Who Are You – Tobey Kai

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Using music as rehabilitation, a talented Calgary musician overcomes a Traumatic Brain Injury, and is an inspiration for others.

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Before last year my social media experience was limited to Facebook, but that changed last year when I decided that the time had come for me to do something different with my life. Having a larger presence on social media would go a long way towards accomplishing the things that I wanted to do, so I now have accounts across several platforms.

An Instagram account was a no brainer, and I soon found out that there was more to this app than just the Kardashians and other assorted “influencers” (I can’t believe they get paid for this shit, honestly). As I scrolled through the accounts that Instagram thought I’d be interested in, one stood out.

I was first drawn in by her photo. She is possessed of those qualities that are highly desired by those shallower aspects that are inherent to men. In short I thought she was hot. I started to follow her and checked out her profile. She was a local girl with an incredible musical talent, university educated, and she had also suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. I needed to find out more about this intriguing person, named Tobey Kai.

Natural talent

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From Tobey Kai’s Facebook page.

Tobey’s musical talents come naturally, both of her parents are musicians who came to Canada in the mid-’80’s. From a young age, she showed an interest in music, taking her first piano lesson at only 6years old. She says that her singing abilities came from her mother, who also sings opera.

The family would come to Calgary by way of Vancouver, and Tobey continued to study music, enhancing her natural born talent. She has a younger brother, and an “adopted sister” who has been in her life since her teen years.

You might think that Tobey would pursue a music education at the Alberta College of Art, but her interests also extend beyond music. Instead, she has not one but TWO bachelor’s degrees, and they have absolutely NOTHING to do with each other, holding degrees in biology and economics.

Animal lover

Courtesy Facebook

http://tobeykai.com/

Equal to her passion for music is her passion for animals. She combines the two at her music studio where she gives private music and singing lessons. She has resident cats and dogs that will like to come and visit while she’s giving lessons, and she mentions this on her website giving anyone who might have allergies a heads up.

Conservation of the world’s oceans is another one of her causes and she is an advocate for the world’s sharks, whose populations have nearly been wiped out in Asia due to poaching. Shark fin soup has long been a delicacy in some Asian countries, but ever decreasing numbers have led to the dish been banned.


All life is precious. Meet Freyja, one of my many daughters I’ve had the honour of caring for over the years. A ferocious predator (not unlike a shark), but has never struck me because I haven’t given her reason to. 
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. 
#alllifematters

To her, all life is precious, and she would soon come to know just exactly how very precious it is. On the home page of her website, you can listen to a song she wrote called “Ondine”, which she has dedicated to ocean and shark conservation.

A cagey polyglot

As if all of this weren’t impressive enough, she also speaks fluent German. I figure that she would be able to carry out lengthy conversations in at least three languages: English, Mandarin, and German. I ask her how many languages she can speak, and she’s coy about answering saying only that she “does dabble in a few languages”. Based on what I’ve learned about her so far, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that she could single-handedly interpret a meeting of the UN Security Council.

https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/18021109522098021/

Touched by Alzheimers

In 2017 Tobey began writing a song about her grandfather, whom she lost to Alzheimer’s disease. Called “Who Are You”, it recounts her grandfather’s final words to her “Who are you, young lady? Are you lost?” It is a poignant song about an experience that many families go through, and can relate to. It would be several months before she would record the song however. At the beginning of 2018, something would happen that had a lasting and profound effect on her life.

Who Are You – Written for Alzheimer’s and brain injury awareness.

Everything changes in an instant

For Tobey, recreation is something done outdoors no matter what season it is and whether it’s on a bike or a snowboard, physical activity is just as much a part of her life as music. She’s as much at home on the back of a bicycle as she is on a snowboard, and it was while enjoying a day on the latter that things would change forever.

Sunday, January 14th was a pleasant day to be in the mountains, with temperatures only a couple degrees below zero. Deciding to take advantage of the beautiful weather, Tobey decided to go snowboarding at Nakiska that day. At the end of her first run, when she got to the bottom of the hill, she slipped and fell to the ground.

Moments later a skier collided with her, impacting her left temple. Almost immediately, she knew that something was very wrong. She had lost feeling below her neck, her fingers were twitching, and she knew that she was bleeding from somewhere underneath her helmet. Emergency crews were able to stabilize her and transport her to Calgary by ground ambulance. She remembers much of the hour long ride back to the city, but some memories are gone.

