Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Canada: "Plus ca change........"


Voters turn to "anti-austerity" but,
how real are the promises of
Liberal "Sunrise"?

Justin Trudeau has been elected Canada’s new Prime Minister. His Liberal Party won in a landslide, claiming more than half of the seats in parliament and ending Conservative Stephen Harper’s decade as Prime Minister.

The 43-year-old Mr Trudeau, whose father, Pierre Trudeau, was Prime Minister for more than 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s, is a onetime actor and former high school teacher, who sprang on to the public stage when he delivered the eulogy at his father’s funeral in 2000. He has been an MP since 2008 and becomes Canada’s second youngest prime minister ever. Addressing his supporters at Liberal headquarters in Montreal Monday night, Mr Trudeau said: “This is what positive politics can do… Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight. It’s time for a change in this country, my friends, a real change.” “Changement” was a repeated key-word in Mr Trudeau’s victory speech delivered in Montreal, Capital of Quebec Province, the main French-speaking area of Canada. Mr Trudeau, naturally enough considering his background, is fluent in French. Whether this commitment to “Changement” is actually implemented, beyond superficial measures, remains to be seen.

The Liberals, who held power for 80 of the 110 years between 1896 and 2006, had shrunk at the last election to become the Ottawa Parliament’s third largest party, behind the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). Elected Liberal leader in April 2013, Mr Trudeau seemed a popular choice with the public, but his Conservative and NDP opponents wrote him off as a political lightweight who had coasted to prominence on his father’s name.

Yet he exceeded expectations on the campaign trail and the debate stage, leading a steady Liberal poll surge: from third place at the start of the long election campaign in August, to the clear frontrunner in its closing days. Most polls had predicted a minority government, but the apparent collapse of the NDP to a distant third place will now leave the Liberals, under the second Prime Minister Trudeau, with a clear working majority. Scooping the pollsters a not inconsiderable achievement for Mr Trudeau. Canada had shifted much more to the right under Mr Harper, who has lowered sales and corporate taxes, avoided climate change legislation and clashed with the Obama administration over the Keystone XL pipeline, subject of fierce opposition and resistance by environmentalists and local activists in the proposed extension across the US Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

As the Senate-expenses scandal and following trial of former Conservative Senator, Mike Duffy, appointed by Mr Harper, played out, Conservative fortunes seemed to decline and the Liberals began slowly picking up steam. The Duffy trial was suspended during the election campaign leaving Mr Harper to face more inquiries when the trial resumes in November. Then came the first real disruptive event of the campaign, the Quebec-centred debate on the Conservatives’ determination to prevent women from wearing face-covering Niqabs at citizenship swearing-in ceremonies. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair came out strongly against the policy, a position that went over poorly in Quebec, the province whose orange-wave of New Democrat victories in 2011 raised the party to a historic high in Parliament making it the Official Opposition for the first time.

As the NDP’s support dropped in Quebec, the Liberals picked up support in the polls, apparently because voters determined to oust Harper and the Tories and saw Trudeau’s 
team as the best bet to win. The NDP gains in Quebec  in 2011 were obtained only as a result of voter dissatisfaction with the separatist Parti Quebecois whose voters were more likely to vote for the left-leaning NDP than switch to the despised Conservatives under Harper. The NDP’s parliamentary representation was more than halved to about 40 seats. Its share of the popular vote shrunk by more than a third to less than 20 percent. NDP lost seats not only to the Liberals, but also to the Conservatives and the pro-Quebec independence Bloc Quebecois (BQ), whose sister party at the provincial level, the Parti Quebecois, has long enjoyed the support of the union bureaucracy. During the election campaign, the Conservatives and BQ effectively worked in tandem. They made joint reactionary and Islamophobic appeals, demanding that restrictions be imposed on the wearing of the niqab and championing Canada’s role in the latest US war in the Middle East.

