News Highlights – 6 Nov 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  They’re home!  More here.
  • Libya Mission (2)  Some hairy times.  “It was early in the Libya mission when Italian authorities picked up the distress call. By the next morning, HMCS Charlottetown had gone from enforcing an arms embargo to providing humanitarian assistance. It was March and at the time the Canadian frigate was operating off the coast of Tripoli, part of a ring of NATO warships tasked with making sure weapons and ammunition didn’t get into the country and the hands of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. But when the Italians relayed the distress call to NATO commanders, who in turn ordered the Canadian frigate to investigate, the Charlottetown’s crew leaped into action ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Byron Greff, R.I.P.  A town in central Alberta is paying tribute to a fallen soldier who died in a suicide attack in Afghanistan last week. Master Cpl. Byron Greff was among 17 people killed in Kabul last Saturday when a suicide bomber slammed a vehicle fill with explosives into a NATO bus. Friends and family in Greff’s hometown of Lacombe, Alta. plan to honour his life during a public memorial service on Saturday. The service will be held at 1 p.m. local time at Canadian University College and will occur shortly after Greff is laid to rest at a private family ceremony ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Debut of new film – “The Vandoos in Afghanistan” on the National Film Board’s web page this week (watch it for free this week).
  • Afghanistan (3)  What Remembrance Day means to one Canadian officer downrange (via Army News & Facebook)
  • Afghanistan (4)  Canadians among troops winning German shooting medals in northern Afghanistan base competition (via NATO Info-Machine)
  • Afghanistan (5)  Canadian ambassador with Eid al-Adha greetings.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  He says, they say“The F-35 program is progressing well and on track,” associate minister of defence Julian Fantino told the House Thursday, while answering a question from the Opposition on the fighter jet program. However, other countries continue to make moves that suggest the program is not doing as well as he claims ….”
  • In spite of Don MacLean suggesting he take the honourary degree from RMC, Grapes continues to decline with thanks.  Further proof here that he’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.
  • Remembrance Day (1)  All I can say is:  scumbags!  “City and military officials are shocked after learning one of Calgary’s newest war memorials was vandalized only days before Remembrance Day. Bill Bruce, the city’s chief bylaw officer, said graffiti was sprayed across the riverside wall of Poppy Plaza on Thursday night. Phil MacAulay, president of the No. 1 Royal Canadian Legion, said he was disappointed to learn of the damage. “It’s bad,” MacAulay said. “It’s disrespectful. “You just don’t think something like that would happen any time of year, but especially now. “It’s so close to Remembrance Day, you’d think they’d know,” added MacAulay, who spent five years in the Canadian Navy. “Unfortunately, some lamebrains don’t think of the consequences or anything like that ….”  More here.
  • Remembrance Day (2)  For the last 19 years, students at Ottawa’s Catholic Notre Dame High School have benefitted from a remarkable community program. Every Remembrance Day, local military veterans would come to the school and set up exhibits that the school’s students would visit throughout the day. The students could interact with Canadian military veterans, and examine military antiques, including uniforms, items of personal gear and some disabled military weapons loaned from museums …. what would have been the 20th Remembrance Day Symposium (and was set to include veterans from our war in Afghanistan) has been cancelled. The reason given: The school doesn’t want “guns or tanks” on its property.  Ridiculous. Displaying harmless military memorabilia, in the respectful hands of the men and women who carried it in our country’s wars, is a wonderful way to make Canada’s proud military history come alive to a generation that will, we hope, never come closer than a deactivated rifle to the horrors of total war …. “
  • Veterans’ advocates said Saturday they achieved their goal despite modest turnouts at some demonstrations to protest proposed cuts to the budget of Veterans Affairs Canada. Dozens of protesters, most of them veterans, gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday afternoon to call attention to what they call the government’s lack of compassion for those who have fought for their country. A rally in Halifax drew some 30 protesters and onlookers to city hall despite the frigid fall weather. A similar demonstration was held outside the department’s headquarters in Charlottetown on Friday. “People on the Hill have come up and said, ‘I never knew,’ and that’s the object,” organizer Mike Blais of the group Canadian Veterans Advocacy said from Ottawa. “The object is to draw attention to the situation and I think … we’ve certainly accomplished our goal today,” he said Saturday afternoon …. ”  More here and here.
  • The Royal Canadian Legion appears to be taking a stronger stance on veterans’ issues.  “The Royal Canadian Legion fired a shot across the federal government’s bow last month. Canada’s veterans, it said sternly, should be exempt from cuts under the government’s program review. “Getting our financial house in order should not be done on the backs of our wounded warriors and their families,” declared Pat Varga, the Legion’s dominion president. It was an unusually blunt public stance for an organization that has traditionally preferred to do its advocacy in private. But it also reflected a new determination by the Legion to speak up in the political arena in order to sharpen its image and help arrest decades of membership decline. “We do want to be able to inject into that debate. That should be our role,” says Brad White, the organization’s dominion secretary …. “
  • A former soldier who is staging a hunger strike to protest the way the federal government has handled his case is expected to meet today with Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney. Pascal Lacoste says he was poisoned while serving overseas and launched his hunger strike on Saturday outside Blaney’s riding office in this community near Quebec City. Lacoste blames his declining health, including chronic pain and a degenerative neurological disorder, on depleted-uranium poisoning he believes he contracted in Bosnia in the 1990s. The 38-year-old Quebec City resident vowed not to eat again until Blaney recognizes that he and other soldiers were contaminated with depleted uranium ….”
  • What’s anti-military, pro-disarmament group up to in the coming year?  “…. This year we will be concentrating our efforts on opposing the growing National Security Establishment: that web of politicians, lobby groups, old generals and corporations that are robbing the treasury of public dollars for themselves and their own special interests. In the coming days I’ll be letting you know how the pro-war lobby is funded by the military, and how their influence reaches deep into the best-known news organizations in Canada ….”  We wait with interest.