Subarachnoid hemorrhage

Image result for subarachnoid hemorrhage
Image result for subarachnoid space

Your brain is covered by a thick, fibrous membrane called dura mater. Beneath the dura mater is the archnoid mater, under which cerebralspinal fluid helps to cushion the brain. A tear in a blood vessel can cause blood to accumulate in this space, putting pressure on the brain. Surgery may have to be performed to drain the blood and stop the hemorraging.

The odds of making a full recovery are against someone with a subarachnoid hemorrage as only one third of patients will have a good out come, another third will survive but with a disability, and the remaining third will die.

Nothing short of miraculous

For a very brief time Tobey was comatose, but she wouldn’t be unconscious for long. For the first few weeks, she was unable to walk and had to re-learn how. Her neck was also injured, and she would find talking painful. She began to wonder if she would ever sing again. But she persevered, and began to use music as rehabilitation.

To say that her recovery was miraculous would be an understatement. She learned to walk again and has been able to not only speak but return to singing the way she did before the accident. Only six months after the incident at Nakiska, Tobey appeared in the local media and performed “Who Are You” live. She looked as though nothing had happened at all.

She did not make a complete recovery however. She lost her short-term memory, something that she says is the one thing she regrets losing the most. She has also lost her sense of taste, and as is to be expected after a TBI, she has had some personality changes.

I ask her if her physical fitness had anything to do with how quick she was able to recover. She attributes it more to mental fitness, sheer determination, and stubbornness. I’d say she has the mental fitness to win an Ironman marathon while the competition eating her dust.

Most of all though, she credits music for pulling her through and giving her the motivation. She was composing again before she was allowed off bed rest. She also credits her life experiences for being able to maintain a sense of calmness through it all.

A song dedicated to our troops, our veterans, and their families.

On Remembrance Day 2018 Tobey released a new single titled “Time”. It is her emotional tribute to our active duty personnel, our veterans, and their families. Together, “Time” and “Who Are You” would make the perfect anthem for those verterans with the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) caused by mefloquine toxicity.

People like Tobey are very rare to find. With natural talent and beauty, a social conscience, an amazingly resilient brain, and the ability to inspire others, we are lucky to have someone like her.

In the future, when history recounts those individuals who have had a major impact on Calgary, and were among this country’s brightest shining stars, the historians will count Tobey Kai among them.

D.B.

https://www.facebook.com/tobeykaiofficial/

Meeting The Mefloquine Cowboy

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As Shaun Arntsen fights the biggest battle of his life, he’s reaching others who are doing the same, and saving their lives.

I first heard from Shaun Arntsen about four days ago. He sent me a message on Twitter, where he is known as The Mefloquine Cowboy. He tells me he’d like to collaborate with me on something, a video and written media project about mefloquine. As I’m go through his posts on Twitter, one grabs my eye, it’s a You Tube video whose title warns me that I am about to see something emotionally charged. I watch the video, and it is what the title promises, and then some. Intrigued, I tell him that I’m very interested, and would like to talk. The next day, I hear back from him, and arrange a time to talk on the phone. It was at this point that I found out his real identity.

We exchange messages the following morning before finally connecting over the phone. In one of his messages, he lets me know that he needs to rest. I come to find out that Shaun in plagued by sudden debilitating headaches, and one has just taken hold. It is but one of a number of symptoms that he has experienced over the last 17 years. The symptoms began when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2002.

When we do connect a short time later, he begins to tell me about the symptoms he is experiencing, symptoms that the Department of National Defense attributes to PTSD. He exhibits many of the symptoms that appear with PTSD, anxiety, depression, nightmares, but, he also has symptoms that are not seen in PTSD either.

He often experiences a tingling, pinprick sensation in his hands, has problems with his digestive system, and experiences episodes that he calls seizures, which, from his description of them, sound like petit mal seizures. He tells me that the things that trigger his anxiety are also unusual, in that they aren’t the normal triggers that one might see in PTSD. He tells me of how walking into a supermarket can be one of the biggest triggers of anxiety for him. The lighting in particular bothers him.