The 78-day election campaign set precedents on numerous counts: the longest race since 1872, the first mandated by a fixed-election-date law, and the launch pad for controversial new voter-ID rules mooted by the Harper Government. The Conservatives under Stephen Harper began a close second behind a buoyant New Democratic Party in most polls, though observers predicted the elongated campaign could play into the hands of the Tories and their overflowing war chest. At the start in August, the Liberals were in third, Trudeau supposedly having peaked months earlier and succumbed to the perception that he was too green and intellectually light-weight to be Prime Minister. Probably the earliest sign that those first expectations would have to be revised came with the first leaders’ debate, where no one scored an obvious win but Trudeau drew plaudits for a solid performance. The ultimate result on Monday night was the greatest political comeback in Canadian history. The Liberals increased their vote share by more than 15 percentage points in every single one of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. Gains in Ontario and Quebec in particular were decisive in pushing the party over the 170-seats line needed to win a majority.
Monday’s vote was a massive repudiation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his decade-old Conservative government. The Conservatives lost more than 60 seats, with many cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Joe Oliver, going down to personal defeat. Harper announced he was stepping aside as Conservative leader even before giving his concession speech.

The Liberals benefited from  mass opposition to the Conservative government, which imposed sweeping austerity measures, further integrated Canada into the military-strategic offensives of US imperialism, and attacked democratic and workers’ rights, rather than the vague “policies” fronted by Mr Trudeau during the campaign. The Liberals’ ability to portray themselves as the agents of “real” and “progressive” change was greatly assisted by the constant hinting by the NDP that a Liberal/NDP coalition could be on the cards if no party gained a majority. For years the Unions and NDP have been promoting the replacement of Harper by a “progressive” government in which the Liberals would play a leading role. Since last year, the Unions have been spearheading an “Anybody but Harper” campaign, pouring
millions of dollars into third-party anti-Conservative ad and protest campaigns. Further, the NDP, was assiduously courting Big Business that it should be entrusted with the reins of power, mounting a “Harper lite” election campaign. This included pledging four years of balanced budgets, no increases in the taxes of the rich and super-rich, further corporate tax cuts, and increased military spending. As the result, the Liberals were able to pass themselves off as opponents of austerity. Despite it being the party that, when it last formed Canada’s government, implemented the largest social spending cuts in Canadian history and handed tens of billions in savings to big business and the financial elite through massive corporate, capital-gains and personal-income tax cuts.

Trudeau and his Liberals will use their majority to continue the dictates of the Canadian capitalist elite. Under conditions of a deepening economic crisis in Canada, driven by the sharp fall in oil and commodity prices and slowed growth internationally, as well as mounting tensions between the major powers, the new Liberal government will be called upon to step up the assault on workers’ rights at home and to more aggressively assert Canadian capitalism’s predatory interests abroad. This will include adoption of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, a central component of the United States’ drive to strategically isolate and militarily encircle China.

During the course of the campaign, it became clear that powerful sections of the ruling class were rallying round the Liberals. Endorsements for a Trudeau government came from La Presse, Canada’s most important French-language daily, and even from Conrad Black,  former jailbird, convicted of fraud in a US court in 2007, and  founder of the neo-conservative National Post and a key backer of the 2004 fusing of Harper’s Canadian Alliance with the remnants of the Progressive Conservative Party. The ruling elites apparently have calculated that after nine years of Conservative rule, the installation of an ostensibly “progressive” government will better enable them to continue to ruthlessly enforce their interests while keeping a lid on mounting social anger.

They also know  that the Liberals have a very long record of making “progressive” appeals during election campaigns, only to impose the policy prescriptions of their avowedly more right-wing opponents when they take office. In 1993, the Liberals swept to power under Jean Chretien after nine years of Progressive Conservative rule. Chretien ran a “progressive” campaign, pledging to end the Conservatives’ “fixation” on the deficit so as to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). His government went on to spearhead the dismantling of public services and unemployment insurance, making savage cuts that are still held up by the IMF as an austerity model for governments around the world.

