A Dangerous Stare-down

Filed in Opinion by on 24th Jan 2022 11 Comments

Money and Power versus Principles

The international political economy is a discipline whose essential element is how political forces (states, institutions, individual actors ) set up the systems through which they conduct and control economies and commerce. It also works the other way around where economic actions affect politics. Indeed, it is the interaction between the two. The international political economy includes international trade, world markets, international finance, international development, the role of institutions in development, cooperation between states, the process of globalisation, and how to deal with the problems that arise in all these interactions. In short, everything that affects economic and political power, and by extension, you. What creates tension in international economic and political relations is the ebb and flow of strategic advantage between the great powers, and their allies.

Imagine a planet full of exotic animals. There are hungry dragons, wary eagles, ferocious bears, preying tigers, and a host of other animals. This planet has enough wealth to provide a good life for everyone, if only the animals could get along. However, with cycles of drought and famine, resulting shortages lead to one animal battling another in a contest of wills. Given this worldwide pandemic, market shifts, unemployment and disruption to the international supply chain, which country do you think is the most dangerous on the international scene right now? Is it Russia? China? The United States? Perhaps North Korea? Iran?

Truth or Propaganda

For the past two years the number one story everywhere in the world has been about the pandemic with daily reports on how many people have contracted COVID or one of its variants, how healthcare workers and hospitals are overwhelmed with the growing number of COVID patients, how many are dying and how many are vaccinated against it or refuse to be vaccinated. Then, all of a sudden as 2022 is barely underway, stories about the virus drop to second place and it’s one report after another about the United States saying Russia plans to invade Ukraine, and how Moscow will receive swift retribution from the west if it does. It seems you can’t turn on the radio, TV or look at various news services on the Internet without hearing how the US and the United Kingdom are sending arms to Ukraine, and NATO is sending more matériel to its forces in Europe in states bordering Russia, and deploying ships to patrol the Baltic and Black Seas. The speed with which this story suddenly appeared strikes me as part of a strategy to engage in war, not prevent it. I’ve been to too many countries where leaders use the media to shape people’s beliefs in the direction of what they want rather than what the people need. This comes across as the US beating the drum to attract more people to the cause. I do admit, however, that the dream of putting one’s homeland back together must be a strong temptation for Vladimir Putin. The whole exercise looks like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

NATO, Ukraine and Russia

This is a chess game of conflicting narratives in an age-old power game. I recall the promise the west made after the Soviet Union dissolved, that NATO would NOT move further east than its new member states in eastern Europe. While the west highlighted the so-called “Peace Dividend” at the end of the Cold War, NATO slowly proceeded to deploy missiles on the border between the two, and then stationed extra troops from the Baltic states down through what used to be East Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and into the former Yugoslav states. I don’t have any love for President Putin but if you put yourself in his place, it’s only natural that he want his Motherland to be respected in the world. The head of the German navy resigned for saying as much. Kay-Achim Schönbach said the idea that Russia wanted to invade Ukraine was nonsense, and that all Putin wanted was respect.

President Putin’s annexation of Crimea came four days after the Maidan riots in Kiev in February 2014.  Some 130 people died when gunmen opened fire on them. Some blame the special Berkut police units that tried to control the protesters, even though four police were killed by unknown gunmen. Government sharpshooters were called in to quell the violence but arrived only after the shooting stopped. Testimony from several people at the protest that the firing came from government-controlled buildings was discounted. It remains a mystery but it appears that pro-Ukrainians and pro-Russians ignored diplomacy and took matters into their own hands.

Weeks before, western media carried reports of the US backing hardline parties like Pravi Sektor and Svoboda in its efforts to gain a greater influence in the country. The European Union warned about US support of parties with such extremist views. The parties had a NAZI background, were anti-semitic and against immigration. Svoboda, which means freedom, was originally called the Social-National Party of Ukraine, and known for recruiting skinheads and using Neo-Nazi symbols. On the 4th of February 2014, Russian intelligence bugged a phone call by the American ambassador, Victoria Nuland, with the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, in which she said “Fuck the EU”. The Russians released the recording to international media. It became headline news everywhere, but despite its sensational impact, it was just another move in a dangerous game of chess.