He then says something that catches my attention, when he talks about not getting anxiety from loud noises, and says something about being bombed in Afghanistan. Wait, did he just say he got bombed in Afghanistan? That didn’t make sense, our guys never got bombed in Afgha… is about as far as I thought before the words “Tarnak Farms” had popped into my head. A few moments later, he would confirm this, and I would suddenly realize who I had been talking with.

The Incident at Tarnak Farms

Canada’s first troops in Afghanistan were members of the elite Joint Task Force 2 special operations unit, followed soon after by the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in January of 2002, led by Lt.Col. Pat Stogran, as part of Operation Apollo.

The battalion took part in Operation Harpoon in March before commencing training for future operations. The live fire training would take place at a location known as Tarnak Farms, which had previously been an al Qaeda and Taliban training area, and was known to pilots to be in friendly territory.

On the night of April 17th, a section from “A” Company was conducting nighttime training, when an American F-16 flying overhead saw the tracer fire down below. In a stunning display of incompetence, the National Guard pilot dropped a 500 lb bomb on them. Four men were killed, another 8 were wounded.

Although close by, because of where he was at the time of the explosion, Cpl. Arntsen escaped physical injury that night. The same could not be said for his psyche however and there isn’t a single normal human who wouldn’t be effected similarly. It should go without saying that an incident like this will result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he would begin to display the classic symptoms of it while still in theatre. The only thing was, what was happening to Shaun Arntsen was far more than just PTSD.

Battle For His Life

I wanted to get a sense for who the man was before I talked to him, so I did my online homework on Shaun Arntsen. I’m struck by the things that I find in his various social media accounts, and they start to give me an idea about who he his. First, in order to get a true sense of who he is, you have to look at all of them together. To simply view him through the lens of a single social media account will only leave you with a partial understanding of him.

Looking pictures of him, my first impression is that Shaun is someone who epitomize the word rugged. With his long hair, beard, and tattoos, he would look natural on the back of a motorcycle, and like many former soldiers he is active in the Canadian Veterans Motorcycle Unit. This group of motorcycle enthusiasts works to raise awareness of veterans issues on his community and across the province.

He describes himself as a “jack of all trades” and is just as comfortable operating heavy equipment as he is a camera. Using the knowledge and skills he picked up in the military, he offers tactical firearms instruction through his company Tactical Yoga, and is also an assistant coach with the Nakiska Alpine Ski Association, teaching and mentoring youth.

He’s a talented photographer, and appears to be just as comfortable in front of the camera as he is behind it. The pictures that he has taken, and those that he appears in himself, could very easily be in any number of glossy magazines, used to promote a men’s fragrance or to showcase a new clothing line.

Yet, there is another aspect to Shaun that you can’t see as much in those pictures. It’s the veteran, haunted almost continuously by demons that first appeared in Afghanistan. Like many veterans of that conflict, he’s had his struggles with drug and alcohol abuse and he’s been in trouble with the law. There are times when he’s filled with an uncontrollable rage, and he has had outbursts in public that have left some feeling uneasy, even unsafe.

During these episodes, although they may appear frightening from the outside, his rage is not directed towards any individual, and he has not attacked or otherwise menaced anyone during these episodes.

Over time, the retired corporal came to the realization that what was going on with him was more than the PTSD that the military said that he had. Many of his symptoms weren’t consistent with the diagnosis, and since they began 17 years ago, he has shown no improvement whatsoever over that time. As more and more stories about mefloquine began to emerge, it soon became clear that this was responsible for the nightmare playing itself out in Shaun’s brain and body.

He was perilously close to making the decision that many Afghanistan veterans have made, ready to end his own life in order to find himself free from the hell that he was living each and every day for years. But Shaun also is possessed of an incredible strength of spirit, and he decided to document his struggle on YouTube. His videos tell the story of a day in the life of a man who was poisoned by a neuro toxic substance that his government ordered him to take.

They are raw, edgy, and emotional, but also inspirational. Shaun Arntsen has a way of reaching his viewers the way very few people can. There’s no pretense to the man, what you see is what you get, and what you get is a dose of the reality that he and thousands of others experience daily. He can connect with people, and is a no bullshit kind of a guy, which is why he is quickly establishing himself as someone to be reckoned with, and someone that can be turned to for advice, or a little bit of support, or a message of hope at a time when it is so desperately needed.