The Liberals are also committed to retaining Bill C-51, the police state law the Conservatives adopted with Liberal parliamentary support last spring. It gives the national security apparatus unlimited access to all government information on individual Canadians, enhances their powers of “preventive” detention, and empowers the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to break virtually any law when “disrupting” vaguely defined threats to national and economic security. Trudeau has promised to increase the number of Canadian Special Forces deployed to Iraq to train local proxy troops to combat ISIS within the framework of the US-led war coalition. He has also pledged to strengthen Ottawa’s relationship with Washington and to raise military spending, while also refusing to have direct use of Canadian Air Force jets in the US bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq. As for the Liberals’ much vaunted promise to oppose austerity, their own financial plan calls for them to find $6 billion per year in annual savings by their fourth year in government.

The Liberals also supported the introduction of Bill C-24 which reduces rights of citizens of other nationality who have acquired Canadian citizenship and even of their children born in Canada. The law has been condemned by Amnesty International and civil rights groups in Canada.  Amnesty International  says that the law discriminates against dual citizens by suggesting they are somehow “less Canadian” and not necessarily entitled to the same rights as Canadian-born citizens. Many have also pointed out that some Canadians may not even be aware that they hold dual citizenships based on their origins, marriage and other family ties.“Canadians with another nationality (and those who are eligible to obtain another nationality) now have second-class status,” the British Columbia
Civil Liberties Association said earlier this month.

The law is due to be challenged in court by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) who said the rules that went into effect when Bill C-24 became law in May create a two-tiered system in which naturalised Canadians are treated as second-class. The two organisations are launching a formal constitutional challenge of the law on the grounds that it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015








The double suicide-bomb attack in Ankara, the Turkish capital, which killed at least 86 and wounded up to 126 people at a peaceful demonstration of the Kurdish opposition People’s Democracy party continues to reverberate across the region.  The list of  suspect organisations which was immediately issued to world media by the Turkish Government includes all the usual suspects with an implied attitude of  “kill them all, we’ll figure out who it might have been later” but, said media were discouraged from asking the question of who might be the beneficiary of further unrest and public insecurity on the eve of the parliamentary elections due in November when the obvious answer was Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the country’s president. It gave him a blank cheque to do whatever he wants against anyone he considers a supporter of the “radicals”, i.e. the Kurdish opposition People’s Democracy Party, who deprived Erdogan’s party of “ Justice and Development”(AKP) of its parliamentary majority earlier this year.

The list of suspects naturally does not include Turkey’s MIT secret service, even though this brutal strike really resembles the recent terror act in Suruc which launched Erdogan’s latest military campaign against the Kurds. All efforts by the ruling AKP to exploit the attacks politically and mount a crackdown have backfired.  A recent survey by Metropoll found that the AKP would only increase its vote by 1 percent—and that was before the suicide bombing. Although Erdogan issued a statement condemning the “heinous” bombings, he has not spoken in public since the attack. He left this to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said on Sunday that groups including Islamic State (IS), the PKK and the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C) were all capable of carrying out such an attack and that “Work is continuing to identify the corpses of the two male terrorists who carried out the suicide bombings.”

Thousands attended funerals of those slain in the towns of Tunceli and Suruc, while hundreds marched on a mosque in a suburb of Istanbul where other funerals were held, denouncing Erdogan as a murderer. The Confederation of Progressive Labour Unions (DİSK), the Public Workers Labour Unions Confederation (KESK), the Chamber of Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), issued a joint statement convening a two-day general strike beginning Monday and continuing Tuesday. Announcing the calling of the general strike, TTB President Bayazit İlhan said, “We know who the murderers are, they’re the ones whose dreams of dictatorship fell through in the June 7 general election. They’re the ones who have plunged Turkey into a war because they couldn’t get their 400 MPs.”

Protests and mourning in Ankara following the vicious terrorist attack on Peace Rally.