Totalitarian, Authoritarian or Democracy
for and by the People

We often hear of protests and mass arrests in countries that suppress human rights, such as the 2020-2021 protests in Belarus which resulted in the arrest of almost 7000 people. When protests erupted in Almaty on the 2nd of January 2022 over a sharp rise in the price of gas, Kazakhstan called in Russian forces to restore order after having ordered police to fire on the protesters. CNN reports that 164 people died and thousands were arrested. However, over the years we’ve also heard about repressive policies the west has engaged in. Look back over the past 20 years and you’ll find ample evidence of a hardline element in the US involved in one war after another. Such people as Paul Wolfowitz and Lee Strauss wielded power behind the scenes. Let’s not forget General Wesley Clark’s statement when he went to the Pentagon, only to learn that the US had plans to invade seven countries over five years (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran). Remember how President George W. Bush started conflating Afghanistan with Iraq while drawing together a coalition of countries willing to back the US attack on Baghdad in 2003. His actions are like a page from Noam Chomsky’s book ‘Manufacturing Consent’. Unfortunately it appears the US is doing the same with its allegations of Russian plans to attack Ukraine. We naturally want to believe something we keep hearing day after day. It’s the same technique advertisers use to persuade us to buy their products. Joseph Goebbels said it differently: If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it, and you will come to believe it yourself.

Presidents Biden and Putin are playing a dangerous game. Media reports in the west now talk constantly about Russia planning to attack Ukraine, especially since Russian troops are also in Belarus directly north of Ukraine, as well as being deployed along the Russian border east of Ukraine. Putin is basically doing the same as NATO. Both sides are pushing the envelope. In basic military strategy, the most dangerous thing any army can do is to station troops along a border with opposing forces on the other side.

On the 21st of January Biden said he would bring in sanctions IF Russia moves into Ukraine, yet a day later he levied pre-emptive sanctions on four Ukrainians linked to Russia and justified it as an action in case of a Russian attack. Since there are far fewer wars than before, arms dealers have a vested interest in increasing their sales. A war economy is known to be highly profitable. So, who is telling the truth? Whose narrative are you going to believe? If Russia weren’t authoritarian, it might be easier for people in the west to understand what’s happening. If the United States weren’t so divided between the Democrat’s efforts to restore a Liberal Democracy and the Republican’s increasingly authoritarian approach, maybe they and their allies would begin to understand the danger behind what’s happening. Alas an uninformed public seems more interested in reality TV and celebrity worship than what’s happening on the other side of the world.

Many say force is the only thing Putin understands, and that the west has to act now before he overruns Western Europe. I think it won’t be a question of Russian soldiers overrunning Europe so much as future European commerce eventually opting for greater trade with China. They would most likely favour those freight trains between Beijing and Europe to transport merchandise rather than solders from the people’s Liberation Army. This talk of a possible Russian attack strikes me as a tactic in a much larger strategy. President Biden uses the same argument as President Reagan did, that Moscow wants to control Germany by controlling its energy. Mr. Biden has persuaded Germany to not approve the Nordstrom 2 Russian gas line under the Baltic Sea. This has led to a dramatic increase in gas prices for German industry which already depends on Russian gas for approximately 40 per cent  of its needs. Moscow denies withholding gas from Europe this year for political leverage. However, in December 2021, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Alexander Novak, said that “early completion of the certification” for Nord Stream 2 would help “cool off the current situation.”

China and the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement

Meanwhile, China proceeds with negotiations for a tighter alliance with Russia, which would undoubtedly include greater military cooperation. It’s another step in a strategy that began more than a decade ago. China, Russia and 70 other countries joined the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement, which was set up to counter western-dominated trade, and the use of the US dollar as a world reserve currency. The Shanghai agreement set up BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) and several other organisations as alternatives to the IMF and other western financial and trade institutions. South Africa has a strategic role in this trade group since it contains 60 per cent of the world’s platinum, half the world’s reserves of manganese and vanadium, 25 per cent of Uranium and 65 per cent of the world’s gold, all of which are needed in high-speed circuits, satellites, combat jets, naval ships, submarines and nuclear missiles.

In 2013 Beijing started building a new silk road (the BELT road initiative) which now extends from western China to the Middle East to Western Europe. China has also built or gained control over ports, the string of pearls, extending westward from the Malacca Strait to the Persian Gulf, in addition to gaining control over several ports in the Mediterranean. As part of the BELT road initiative, China now operates freight trains between Beijing, London, Frankfurt and Madrid. Also in 2013 China started building several islands throughout the South China sea and turned them into military outposts, while claiming sovereignty over the area within the so-called Nine-Dash line in the middle of one of the world’s strategic maritime waterways. Western and Chinese navies eye each other warily as they play daily cat and mouse games to support their competing claims. Russia, meanwhile, has a port in the Mediterranean, Tartus on the Syrian coast, and can move ships from its fleet in Sebastopol in Crimea to the Mediterranean. For Russia, Crimea has always been a strategic asset.

