Friday, April 29, 2011

Canadian Museum for Human Rights: Wikileaks Cablegate

Oh dear, the CMHR has just been uprooted and outright embarassed by a cable detailing political talks about CMHR.

You can view the cable right here.

What was expressed to the Ambassador?

That the CMHR would be " economic development project for the "regularly insulted" City of Winnipeg."

Again, we see the comparison to other museums and the need to beef up our "victim" of insultation even more: "..[the] driving desire is to offer visitors a powerful experience, equivalent to the Holocaust Museum in DC."

We're on budget! We're on budget! "The project is experiencing serious cost overruns and the Board seeks an additional $45 million infusion."

And for years we have seen how Gail Asper gallops around the world in support for the museum, to draw more fundraising partnerships, to panhandle and beg for a museum that could not be afforded in the first place. But how far in begging and pleading can one go?

"[Gail Asper] ended by making a strong plea for a Presidential [Obama] endorsement and appearance at a Museum event."

The cable released by Wikileaks is from an ambassador visitation from October 2009. Before the visitation dates, here are some examples of things that I was writing about:

1. Multiple references in the Cable to Holocaust, be it the architect of the Museum itself or the comparison to Holocaust museum in DC. Today, we hear about Holodomor and the debate continues over whether or not the Museum will end up as just another Holocaust museum.

Here are some of the things I have lobbied for and most importantly environmental rights issues.

2. In this blog post from May 2009 we see that the Museum was pegged at $265 million. Five months later, meetings took place that we can now view via Cablegate.

3. And almost a year before the meetings revealed in Cablegate, we were fighting the construction of an apartment tower at Upper Fort Garry because it might destroy buried artifacts.

Because, we all know that the site of CMHR has no artifacts under it and is most certainly not on any Aboriginal burial ground of any kind.

I will delve deeper into the information released by Wikileaks Cablegate over this weekend.

I cannot possibly express how important Wikileaks is, how important these cables are or how valuable these leaks are into holding people to account. And in Winnipeg, these are what our worries are...millionaire pet projects reaping taxpayers without limit. Wikileaks has proven invaluable to holding corrupt governments to account and the biggest impacts have been where the people most need them...the people without a voice and the people who have been supressed by their own governments.

The @wikileaks Twitter feed provides good updates and Greg Mitchell's daily recap of Wikileaks releases is a must-read, and makes it much easier to digest.

Never thought a Cable would hit so close to home, on an issue the mainstream media love to champion, did we?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Collateral Murder 1 year anniversary: reminder on Libya

One year ago today, on April 5th 2010, the world became familiar with the organization known as Wikileaks.

Before then few had heard of Wikileaks. But after a press conference in DC, mainstream media picked up on both the Collateral Murder video, Wikileaks analysis and commentary on it, and interviews with Julian Assange.

What is Collateral Murder?

CM is a video shot from an Apache helicopter in Iraq from 2007. It shows the Apache firing on unarmed men, and a civilian van coming to assist with wounded. Two of the unarmed men were journalists from the news agency Reuters. US soldiers in the Apache attempt to justify their engagement and applaud each other for their actions. Two children were in the van. Both of the children fortunately, survived.

It shows the blatant disregard for human life, and the realities of modern war overseas. Comparing it against mainstream media coverage of the wars, shows a press that is more than willing to convey the message that everything is being done to protect innocent civilians, and that we are only killing what the West collectively deems "the enemy." Everyone who is killed is an "insurgent," whether they actually are or not.

The ensuing Iraq War Logs published by Wikileaks in August of 2010 sheds light on this hard truth. Wikileaks' investigation showed that more than 15 000 civilian deaths were unaccounted for. All "insurgents" or "enemies," no doubt.

By June of 2010 just two months after the video's release, it had been viewed over 7 million times. Now, one year later, it has been viewed over 11 million times.


Collateral Murder's one-year anniversary comes at a time that allows us to reflect our current involvement in Libya.

We cannot drop bombs only on "the enemy." Though media discourse would have us believe what we read, which is that the NATO mission in Libya is strictly of a humanitarian effort to prevent a crisis. I am unaware of what kind of humanitarian operation involves the use of bombs.

The idea that we are only causing harm to one side in the course of our operations is laughable. If anything, it only shows how far we are willing to go to dehumanize others in an attempt to make everything black and white.

The late American historian Howard Zinn best captures the reality of war in my generation, and war in our time:

"We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children."

Indeed it is that.

When politicians come knocking on your door, please ensure they are aware of your feelings on our overseas military operations, and the lack of transparency and honesty surrounding them.

Bradley Manning, alleged source for providing the video to Wikileaks, was arrested one month after Collateral Murder was released, and remains in solitary confinement awaiting pre-trial to this day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

155th remembered on A7

It is a sad state of affairs when the 155th Canadian Forces death in Afghanistan, first death of a CF in 2011, and first death of a CF in three months, is not even front page news.

Corporal Yannick Scherrer of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment died on March 27th, 2011.

Panjwaii, a longtime Taliban stronghold just 35 kilometres outside of Kandahar, has been a focus of Canadian involvement for at least 5 years. Corporal Scherrer's death serves yet another reminder of the dangerous nature of NATO operations in Afghanistan even in supposedly secure areas.

The 155th CF casualty came just one day after the Governor General David Johnston declared a Federal election. One. Day.

Yet it, and the Afghan mission Canadians are tied to until 2014, remain out of election rhetoric as the two major parties square off on the economy and the middle class taxpayer. Talk of the inflated cost of F-35s and minor dialogue about the CF role in Libya remain fringe elements of the 2011 election.

What do we represent as a nation who places their 155th CF casualty on page A7 of a major city broadsheet newspaper one day after an election is called?

What do we represent as a nation who can only produce two federally-elected officials who are willing to publicly and formally denounce the dictator regime of a Middle Eastern country?

It is evident this record-long war in Afghanistan has numbed the Canadian media over the past 10+ years to the point of no longer caring. And at that point, we as citizens of this country and the values it stands for, have unknowingly absolved ourselves of any responsibility or accountability overseas even to our own military personnel who have dedicated their lives to the service of their country.