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: Omar on Unity, Threatening the West (maybe), and What He Doesn’t Say

A bit more to offer on this week’s “Eid Mubarak” message from Mullah Omar (PDF of official English & Arabic at non-terrorist site).  I’ve seen different English versions out there, so I’m going to base my read on the official English version at the Taliban’s own site.

“Colonial Watch” Count

Words whose root is “colony” pop up 14 times in this statement.  For an approximately 3100 word statement, we’re seeing a “colonial-esque” expression every 220 words – not quite as densely “colonized” as another recent statement (6 mentions in 560 words, or once every 87 words).

Multiple Unity,  Stability Pleas

There were several different calls for an end to infighting and divisiveness of various kinds:

Implement the injunctions of Allah practically and fully;  constantly strive for unity among your ranks and keep away from discord and friction.

Make the most of experience, consultation and proven tactics in the military operations and other affairs of Jihad so that you will block the door of differences, complaints and losses.

The ( former) communists formed tribal and unscrupulous groups under the name of tribal militia at a time when they were on the verge of defeat. The aim was to provoke internal conflicts, biases, racial differences and resultantly revenge themselves on (our) Mujahid people. The Americans and their allies too want to repeat the same failed experience.

The economic assistance, the mercenaries, the overt and covert ploys of the wicked companies have paved the way for( execution of these plans) and have set off hatred, discrimination and rivalries in the region.

I advise you to fully abide by the sacred rules of Islam in order to achieve the magnanimity and grandeur of Islam. Help (your) oppressed Muslim brothers and use your wisdom, sagacity and sobriety in the cause of Jihad and confrontation with the tyrant aggressors, particularly, the chiefs of the Jihadic movements should ponder over all aspects during performance of affairs of Jihad; avoid disunity and splintering among your ranks and be heedful to the conspiracies being engineered to malign Mujahideen.

The Americans and its allies have been hammering out plans overtly and covertly to destabilize the Islamic world and provoke differences in the Islamic countries.

While it’s clear Mullah Omar is blaming NATO/the West for engineering the rifts (real or perceived), it makes one wonder exactly how worried he might be about infighting with this many mentions.

“It Wasn’t Us, It Was Them!”

The theme of NATO causing the deaths of civilians, even in crowded market bombings pops up:

The cunning enemy wants to attack people’s congestion places like religious centers, mosques and other similar places in order to malign Mujahideen. They also launch sanguinary attacks under the name of martyrdom-seeking operations to mar the good name of Mujahiden.

Nothing new here, just more of the same.

Negotiations:  What Omar Says (and Doesn’t Say?)

On negotiations, the statement basically says any such talks are for NATO’s benefit, not Afghanistan’s:

Those who have occupied our country and taken our people as hostage, want to use the stratagem of negotiation like they used the drama of elections for some time in order to achieve their colonialist objectives. The invaders do not want negotiation aimed at granting independence to Afghanistan and ending their invasion but they want negotiation which will prolong their evil process of colonization and occupation. However, the people of Afghanistan will not agree to negotiation which prolongs and legitimatizes the invaders military presence in our beloved country. Afghanistan is our home. No one will ever be ready to negotiate with any one else about ownership of one’s home –still more to give share in administration and control of the home and himself ends up becoming homeless, powerless and servant in his own home.