Kani Beko, president of DİSK, said, “We are not unfamiliar with these massacres: on May Day 1977, in the towns of Maraş and Sivas; and recently with the killings in Diyarbakır and Suruç; we have seen similar attacks. We have lost our friends here, in a meeting that was authorized 20 days ago. We will continue struggling until this fascist AK Party government and its tradition of murders are held accountable.” The pro-Kurdish HDP, which had a major presence at the bombed peace rally, supported the strike call. Addressing tens of thousands of mourners in the capital at the weekend, the HDP’s co-leader Selahattin Demirtas said, “The state which gets information about the bird that flies and every flap of its wing was not able to prevent a massacre in the heart of Ankara.” The AKP’s hands are red with blood and they support this terror,” he told reporters at HDP headquarters in Ankara. “It reminds us of the Suruc explosion.”

It is unusual, as in this case, for no claims of responsibility to be made by anyone for terrorist acts, except in cases they were organised as political provocations. The likelihood that the election results will give Erdogan what he needs to maintain the Party of Development and Justice hold on power is very low: he has too many enemies, and he has made too many mistakes including the participation in the Syrian civil war together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the side of the opponents of Assad Government. Moreover, the Arab monarchies assigned Turkey the role of a near-frontline state with all the associated negative consequences, including the refugee problem.

Erdogan has nowhere to retreat to having advanced himself into a cleft stick. The border with Syria and Syrian refugees in Turkey cannot be wished away. His relations with Russia have deteriorated which is damaging to the Turkish economy and his Party’s ability to retain public support on standards of living in Turkey. Moreover, terrorists are streaming through Syria. The oil trade which represents the Islamic State’s main source of revenue is also happening with Turkey as an intermediary. If control of the border is regained by Assad’s army and its allies, with the assistance of Russia’s aerial assaults and the arrival of thousands of Iranian troops this week for a major advance in the ground war by the Syrian Arab Army, then the city of Raqqah will be lost by the Islamists and Washington’s Assad overthrow project will fail and, what’s worse for Erdogan, his own rule may suffer a fatal blow. When you play with fire it’s quite likely you can get burned.

Ankara, Qatar, and Saudi spent the beginning of this year working out the outlines of their “spheres of responsibility” of  rebel groups in Syria each Capital controls in preparation for a general offensive against Damascus. The Kurds launched an offensive in late summer toward Raqqah, forcing Erdogan to start a war against the PKK. He planned to rally a wave of Turkish nationalism and lower the vote share of Demirtash’s Peoples’ Democracy Party at the November parliamentary elections, but Kurdish resistance damaged his chances of victory, and he can’t now draw away enough votes from Demirtash’s party to gain an electoral victory. The biter bit.

Further, the escalation of the Syrian conflict indulged in by Washington/NATO from the West and Turkey, Qatar and Saudi in the region makes even more likely the realisation of the Turkish elite’s constant nightmare: the rise of an independent Kurdish state after the defeat of IS on the ground. In Syria, the Government forces have re-grouped and are organised for major advances in the next few weeks. On October 8, Chief of the General Staff of the Army and Armed Forces, Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayoub officially announced that the Syrian armed forces had started a large-scale assault aimed at retaking several key cities and regions from terrorist forces after a week-long bombing campaign by Russia targeting the jihadists. The main aims are the Hama-Homs axis and to lift the ISIS siege of the Kuweries Military Airport. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) with the National Defence Forces (NDF) conducted a large-scale offensive at the terrorist-controlled towns of Kafr Zita, Qala’at Al-Madayq, Latmeen, and Al-Lataminah in the Hama Governorate. The “Free Syrian Army”, CIA-backed Liwaa Suqour Al-Ghaab, Sham Legions, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham militant groups are opposing the Syrian forces there.

The clashes started off successfully for the SAA as they recaptured Al-Mughayr, Lahaya, and Markabah. Following this success the SAA advanced closer to the Idlib-Hama border, capturing the hilltops of Tal Sakhar, Tal-Sikeek, Tal Uthman and the town of Al-Haweez near the city of Kafr Zita. A the moment the SAA is reaching the Latmeen-Morek axis and the eastern perimeter of Latmeen. The primary objective of this offensive is to seal off the Northern Hama border with Idlib and build a buffer-zone around the city of Khan Sheikhoun located on the important Aleppo-Lattakia Highway. Then the government forces will be able to concentrate on the remaining pockets in the Hama governorate that are under the control of the jihadis and local supporters.