President Joe Biden, who has been trying to reestablish the Liberal Democracy that helped maintain international commerce and good living conditions for the United States and its allies, has to deal not only with Russia on one hand, and China on the other, but also with more than 70 million Republicans whose actions show they want a different version of the United States, one that favours them and their conservative and religious convictions. They are mainly white and Christian evangelicals. Some 21 states have passed laws restricting voting rights by making it harder for those who favour the Democrats to vote. Every thing Biden has done has improved the US economy yet Republicans refuse a Liberal Democracy for all in favour of a system that favours them and no one else. Clearly the Republicans who back former President Donald Trump are trying to hinder President Biden in everything he tries to accomplish.

If you want peace, think peace!

What’s too often overlooked is that you get what you focus on and the US focus on its ‘war on terror’ resulted in more terror over the years than less. Although some might say all’s fair in love and war, the approach led to more terrorist attacks, violations of the law, black ops and renditions. Since the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan and the partial negotiated withdrawal of US forces from Iraq (25-hundred remain to counter Islamic terrorists), President Biden has all but eliminated the US use of drone and airstrikes. President Trump authorised 1600 airstrikes in his first eleven months as part of the war on terror. President Biden has been in office a year and has authorised only four, and terrorist strikes have diminished dramatically. Are hardliners in the west’s military industrial complex thinking of extending and defending Liberal Democracy, even though millions of American Republicans don’t want it, or are they thinking more in terms of profit. Hardliners in Russia and China may be thinking the same thing but in terms of world trade which they want to control. Focussing on international cooperation and sharing power and ressources would be much better for all if only leaders did it.

It’s my understanding that Russia suffered greater loss of life in the Second World War than the west, so my reaction on hearing so many reports warning Russia not to attack Ukraine or face retaliation, was that no country in its right mind wants war. The loss of life in the Second World War gave way to Canada’s peace-keeping tradition in the years before the Conservative government under Stephen Harper came to power. Russian support of separatists in eastern Ukraine supported Russian-speakers who make up 24 per cent of the population, and wanted to break away from Ukraine after the Maidan loss of life when Kiev ordered that the Russian language could no longer be used in the country. That has since been rescinded. President Putin has used the intervening time to build a bridge to Crimea, essentially making the Sea of Azov and the south-east coast of Ukraine Russian.

At a time when most business and defence analysts foresee China as the major world power by 2050, and some even suggest 2040, President Biden has a lot on his plate. Perhaps the powers that be leave him little choice. When faced with the inevitable, perhaps the best defence is a good offence : Act now rather than be subjugated later. History shows periods of war interspersed by periods of peace. It also shows us how built-up hostilities can be resolved through consistent constructive diplomacy. I believe that what you think is what you get. Concentrate on war and over time it’s yours. The same is true for those who concentrate on peace. Instead we hear such phrases as war if necessary but not necessarily war. As realistic as it may seem in such circumstances, it has too often led to death and destruction. It seems clear that we need a more positive approach, although many would see that as little more than wishful thinking.

Freedom, democracy and justice are basic principles. Unfortunately, a growing trend over the past three, possibly four decades, of focusing on cut-throat capitalism, business expansion and profits has tipped the underlying balance of losses and gains in favour of economics over basic rights, giving a skewed perception that is counter to basic principles. Strategic and military goals behind civil wars in such countries as Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan in the Middle East; Somalia, southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa; and in southern Asia where India and Pakistan regularly skirmish over Jammu and Kashmir as proxies for the United States, Russia and China, have led to a devaluation of human life. Moral principles such as truth, the first casualty of war, appear to have been thrown by the wayside, compromising the future.

Meanwhile, American media are also raising questions about Hillary Clinton. Will she or will she not run in the next presidential election? Who knows? Expect to see more of this campaign to drive up her popularity. Joe Biden says he intends to run in the 2024 campaign, although he comes across as quickly aging and frail leaving me with the impression he won’t make it past this year. I doubt Kamala Harris has enough experience to handle an international conflict, and given what’s happening, we shouldn’t be surprised that the powers that be prefer a seasoned former Secretary of State as president.

