show resolve against terror, to remain in lock-step with our anti-terror allies. We’ll end up less safe, not because we’ve concluded that bombing Iraq is a good idea, but because we’ve been attacked by “terrorists” and need to show them we won’t be intimidated.

During the war in Afghanistan, commentators used to say that if there were a lot of casualties, Canadians would turn against the war.

But the government did its best to tar those who did, including “Taliban Jack” Layton, who dared to urge negotiations.

As the government cranked up anthems and paraded coffins down the “Highway of Heroes,” we were urged to believe that each new casualty was a reason for staying — lest the fallen soldier had died in vain.

And so Canada stayed in Afghanistan for more than a decade, even though only 16 per cent of Canadians now regard that intervention as a success.

Hopefully this time we actually won’t be intimidated — by terrorists, the mentally ill, or those trying to push us into perpetual war.

Winner of a National Newspaper Award, Linda McQuaig has been a reporter for the Globe and Mail, a columnist for the National Post and the Toronto Star and author of seven bestsellers, including Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and other Canadian Myths and It’s the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet. Her most recent book (co-written with Neil Brooks) is The Trouble with Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Hijacked the World, and How We Can Take It Back.

This article is reprinted (by Rabble.ca) with permission from iPolitics