On October 7, four Russian Navy warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 missiles at the positions of ISIS in Syria. The missiles flew some 1,500 km to destroy 11 ISIS targets. The Russian Navy got  combat experience of using the Russian Kalibr missile systems (3M-54 Klub) which are intended to strike naval and land targets. The warships of the Caspian fleet involved in the missile attacks were: the Gepard-class frigate Dagestan and the Buyan-M-class corvettes Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich and Veliky Ustyug. They fired cruise missiles from the Kalibr NK (Klub) VLS launchers. The missiles used are capable of hitting a target within 3 meters at a range of up to 2,500 km.This action required cooperation from Iran and Iraq because missiles had to travel through their airspace to reach Syria. At the same day, the chairman of Iraqi parliament’s defence committee Hakim al-Zamili said that Baghdad may soon officially request Russia for airstrikes against ISIS. In this case, the Russia-Iraq-Iran-Syria joint information centre’s role will be expanded to coordinate Russia’s airstrikes in Iraq. Thus, we could conclude Iraq was almost moved from the US zone of influence in the Middle East.

Also, it’s a sobering demonstration of power for the  Western NATO aggressors. Earlier, the head of the Defence Committee of Russia’s State Duma, Vladimir Komoyedov, said that Russia is ready to use its naval forces to establish a blockade along the Syrian coastline to disrupt the delivery of armaments for terrorists in Syria. Russia shows that it can defend its military group in Latakia even from the Caspian Sea. The Russian military group in Syria seriously depends on the supplies through maritime transport. So, if Turkey which failed in its policy in Syria decides to cut it from the Russian Naval base in Crimea by closing straits exiting the Black Sea, Russia will be ready.

On October 6, Erdogan said that Russia could lose Turkey as a friend. But, his relationships with the US are becoming shaky also. At the moment, it’s clear that there are no “moderate” rebels which could be publicly supported by the US in Syria. The so-called “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) is more a myth then reality. A large part of the FSA’s units are directly linked to the Syrian Al Qaeda/Al Nusra Front. The US in this case is relying on a phantom army to back its foreign policy aims of “regime change” in Syria. The US has little option but rely on the Kurds in an attack on Raqqa, the Islamic State headquarters and important logistic centre in Syria if its alleged “fight” against IS can have any credibility. This alliance would be unacceptable for Turkey which strongly opposes any kind of Kurdish autonomy at its borders. Furthmore, Raqqa is a crucial point for the Islamic State’s oil trade with Turkey. If Raqqa falls, the both will lose serious profits. Anyway, the US has no other choice but to replace its “moderate rebels” with the YPG and pay the price for it – even if the price includes a cooling down of Washington-Ankara relations.

Thus, the US-led web of political alliances and relationships in the Middle East is disintegrating rapidly. The vestiges of control on the terrorists groups sponsored by the pro-Western bloc could be lost. It would lead to escalation of the free for all war in the region. The growing Russia-led anti-ISIS coalition is the only chance of the regional stabilisation. The coalition also includes Iran, Syria and Iraq. China and Egypt are candidates for membership. Egypt has a serious internal problem with the local branch of ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula. China will probably participate actively in the Syrian anti-ISIS campaign, as it agrees with Russia that failure to deal with IS in Syria and Iraq would lead to future problems in central Asia and Western China in the near future with jihadi uprisings among the population there.

Shocked by the rapid success of the Russian air operations, the Saudi regime hastily sent a delegation to Moscow to discuss areas of “mutual” interest, implying a dissatisfaction with Washington and the West’s inept handling of the current situation. No major disclosures have emanated from the Moscow meeting with both sides keeping their cards close to the chest in the fast moving situation.