The Persian Watchers

Filed in Perspectives by on 6th Aug 2021 14 Comments

Version française

Foreign affairs in this third decade of the 21st century are not faring well. Consider the United States where President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party is trying to right the wrongs caused by corruption, economic disparity, racism and illegal immigration. The former president, Donald Trump, smarting over his loss to Mr. Biden in November 2020, continues to say the election was rigged as Republicans in 17 states pass laws to limit the voting rights of those who tend to favour the Democrats. China has all but crushed dissent and human rights in Hong Kong. Burma’s military simply brushed aside the results of an election to stay in power. From the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and on-going efforts to adjust to Brexit, to dissent in Brazil, wide-spread riots in South Africa, protests in Cuba, anarchy in Haiti all show that people in country after country want change. They are risking their lives for free elections, real democracy, the rule of law, and the respect of human rights. To make matters worse, the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change continue around the world. So many crises on such a broad scale is a major challenge for diplomats trying to keep International Relations on an even keel. It might be interesting  to look at how ancient emperors and kings dealt with matters of state. Since court astrologers advised them on such matters as trade, life or death, or war and peace, the question arises, what did they have that present day leaders seem to lack.

Age-old Wisdom

In ancient times in Mesopotamia, currently Iraq, life was centred mainly between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which formed a rich, fertile delta extending down to the Persian Gulf. In ancient Egypt life centred around the Nile. For centuries these nations conducted trade and foreign relations, and exchanged ideas in such areas as Upper and Lower Egypt,  Assyria, Arcadia, Persia, Chaldea and Mesopotamia, what today comprises Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. Life was based on celestial observations which determined when to seed and harvest crops to maintain granaries to feed the people in periods of drought. If an astrologer’s advice turned out wrong he was executed, so they had a vested interest in knowing their craft. That meant keeping up-to-date by regularly observing what planets were where, keeping precise daily records, and submitting them to the king or emperor. Court astrologers also had to know strategy, who not to trust and when a leader was in danger. They also advised on economic problems and relationship and family matters, much like government officials do for their constituents, and astrologers do for their clients today. Astronomy and astrology were such important disciplines that for 700 years, from the 8th to the 1st century BC, astrologers documented the movement of the stars on clay tablets. Forewarned is forearmed. By mapping regular planetary movements, they were able to predict the most probable periods a distant adversary would be planning an attack, or such events as epidemics, cycles of feast or famine, and lunar and solar eclipses. Ancient cultures believed eclipses meant danger, downfall or even death for the king. The light of the sun is the giver of life, and when the moon blots out the light the king’s life force was weakened. In Persia such knowledge was used to hide the king for weeks before an eclipse while someone else was chosen to rule. When the eclipse came, the high priests killed the substitute king so the eclipse couldn’t affect the real king.

Social order

Isis – Goddess of ancient Egypt

Millenia before Jewish, Christian or Islamic scriptures were written, Isis was not a terrorist group but one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt. Isis is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts (2350 – 2100 BC) that tell about the murder of her husband, the god Osiris, by his brother Set who dismembered him and took the throne. In Egyptian mythology Isis recovered Osiris who posthumously conceived their son Horus. Horus eventually defeats Set restoring MAAT, the balance and  social order of the universe. Isis is also known for curing the sick, as a role model for women, and for her funeral rites for the dead. The values of health, social order, and the afterlife were considered important parts of life and honoured as such.

The Royal Stars or Persian Watchers

As ancient cultures did, we divide the sky into four parts and measure time with reference points to mark the seasons. Spring is when the sun enters Aries; on the Summer solstice the sun enters Cancer; fall begins when the sun enters Libra; and the Winter solstice is when the sun enters Capricorn. About 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, Chaldean priests attributed symbolic meanings to the stars. Of the 25th brightest stars, they called the four brightest in their respective sections of the sky Royal Stars. They also called them the Persian Watchers because they saw the stars as watching over them in a literal and a figurative sense. 

Political Stars and Conditions for Success

The Persian Watchers guaranteed a leader’s success if he respected certain conditions. The star Fomalhaut in Pisces guaranteed success as long as the leader maintained noble ideas. Corruption meant downfall. Antares in the constellation Scorpio guaranteed success for leaders who maintained balance and social order. To become obsessed was to lose power. Aldebaron in Gemini guaranteed success to leaders who maintained integrity. Regulus in Leo offered success on condition that the leader avoid revenge. An act of vengeance, whether against individuals or government institutions spelled defeat. The Royal Stars were also believed to govern politics. If the stars were aligned favourably, good conditions followed. When they were negatively aligned, conditions worsened. Regulus was the most influential of the Royal Stars so events that took place while Regulus was dominant foreshadowed a transition in power. In most ancient cultures, the Lion (Leo) represented the leader and astrologers today still use Leo to represent a country’s leader.