With lawsuits pending, and a campaign of public awareness building, mefloquine will soon be getting the attention of the Canadian public at large, but there is still a lot of work to do. Every day, veterans are hearing about mefloquine and the damage it causes for the first time. For many, it almost comes as a relief, since it would provide the answers to a lot of questions that they may have been asking themselves.

Helping to lead the charge here in Canada is Shaun Arntsen, the Mefloquine Cowboy, who is saving lives as a result of his efforts. He is a man on a mission, and I’m hoping to be able to help him along in his quest to help his brothers in arms. He proved himself on the field of battle in Afghanistan, and his efforts now are nothing short of heroic.

D.B.

Dedicated to the memory of the first four. Godspeed soldiers.

Sgt Marc Leger, Pte Richard Green, Pte Nathan Smith, Cpl Ainsworth Dyer

Just When You Thought Australian Politics Couldn’t Possibly Get Any Weirder

Former PM appointed himself joint Minister in several cabinet portfolios while in office.

Photo: Getty Images

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62462277

On Tuesday Mr Albanese said he had been told by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that Mr Morrison became joint minister for the health, finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios in the two years before losing power in May.

Shaima Khalil, Australia Correspondent BBC.com

Well then. Just when I thought that Australian politics couldn’t get any weirder than it already has, a story out today showed me that I was wrong on that point. In the three years that I have followed and written about politics in the land down under, I thought that I had heard everything. Far from being the world’s most stable democracy, Australia has looked more like the kind of corrupt police state one might see in Asia or perhaps Central/South America. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Scott “ScoMo” Morrison appears to have taken micro-management to some new and rather ridiculous heights. Despite not outwardly appearing to be the type, Morrison was acting very much the Strongman, akin to others like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Fidel Castro, and Manuel “Pineapple Face” Noriega.

BBC Australian Correspondent Shaima Khalil writes an excellent analysis of the bizarre rant Morrison posted on Facebook only four hours before the time I wrote this.

Some ministers – including the then finance minister Mathias Cormann – were reportedly unaware they were sharing portfolios with Mr Morrison.

Shaima Khalil, Australia Correspondent BBC.com

Unbeknownst to anyone, Morrison had secretly appointed himself as the joint minister of health, finance, treasury, home affairs, and resources.

At one point in his leadership, Mr Morrison was also operating as minister of health, finance, home affairs, resources and the treasury. High profile ministerial positions – and the decision-making powers that come with them. All now centralized by one person. All done in secret.

Shaima Khalil, Australia Correspondent BBC.com

If you’re thinking this is veering off the democracy road you wouldn’t be wrong.

I remember when the former prime minister would stand alongside his then health minister Greg Hunt to hold Covid briefings. Little did the public know that they were hearing from two health minister – one of them secretly self-appointed.

Shaima Khalil, Australia Correspondent BBC.com

The Facebook Post.

When I saw this for the first time, I thought that it had been posted on a Scott Morrison parody account, but as it so happens this is legit.

At the time that I am writing this, the Facebook post in question remains up, but in the event that it gets taken down I wanted to preserve its content, all 1,279 words of it.

Because, COVID.

The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession required an unprecedented policy response from our Government.

These were extraordinary times and they required extraordinary measures to respond. Our Government’s overriding objective was to save lives and livelihoods, which we achieved. To achieve this we needed to ensure continuity of government and robust administrative arrangements to deal with the unexpected in what was a period of constant uncertainty during the nation’s biggest crisis outside of wartime.

Information and advice changed daily and even hourly. Meetings with Ministers, officials and advisers were constant, as was liaison with industry and other stakeholders as we were dealing with everything from supply chain shocks to business closures, the overwhelming of the social security and hospital system and the sourcing of critical medical supplies and workforce. The prospect of civil disruption, extensive fatalities and economic collapse was real, especially in the early stages, which was occurring in other parts of the world.

The risk of Ministers becoming incapacitated, sick, hospitalised, incapable of doing their work at a critical hour or even fatality was very real. The Home Affairs Minister was struck down with COVID-19 early in the pandemic and the UK Prime Minister was on a ventilator and facing the very real prospect of dying of COVID-19.

The Parliament was suspended from sitting for a time and Cabinet and others meetings were unable to be held face to face, as occurred with businesses and the public more generally.

As Prime Minister I considered it necessary to put in place safeguards, redundancies and contingencies to ensure the continuity and effective operation of Government during this crisis period, which extended for the full period of my term.