The foreigners have occupied the land of the Afghans by dent of (military) might and savagery. If they want solution of the issue, they should put an end to the occupation of Afghanistan. The invading Americans want Mujahideen to surrender under the pretext of the negotiation. This is some thing impossible.

Some, including the Long War Journal, the Associated Press and Voice of America, see this as (continued) evidence that the Taliban don’t want to talk to Karzai.

Others, like Kandahar-based writer/journalist Alex Strick van Linschoten (co-editor of soon-to-be released memoirs of senior former Taliban official Abdul Salam Zaeef), see what’s NOT written – via Twitter here, here and here:

(Omar) didn’t rule out (talks), strictly speaking.  He said things need to change before he’d talk, but he doesn’t close the door completely, i.e. it’s implied but he doesn’t actively rule them out.

In spite of this, as well as other messaging outliers like the former Taliban U.N. rep laying out conditions for participation in a loya jirga, for now I’m going to keep reading Mullah Omar’s latest statement as further support for the “OFFICIALLY, no talking until the foreign troops are gone” message track we’ve seen elsewhere.

Future Threat to U.S., the West?

This is one of the questions reportedly being pondered by all sorts of government officials in considering next steps in Afghanistan.  On the one hand, we see another reinforcement of “we’re here to be friendly to our neighbours” message:

We only want establishment of an Islamic system in our country which will protect rights of all individuals of this nation both men and women—a system depending on its own feet,  fully independent, its internal and external policy  being based on this Islamic principle: not harming others and not allowing others to harm us.

This builds on previous statements (here and here, for example) as part of  the Taliban, in the words of the Institute for the Study of War’s Jeffrey Dressler, “aggressively attempting to rebrand their image and feed talking points to those in favor of de-escalation.”

On the other hand, though, we also see this:

We consider the whole region as a common home against colonialism and, as a responsible force, want to play our role in stability and peace of the region in future.


The statement on the Taliban’s web page about the Fort Hood shooting mentions this:

This is a natural reaction and resentment against the brutalities, atrocities, bombardment and tortures  of prisoners at the hand of  the American soldiers  in these two Muslim countries. The American army has killed hundred of thousands of miserable Afghans and Iraqis during the past eight years as a result of an unjustified and arrogant  wars.

In the Taliban’s statement following the attack on UNAMA’s residence in Kabul, we see this:

If we have a glimpse at events in Palestine, Iraq and other issues and  the bloodbath now going on at the  level  of the Ummah, we will readily know that  how callously and brutally the invading colonialists kill common Muslims collectively  and invade Islamic lands flagrantly.

So, do these last two quotes mean that as long as the Taliban see the U.S. as a threat in Iraq or the Middle East, they’ll still be “colonialist” enough to consider the bad guy?  If that’s the case, using the region as a base for any anti-US/anti-colonial could be seen as OK.

There are yet other signals out there muddying the waters as well, such as the guy calling himself a Taliban commander saying “If the Americans leave, then we will not concern ourselves with them any longer …. we will never again allow our country to be used in the same way as it was used against America in the past.”

My two cents – I’m happy to leave deeper analysis to the professionals who don’t need Google Translator to do the work.

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: Mullah Omar’s Latest – First Look

This just in – an Eid al-Adha (Muslim holy day) message from none other than Mullah Omar – Arabic version at Voice of Jihad’s web page here (PDF at non-terrorist site here) and Google English translation here (PDF here).

Some very quick first impressions:

Lengthy statement (~ 2500 words)+ high-end attribution (boss of Afghanistan’s Taliban) = “we really mean this” (or at least we want to be SEEN as really meaning this)

Some key messages (ones I’ve never seen before in red):

  • Thanks for not taking part in the last election.
  • The West doesn’t want to negotiate to leave, they want to negotiate to stay – forever.  Any talks = legitimizing “occupation”.
  • Hey, Muj, try to be careful about those civvy casualties.
  • “Tribal militias” = divide and conquer – ain’t gonna work.
  • AFG gov’t workers:  stop helping the “occupiers” – don’t be like the lackeys who worked Russians and, way before them, the Brits.
  • Human rights groups & Organization of the Islamic Conference:  get these Americans to stop “massacring” us, and running illegal prisons.
  • Writers/journalists/intellectuals:  How about some support for our oppressed here?
  • Neighbours:  We want to be friends, honest.
  • Obama & supporters of the U.S.:  we will beat you, just like we did the Russians and the Brits.
  • “War on Terror” = term made up by Pentagon, White House to disguise colonialism.
  • Other Jihadists:  Watch out for anything that’ll cause splits, disunity within and among groups.

More, when I get a chance to read the official English version in more detail.

Update: Official English and Arabic versions now available in PDF at non-terrorist site here.