Donald Trump

How would this ancient lore fare in our modern context? Donald Trump has Regulus on his Ascendant at 29° Leo, the same degree where the solar eclipse on the 14th of December 2020 fell during his first term in office suggesting a change in power. Mr. Trump was born on a lunar eclipse in the same Gemini-Sagittarius axis as the eclipse. That axis falls in his 10th House/Career and his 4th House/Home, suggesting the end of his career, and his leaving the White House. Uncannily the astrology texts from ancient Mesopotamia 5000 years ago still ring true. When the Moon eclipses the sun, it eclipses the King. 

Would the advice of the Persian Watchers be validated in other current international situations? Will North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, maintain balance or will he eventually launch a nuclear missile that hits the US or an ally? Is President Biden respecting noble ideas? Did China’s president, Xi Jinping, behave with integrity in his recent clampdown on Hong Kong? Will the president of Iran, once Persia, respect noble ideas, maintain balance and integrity, and avoid revenge? 

Iran is a good case in point. In July 2021 Iran and Afghanistan agreed to work more closely together, and to ensure security along their common border. The agreement comes amid the uncertainty of another civil war in Afghanistan, which prompted fears in Iran of a new wave of Afghans flooding across the border. Iran is already hard-pressed by growing poverty because of U.S. sanctions. According to the BBC, renewed sanctions against Iran “have led to a sharp downturn in Iran’s economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors, and triggering protests.”  The accord in Teheran comes as the Afghan government and the Taliban agree to meet again on how to establish a peaceful Islamic state. The Taliban continue to make new gains in Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops, expected to be complete by the end of August 2021. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, meanwhile, refuses to meet with President Biden to negotiate on Teheran’s ballistic missile plans or to end his support of regional militias.

President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi

Raisi is a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He garnered nearly 62 per cent of the 28.9-Million votes in the country’s recent election. The election turnout was the lowest in the history of the Islamic Republic. Millions of Iranians refused to vote after a panel under Khamenei disqualified prominent reformist candidates and allies of the more moderate President Hassan Rouhani. The turnout in Teheran province was 34 per cent, about half of previous years. Raisi’s election also placed hard-liners in top government posts as now-stalled talks continued in Vienna to try to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord between Teheran and several other nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States). In 2018 the former U.S. President, Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the accord.

Range 2000 kilometres

Since then, Iran has increased its enrichment of uranium to 60 per cent from the 3.67 per cent it originally accepted. Weapons-grade uranium requires 90 per cent enrichment. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Teheran has invested in missiles rather than long-range bombers to protect itself from rival Arab foes Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and also from Israel.

State Intolerance and Persecution of Christians

In May 2019 Britain’s foreign secretary said the persecution of Christians in the Middle East was coming close to meeting the United Nations definition of genocide. Jeremy Hunt released a report stating that millions of Christians in the Middle East had been uprooted from their homes, many of them killed, kidnapped or imprisoned. Mr. Hunt said that arrest, detention and imprisonment of Christians was common in Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. To quote from the report, “In countries such as Iran, Algeria and Qatar, the state is the main actor, where as in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt both state and non-state actors, especially religious extremist groups, are implicated.” Christians in Turkey are “often stereotyped not as real Turks but as western collaborators” and “in Saudi Arabia school textbooks teach pupils religious hatred and intolerance towards non-Muslims”.

Age-old Conflict

Qasam Soleimani

In January 2020, then president Donald Trump ordered an attack near the Bagdad Airport resulting in the death of Qasam Soleimani, a top Iranian general who led Iran’s élite Quds Force in military operations throughout Iraq and the Middle East. He is reportedly responsible for stengthening pro-Iranian military groups such as the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and expanding Iran’s military operations against rebel groups in Syria. Soleimani was considered the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind Ayatollah Khamenei, the one responsible for the rise of President Raisi. The Catholic News Agency quotes Peter Burns, the Director of Government Relations and Policy for In Defence of Christians, as saying “General Soleimani and his Quds Force wreaked havoc on Christians and others in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Syria for decades”.