To ensure oversight, the Government, with the support of the Opposition, established a concurrent public Senate Inquiry into the management of COVID that effectively ran for the duration of my term as Prime Minister.

In addition I took the precaution of being given authority to administer various departments of state should the need arise due to incapacity of a Minister or in the national interest. This was done in relation to departments where Ministers were vested with specific powers under their legislation that were not subject to oversight by Cabinet, including significant financial authorities.

Given the significant nature of many of these powers I considered this to be a prudent and responsible action as Prime Minister.

It is not uncommon for multiple Ministers to be sworn to administer the same Department. However, given that such additional Ministers were in a more junior position in the relevant Departments, and would not be familiar with all the details of the pandemic response, I considered it appropriate that the redundancy be put in place at a higher level within the Government and not at a more junior level.

The major Department for which this was considered was the Health Department, given the extensive powers afforded to the Minister by the Biosecurity Act. This was put in place on March 14, 2020. The Department of Finance was added on March 30, 2020.

As an added administrative precaution, as a ‘belts and braces’ approach, the Departments of Treasury and Home Affairs were added some time after in May 2021. I did not consider it was likely that it would be necessary to exercise powers in these areas, but the future was very difficult to predict during the pandemic. As events demonstrated with the resurgence of COVID-19 in the second half of 2021, we could never take certainty for granted. In hindsight these arrangements were unnecessary and until seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today, I had not recollected these arrangements having been put in place. There was a lot going on at the time.

Thankfully it was not necessary for me to trigger use of any of these powers. In the event that I would have to use such powers I would have done so disclosing the authority by which I was making such decisions. The authority was pre approved to ensure there would be no delay in being able to make decisions or take actions should the need arise.

The crisis was a highly dynamic environment and it was important to plan ahead and take what precautions could lawfully be put in place to ensure I could act, as Prime Minister, if needed.

It is important to note that throughout this time Ministers in all Departments, where I was provided with authority to act, exercised full control of their Departments and portfolios without intervention. Ministerial briefs were not copied to me as Prime Minister in a co-Minister capacity, as this was not the nature of the arrangement. These arrangements were there as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ safeguard. I also did not wish Ministers to be second guessing themselves or for there to be the appearance to be a right of appeal or any diminishing of their authority to exercise their responsibilities, as this was not the intention of putting these arrangements in place. I simply wanted them to get on with their job, which they did admirably and I am grateful for their service.

The decision in relation to the Department of Industry, Energy and Resources was undertaken in April 2021 for separate reasons. This was the consequence of my decision to consider the issues of the PEP11 license directly. Under the legislation the decision is not taken by Cabinet, but unilaterally by a Minister with authority to administer that Department. I sought and was provided with the authority to administer matters in relation to this Department and considered this issue observing all the necessary advice and issues pertaining to the matter before making a decision, without prejudice, which I announced publicly. Once having been given the authority to consider this matter I advised the Minister of my intention to do so and proceeded to consider the matter. I retained full confidence in Minister Pitt who

I was pleased to have serve in my Ministry. I believe I made the right decision in the national interest. This was the only matter I involved myself directly with in this or any other Department.

The use of the powers by a Prime Minister to exercise authority to administer Departments has clearly caused concern. I regret this, but acted in good faith in a crisis.

I used such powers on one occasion only. I did not seek to interfere with Ministers in the conduct of their portfolio as there were no circumstances that warranted their use, except in the case of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources which I have explained.

The pandemic has been a difficult time for Australia, although we have performed better than almost any other developed country in the world. There is no guide book in these circumstances and there is much commentary that will be offered in hindsight from the comfort of relatively calmer conditions. It is not surprising that some of this commentary will have a partisan or other motive, but that’s politics. In a democracy it is a positive thing for these issues to be discussed and for experience to inform future decisions and I hope my statement will help inform that process.

I have endeavoured to set out the context and reasoning for the decisions I took as Prime Minister in a highly unusual time. I did so in good faith, seeking to exercise my responsibilities as Prime Minister which exceeded those of any other member of the Government, or Parliament. For any offence to my colleagues I apologise. I led an outstanding team who did an excellent job and provided me great service and loyalty as Ministers.

Former Australian PM Scott “ScoMo” Morrison, Facebook post August 16, 2022.