On the ground though, it’s shit-in-pants time for the Saudi backed jihadis in Syria. Forces such as the “Army of Conquest” must now be asking themselves why their patron abandoned them as sitting ducks on the battlefield. It’s not realistically thought that Russia informed the Saudis in any way whatsoever of their coming military campaign, but for the Islamists on the ground being killed by Russian airstrikes, it sure seems like a possibility, and they may be seething with anger against the Saudis for being set up. Already, over 3,000 terrorists have fled Syria for Jordan, likely en route back to Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh’s security establishment must surely be aware of the threat this entails. Couple the returning jihadis with the homegrown ISIL terrorists that have already struck in the country previously, and a cocktail of domestic disaster is being mixed before the Saudis’ own eyes, and their military establishment is too bogged down along the Yemeni border to adequately focus on it. This dire state of affairs could be made even more severe if the Ansarullah are successful enough in their attacks against the ‘Arab NATO’ that some of its Gulf members (especially Qatar and the UAE) pull out, which would then force the Saudis to compensate with their own overstretched forces. Furthermore, their paranoid fantasies of “Iranian-Shia encirclement” are probably kicking into high gear right now, meaning that it can’t be guaranteed that the country will react rationally to any threats that it perceives. In connection with this, a heavy-handed crackdown, whether against suspected terrorists or Shiites, can’t be discounted, and this would obviously add to the country’s domestic destabilisation.


Across the border in Israel, the Netanyahu Government threatens further oppression of the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank and Gaza while denying any responsibility for the current rise in violence precipitated by Tel-Aviv’s intrusions on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.
Palestinians protest Israeli provocations in East Jerusalem.

Since October 1, daily clashes have left 30 Palestinians dead, mostly youths, women and children, nearly 1,600 injured, around 4,000 harmed by toxic tear gas, hundreds arrested, and an entire population under attack – reflecting longstanding Israeli collective punishment in flagrant violation of international law. Instead of holding Israel accountable for ongoing violence and brutality, complicit media blame ruthlessly persecuted Palestinians, effectively endorsing Netanyahu-ordered state terror. On14 October, The New York Times headlined “Attacks by Palestinians Kill 3 Israelis and Wound More than 20,” – quoting Netanyahu saying “we are in a struggle, a struggle for all of us, and we will face it together.” The Times highlighted a handful of Palestinian attacks against Jews. Not a single word about decades of state sponsored terrorism against a defenseless population, ruthless persecution demanding accountability, and Israel’s full responsibility for ongoing violence and the horrific toll as described above.

The Palestinians demand only their legitimate state and civil rights due to every nation under the UN Charter but constantly denied them since 1948 by Israel and its main supporter, Washington.

In a sleazy manoeuvre, motivated by sheer Russophobe hatred, the criminal fascist Junta in Kiev, Ukraine, has been secretly depleting its supplies of TOW anti-tank bazookas, supplied covertly to Kiev by the CIA via NATO, and selling them to the IS terrorists in Syria and Iraq. The weapons are delivered to Kiev under a covert arms deal by the US Defence Department then sold to IS although not “officially” counted in the Junta’s ordnance records to fool any US Congressional inquiries. The US Congress has banned such transfers but the deal is effected through the “black budget” arrangements introduced by Cheney and Rumsfeld in 2004 and supervised by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).Over 2500 of these weapons have “vanished” from US Defence inventories without any written authority or licenses and no authority exists for transfer of such weapons to Ukraine in the first place. The weapons are then transited to Georgia and Turkey. Trucks owned by Bechtel Corporation and British Petroleum and drivers supplied by Turkish Intelligence, MIT, take the weapons across the borders into Syria and Iraq. This is all part of the “double-game” being played in the Middle-East by Washington for years, allegedly “fighting” IS with a cobbled together “Coalition” but covertly supplying weapons to them at the same time. Washington’s propaganda lies have now totally collapsed as a result of Russia’s intervention.

A US made TOW anti-tank missile being used by the Hazzm terrorist faction in Syria.

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