Islamic fundamentalists want to build an Islamic Republic under Sharia law after the defeat of ISIS,  the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. A coalition of western forces defeated Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other leaders in October 2019 marking an end to the Islamic Caliphate that straddled the Syrian and Iraqi border. Islamic radicals have since spread across much of Africa. The western counterpart of fundamentalist Islam is fundamentalist Christian, for example the Evangelical Christian movement in the United States that supports Donald Trump. Evangelical strategists say the former president kept his promise to them to open a US embassy in Jerusalem, and sign agreements with Arab nations. The Evangelical movement supports closer ties with Israel so it can hasten the battle of Armageddon, where Jesus appears as the Messiah and takes true believers up to heaven in what they call The Rapture. The New Testament says Armageddon is where armies of the world will wage war on the forces of God at the end of history. Armageddon is believed to be Megiddo in Israel. While Christian fundamentalists use the term Armageddon to refer to the ultimate struggle between good and evil, peace activists use it to refer to possible nuclear war.

Iran wants to eliminate Israel to clear the way for the return of a ninth-century cleric known as the Mahdi, meaning “the rightly-guided one”, who according to Sunni and Shia beliefs, will appear at the end of times to rid the world of evil and injustice. The Hadith, which contains the teachings of Mohammad, says the Mahdi will appear alongside Jesus and establish the Divine Kingdom of God. There have been countless battles between Christians, Jews and Muslims over the centuries from the Crusades, to the Moors taking over Spain, to wars in the Middle East and terrorist attacks in Europe. Underlying them all is the battle between good and evil, each side seeing itself as good and the other evil. 


Islamophobia grew stronger after the attack on New York’s World Trade Centre in September 2011, and continued to grow after several terrorist attacks in France, most notably at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris in 2015 where 130 people were killed, followed two years later by an attack at London Bridge. Each attack led to increasing attacks against Muslims in the west. They include the firebombing of several mosques across Spain in August 2017; against a mosque in Quebec City in January 2017 and more recently in London, Ontario, Canada in June 2021 when a driver drove over a Muslim family killing four and injuring one in what police call a pre-meditated attack. The worst attack resulted in the death of 49 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019. What’s happening in the Middle East today, and also across the western world, essentially parallels the politics, conflict, death, and afterlife beliefs of ancient Egypt.

Historically known as Mesopotamia, the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq is known as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that mankind began to read, write, make laws and live in cities under an organised government known as an Uruk, from which “Iraq” is derived. Sumerian writings record the first evidence of Mathematics, Astronomy, Astrology, Written Law, and Medicine. Even the modern day practice of checking one’s horoscope comes from the ancient Sumerians. In today’s modern world people tend to focus on science, which generally mocks or dismisses astrology. However, those ancient values that guided astrologers such as maintaining balance in society, respecting and helping people, maintaining integrity, not being corrupt or obsessive are as every bit as important today as they were thousands of years ago. Whether it’s intolerance and violence against Muslims in the west or against Christians in the east, in the modern blend of new and old, it’s clearly time to remember the ancient values of the Persian Watchers.


Canada – Not our Finest Hour

Filed in Articles by on 4th Jul 2021 3 Comments

Justin Trudeau Canada Day address 2021 after ordering flags to fly half-mast on all government buildings

Does truth come with a premium in Canada, with something hidden we should know about?  When groups of Canadian natives gathered in the mid-1980s and early 1990s to launch class action law suits against the Canadian government to seek compensation for the abuse they experienced at Residential Schools, they embarked on a long journey. According to a Canadian government website the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement began to be implemented in 2007 under the largest class-action settlement in the country’s history. Part of the agreement was the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Between 2007 and 2015 Ottawa provided some $72-Million dollars to support the work of the commission. The government also spent six years holding hearings throughout the country, taking testimony from more than 6500 witnesses.

Native women seeking justice

Native women seeking justice

Residential Schools, Ground-Penetrating Radar and Protests

Between 1831 and 1996 some 150-thousand native children were forcibly separated from their parents and sent to Residential Schools across the country, where they endured malnutrition, harsh treatment, sexual abuse, and were punished for speaking their own language. Most of the schools were run by Roman Catholic missionaries as part of a government policy to assimilate natives into Canadian society. In a 2015 report the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called it a policy of cultural genocide. For the past century Canadian Natives have talked about the inhumane treatment they or their children suffered at the schools. Many of the children never came back. They simply disappeared without explanation. Those who did return to mainly jobless reserves had lost their language and could no longer communicate with their parents, who by then were broken people struggling with despair and hopelessness, too many of them finding solace in drugs or drink.