Five hours before making the Facebook post in which he admits to taking joint control of THREE portfolios. Somehow he seems to have remembered another two portfolios following the interview. This then begs the question as to whether or not he stopped at five or if perhaps he just said “screw it” and decided to throw caution to the wind, assuming this role for the entirety of his cabinet.

This whole coming clean thing seems to be new territory for ScoMo, so I suppose he could be forgiven for stumbling out of the gate.

The cat’s out of the bag.

On Tuesday Mr Albanese said he had been told by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that Mr Morrison became joint minister for the health, finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios in the two years before losing power in May.

Shaima Khalil, Australia Correspondent BBC.com

It seems as though Morrison knew that he was busted, and so he decided to try and get ahead of things before they spiralled too far out of control. I don’t think he managed to accomplish what he set out to do if this is in fact the case.

More Yet To Come.

My sources in Oz who are in the know about things tell me that there is going to be plenty more yet to come. I’m hearing that the pins have been pulled on some grenades that will be going off in the media very soon, and some big players are about to resemble Tetley Tea Bags. The ones with 2,000 perforations.

It appears as though I’m going to have to make another bowl of popcorn.

My Five Cents Worth…….

A Response to His Excellency the Polish Ambassador to Canada, Witold Dzielski.

http://espritdecorps.ca/in-the-news/natos-eastern-flank-our-common-responsibility?fbclid=IwAR0c4Kks9rnZWZbdBAIJG8Z6xig0Ufm7SO9D0gfNrG4RB2FwhNpDjTT_7zI

His Excellency Ambassador Witold Dzielski, ambassador of Poland to Canada

Your Excellency,

I would like to take a moment to respond to your August 11th article in Esprit de Corps, “NATO’s Eastern Flank – Our Common Responsibility”.

I most definitely agree with your opening assertion that we are all of us at a turning point in history. It is beyond this point in the article, however, that we begin to disagree on a few things.

Sadly, Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine shows how, in the space of hours, a legacy of generations can be turned to ruins. 

The world remains shocked by the savagery and brutality of the Russian invasion: the massacre of civilians, destruction of infrastructure and the wanton targeting of public facilities such as hospitals, schools and shopping malls.

To begin, I believe that it is either disingenuous or naive of anyone to suggest that this aggression has been unprovoked. It shouldn’t take an expert to tell you that NATO’s actions from 1991 to the current day would have brought us to where we are at today.

That the Russians have acted with savagery and brutality also comes as no great surprise to anybody, frankly, we’ve all seen what they are capable of in the past. But what has been a surprise is how long this has dragged out so far, and how badly the Russian military has performed until now.

Historic Polish-Soviet animus.

Make no mistake your Excellency I understand the visceral reaction that many Poles have when it comes to their feelings about Russians, and the actions of the Soviet Union before and during the invasion by the Nazi’s on September 1st, 1939. Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler conspired to carve up Poland in the wake of the invasion, and the result would be the loss of a generation of your potential best and brightest in the Katyn Forest. Over 17,000 members of the Polish officer corps were murdered on Stalin’s order

Solidarność

Like everyone else did back then, I watched the events of the world through a television screen on the nightly news, and in the early ’80s, the Solidarity trade union and its leader Lech Walesa were on regularly. We became familiar with the Gdansk shipyards and with the equipment that was being sent out to quell demonstrations. Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelsky was deploying well-armed and equipped riot police and soldiers firing rubber bullets into some crowds and vehicles with water cannons against other crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators.

I would come to know several people who had either been exiled from or had managed to escape from Poland. Treated as criminals by the Soviet puppet Jaruzelsky, I met engineers and others who had to flee to Canada after being exiled by the communist regime. I listened to many, many stories from friends or their parents, or from Polish co-workers who would happily tell a curious person about life in Poland at that time.

I even bought a Solidarność pin to show my support for the brave men and women of Poland who were fighting against an oppressive regime. Once Karol Cardinal Wojtila was elected Supreme Pontiff in late 1978, the world seemed to know that this Polish Pope was about to set some historic things into motion. The greatest battle of the Cold War was about to begin, and Gdansk, Poland was where the front line would start. Poland was going to be playing a leading role in the battle to leave the Warsaw Pact and communism behind for the history books to recall. It was now also the dawn of the cable news network and the 24-hour news cycle, and CNN allowed us all to be able to watch history unfold in real-time. Things were much, much different back then.