Oldest Residential School in Canada – Kamloops B.C.

In May 2021 ground-penetrating radar detected the remains of 251 bodies on the grounds of a Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia. That revived long-held memories of suffering by Canada’s First Nations. As people across Canada took to the streets in vigils and protests at the pain of what Native Peoples had endured over the past century, 751 more remains were found at a Residential School in Marieval, Saskatchewan. More remains have been found in an ongoing search at other Residential Schools since bringing the total to over a thousand.

Each new discovery of remains has led to more protests such as the one on the 2nd of July in Winnipeg where gangs tore down the statues of Queen Victoria, and the still-reigning Elizabeth II and sprayed them with red paint. Both were reigning monarchs while Canadian governments enacted their assimilation policy. Since the first discovery of remains, six Roman Catholic churches on First Nations land in western Canada have been burned down. What happened to Canada’s Indigenous People and their children was tragic and unnecessary. It’s understandable that such pent-up pain and hopelessness erupt in violence. The Natives are not to blame. It will take time but hopefully Canada’s native peoples will find inner peace, regain their self-respect and become a valued part of Canadian society.

Victims and Guilt or Truth and Consequences?

Residential schools in Canada

However, it’s prudent to not take everything at face value. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered that the Canadian flag fly at half-staff on government buildings across the country on the 1st of July, Canada Day. He says it’s because of what happened to Canada’s natives, and because of mounting criticism from native communities across Canada. Was his order appropriate or was it opportunistic? Over the years the government has changed how it refers to Canada’s First Nations. It used to be Indians, then Aboriginals, then Indigenous Peoples. There have been so many different names over the years that it should have raised alarm bells much earlier. It seems that if you don’t want people to think about the problems associated with a group or policy, you change the name! Reframing an issue is old hat for governments. Over the years it has sidestepped uncomfortable questions. With Ottawa’s effort to finally set up and support a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Canadians could see their government as doing something.

A muted Canada Day

The health measures in effect in various provinces because of COVID played some part in many Canada Day celebrations being cancelled. With the declining number of cases and the increasing number of people who have been vaccinated, more and more people were anxious to come out and enjoy their freedom again after a year-and-a-half of various lockdowns. However, as one Canada Day celebration after another was cancelled, they celebrated quietly with their friends and family. It seemed more likely that Prime Minister Trudeau and his handlers were deliberately conflating events for their own purposes. Exploiting underlying fear of people getting covid, exploiting natural self-respect to which we are all entitled, and exploiting the inhumane treatment Canada’s natives have endured for years. Is this really to honour Canada’s natives or is it a way to deflect questions about why his government didn’t act earlier to help natives live decently? Why did this assimilation policy go on so long? Such questions should be asked of all governments that have been in power. The other side of that equation is deliberately laying a guilt trip on the public, using their emotions to make them feel as one with the government, as if we’re all doing the right thing because we all feel bad. Is it manipulation or genuine sadness behind Mr. Trudeau’s tears, or do his words hide an underlying plan for an end-of-summer election campaign? When Prime Minister Trudeau gave his Canada Day message, he did it clean-shaven and with a new haircut as if gearing up for some boyish-charm offensive, not the bearded wisdom his handlers wanted to convey during the height of the pandemic. Is he now truly speaking on behalf of the Natives or is he using them to make political points? 

Students at a Residential School

Who Decides Who’s a Victim?

Everyone has been a victim at some point. Everyone feels sorry for, respects, even trusts a fellow victim. However, what if that respected, trusted person is not a victim at all? What if Prime Minister Trudeau is deliberately proclaiming his mea culpas to diffuse his own guilt in a ploy to gain the respect and trust of Canadian voters? Victimhood and guilt are powerful tools in politics. The use of victimhood can gain public respect and trust, while guilt can have the opposite effect. Politicians perceived as guilty of something are less likely to gain the respect and trust they need to win an election. Victimhood can be used to remove or defend against accusations of guilt. Acting as if all are guilty is an equally powerful tool to connect to the voting public. As history shows, governments are not above using both to stay in power. 

It takes constant vigilance to maintain a healthy democracy. A closer look at this national breast beating over past wrongs suggests machiavellian politics! The public should be calling out government leaders from all parties loudly and vociferously, NOT letting the government define the terms, especially after having executed and maintained such a policy for more than a century. We have a choice, fall down this dark rabbit hole into victimhood, and accept more government manipulation, or focus on higher values and hold all who want to govern accountable. It’s natural to feel sad for what happened to the natives and as humans it drags us all down, but it doesn’t make us all guilty. To use people’s emotions as a political tool just reeks. It takes clear higher thought to move beyond this dark chapter in our history, not more political tricks.

Cuts to Radio Canada International can only hurt Canada’s image and influence abroad

Filed in Opinion by on 2nd Mar 2021

Politicians proclaim the world needs more Canada, then complain when they learn the world does not know enough about us.

Beset by a pandemic and hemmed in by America-first administrations in Washington, the shrinking horizons of Canadian foreign policy have seemingly exhausted the Liberal government’s global ambitions. Politicians proclaim the world needs more Canada, then complain when they learn the world does not know enough about us.

If Canada was rejected by the global community in its bid to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council, perhaps it is because the world does not recognize us and how we have changed over the last 20 years: our diversity, our economic strengths, our liberal democratic values, our respect for the rule of law, and our love of hockey.

Most troubling is the decision by the CBC to force Radio Canada International (RCI) to abandon its mandate of producing programming for international audiences. Imagine the BBC World Service being told to stop being a “world service.” 

Peaceful protest in Beijing before Red Army attack 04 June 1989

The RCI decision is an example of the CBC echoing federal government cutting or curtailing instruments of soft power that could achieve the simultaneous goals of projecting Canadian values and undertaking more effective direct diplomacy.

In 1990, RCI had a staff of 200, trained to offer programming specifically prepared and tailored for international audiences in 14 languages. When the dust settles on CBC’s “major transformation,” Canada’s “Voice to the World” will have nine employees, translating texts from the CBC and Radio-Canada websites nominally for global audiences.

This transformation has a clear, yet worrisome agenda, focused as it is on diaspora communities and media in Canada, which is not part of RCI’s mandate. For the first time in 75 years of RCI’s history, there will be no producer, journalist or production staff working in English or French.

Despite Canada’s international priorities and multilateral relations, CBC cut RCI services to Japan, Germany, Brazil, Russia and the Ukraine, among others. In 2012, in violation of Order in Council 2003-0358, the CBC forced RCI to stop being a radio station broadcasting on shortwave. As a result, Canada lost almost all of its Chinese audience.

In a world beset by geopolitical rivalries, the ability to directly engage local populations abroad, free of interference, is absolutely essential. The RCI has a role to play as a truthful source of information, particularly for areas of the world where that information is both limited and distorted.

Open letter to PM, Ministers call for international service to be strengthened, not cut

RCI Newsroom, Nobody home

The change in RCI’s funding and mandate is reflective of a widespread tendency by governments and organizations such as the CBC to trumpet the advantages of the digital world and its access to the globe, with little thought to what connecting with others is all about.

Here, the role of RCI remains vital as a source of information in troubled times. Its programming, since its inception, has been tailored to help international audiences understand Canada’s reality. Whether this content comes through shortwave radio broadcasts, satellite, the Internet, podcasts or mobile apps, it is the content that matters.

This is not the time for retreat. Consider a situation some 30 years ago that mirrors current events. Following the attack by Chinese authorities on protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the federal government decided that RCI would start its Chinese service in earnest, stating at the time: “We will be joining Radio Australia, Voice of America and the BBC in our collective effort to keep the truth alive.” In an era of disinformation when even the major social media players cannot be counted on for messaging the truth, RCI has an important role to play as part of Canada ‘s “alliance of values.”

In an interconnected world in search of truth, facts and honest journalism, countries such as Canada cannot abdicate their role on the world stage. Retrenchment is not an option. RCI, despite being a bare shadow of its former self, must be made whole again.

David Carment is Editor of the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal and Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Trump – Summits

Filed in Perspectives by on 23rd Jul 2018 0 Comments

It’s almost impossible not to have an opinion about Donald Trump. Those who elected him think they made the right choice, and with exceptions, tend to overlook his unorthodox approach to politics. Those who didn’t vote for him are dismayed at his ignorance, his attacks on immigrants, his disdain for women, diplomacy and international accords, and how he treats his allies. They are also dismayed at his praise of authoritarian leaders such as Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.  In America’s heartland where voters see him as the man who will bring back jobs and prosperity, Trump is a hero. Elsewhere, Trump is described by such words as ignorant, clinically insane, uninformed, a bull in a china shop, inept, isolationist and treasonous.

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