Bias

It is therefore difficult for me to believe that Poland’s actions in the present day haven’t been coloured by this history.

NATO evolution 1949-1991, 1991-Present.

At one point in time, I did believe in NATO, that point lasting up until the time the Soviet Union became Russia again actually. It was all downhill after that with the fiasco in the Balkans being a rather bad start to the new era of a NATO without a Soviet adversary. The way I see it, NATO is just as much to blame for the current crisis facing the humanoids of this planet as does Russia.

Such a very different world now.

Aside from the obvious fact that it is now 30 years older, the world is a vastly different one than the one that existed from the early ’80s to the early ’90s. The balance of power looked nothing at all like it does today, where we no longer live in the bipolar world of east vs. west. Western influence has drastically waned, while China is on the verge of emerging as the next superpower, and Russia attempting to recapture the title it once held.

Even with tensions at their highest in November of 1983, when the TV movie “The Day After” premiered, I seem to recall feeling safer back then as opposed to now. While Ronald Reagan was in office and there was a Soviet state funeral seemingly every year for a while, I was still able to rest assured that Mutually Assured Destruction was going to keep the sides from launching their missiles at each other.

The MAD doctrine is completely inapplicable today, it just doesn’t work. There are now so many actors involved including non-state actors like terrorist groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Rogue states like North Korea and Iran have also complicated the mix even further, the world the NATO allies faced was not the one the NATO of today faces whatsoever. NATO cannot simply continue to act the way it would have 30 years ago and expect a damn thing to work.

Not cheering for either side.

I have a natural aversion to liking Putin so I obviously do not want to see him come out on top of this, which should therefore translate into support for NATO and the Ukrainians. It doesn’t translate to this at all, and so I found myself not really cheering for either side when this started in February. I didn’t want to see Vladimir the shirtless come out as the victor, but I couldn’t handle seeing NATO come out on top either.

It’s an untenable situation because it means that there is no good ending for this either way. I felt a sense of relief later when I found out that I wasn’t the only one to feel this way, in fact, there are a LOT of people who think this way. Many of them are combat veterans of the War in Afghanistan, and they were feeling just as bewildered as I was too it seemed.

NATO’s Eastern Flank – Our Common Responsibility

An obvious opening statement.

The Russia of Vladimir Putin is exhibiting history’s worst elements – authoritarianism, nationalism, imperialism and colonialism. Any remaining illusions of Russia as a reliable partner in international affairs are gone. 

Again, Vladimir Vladimirovich has in the past longed for the good old days of the Soviet Union so this is also no great surprise. What would completely shock me is if the Russian military were to suddenly act with professionalism and strictly within the bounds of international humanitarian standards.

What of Afghanistan?

Poland and Canada are jointly weighing the consequences of Russia’s invasion; importantly, they are responding appropriately and resolutely to its implications for peace and stability in the world. As NATO allies and like-minded countries, Poland and Canada are staunchly defending fundamental values that are seriously being jeopardized by Putin’s authoritarian policies. As two countries and two nations, our political institutions and civic organisations, in tandem with millions of our individual citizens, have hastened to assist Ukraine and Ukrainians in their time of need. 

It was also a year ago at about this time that NATO and other like-minded countries were fleeing Afghanistan before it was over-run by a loosely-knit band of terrorists who had no apparent leader. There’s still the small matter of the humanitarian disaster that NATO left in its wake, and untold thousands of people remain at risk with no plan on how to deal with them in a timely and efficient unbureaucratic manner.

Not an entirely unified group.

NATO. Unity in light of the Madrid Summit 

Adopted during the Madrid Summit, the new Strategic Concept sets out NATO’s main lines of action and development over a number of years. It pinpoints Russia as the most serious and direct threat to the security of the Allied countries, and it reiterates the idea that collective defense against all threats remains the Alliance’s principal aim and responsibility. This is a point of view shared by both Poland and Canada.

Polish aid.

Poland, in many respects, has provided more assistance to war-torn Ukraine than any other single country. With regard to monetary aid to Kyiv, Poland has delivered USD 3.1 billion dollars, or 0.46% of its GDP (as of 2 June 2022), in addition to extensive financial support to individual Ukrainian refugees residing in Poland. Warsaw has similarly provided wide-ranging political and diplomatic assistance to Kyiv both in the international sense and in bilateral formats. This action has resulted, among other things, in the imposition of sanctions on Russia. 

I should like to remind your Excellency that Canada has been falling short of its NATO commitments forever, so I hope you aren’t trying to lay a guilt trip on us now. We get enough grief from the US about this already. Canada is also in a position where it is having to try and BORROW the military aid it has pledged to Ukraine, in particular, the thousands of $5,000 apiece artillery shells that Ukrainians will eventually be lobbing at Russian positions.

A touch of hubris just to keep things interesting.

A total of 4.57 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border since the beginning of the Russian invasion. For most their stay is temporary, while others continue to remain in Poland. This influx of Ukrainian refugees has triggered an unprecedented outpouring of generosity from Polish citizens, many of whom donate clothes and food, drive to the border to help transport refugees, and most importantly, open their homes unconditionally to those in need. Polish institutions on a governmental and local level have also extended privileges and social support to our Ukrainian sisters and brothers – identical to what Polish citizens themselves receive. This support ranges from free access to education and health care, psychological support and a variety of social benefits. 

Fortunately, Afghanistan is far enough away that well, you don’t need to worry about any refugees from there getting near Polish borders.

I do not feel so obliged sir.

Thus, it is the obligation of our governments, media and experts to not allow the so-called phenomenon of war fatigue to creep into our mindset. We need to remain watchful with respect to some of our politicians and business actors who might hope to return to business as usual with Russia on the energy front. Furthermore, we need to understand that energy co-operation with Moscow will always have strings attached. These strings will be used to blackmail and destabilize the links between our countries. For this reason, Europe must continue strengthening its independence from the Russian energy supplies. Given its vast resources, technology and know-how, Canada has a special role to play in this regard.

I also take deference to your statement regarding the obligations that you expect this or any other sovereign nation to undertake. I also take umbrage with the fact that you feel it necessary to remind us what we should and should not prioritize when it comes to matters of Canadian foreign policy and security. We got it, thank you though.

With regards to your concerns about “war fatigue”, perhaps if NATO hadn’t been mishandling military and foreign policy since the early 1990’s there wouldn’t be near as many wars to become fatigued about.

I would also submit that recent events have shown that NATO is hardly united on the issues, in particular when it comes to the matter of energy security. It has caused a rift with Germany, a long-standing NATO partner, and this cannot be denied.

NATO’s chickens coming home to roost.

The brain trust within NATO can hardly be expected to be able to do anything to fix this current crisis since it is, after all, a crisis entirely of their own making. The organization is responsible for this mess, what makes you think I believe that it has any hope of fixing things?

Many innocent people will once again pay the price for their leaders’ hubris.

On both sides of this, Ukrainian AND Russian. I grieve for the innocent people in Ukraine who have been caught in the middle of this, blown to pieces in the crossfire and while under direct attack. I also feel for the young Russian conscripts who have been thrown into this meat-grinder because of all of this. Dying for nothing, fighting in an action they neither understand nor want any part of.

A lot of men and women who made the choice to wear the uniform of the armed forces of their countries will die that otherwise wouldn’t. And for what?

Grieving Russian mothers are Putin’s kryptonite.

I am of the firm belief at this moment that the world is in the most danger it has been in, ever, and frankly sir, right now I’m not holding out a whole lot of hope that things will work out. If the world does stand a hope of getting saved from the brink, it will be because of the impassioned cries of Russia’s women.

Very early on in his very first term as President of Russia, Putin had to deal with another group of wives and mothers, these ones the relatives of the crew of the submarine Kursk. As Russian officials mishandled the situation, Putin let things spiral out of his control as the nation witnessed a grieving mother being sedated on live television.

Not my circus…

Meeting of NATO countries leaders in Madrid, June 2022. President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau. (At least everyone got the memo about wearing blue to the photo op.)

As I have mentioned previously, I have spent considerable time speaking with people who came here from Poland, so I became used to the accent and the peculiarities of language that are unique to each one in its way. Sometimes if you listen you can hear these peculiarities, for instance, I was able to surmise that many Polish people express surprise in a conversation by saying “can you believe it?” in a manner and tone that might seem somewhat incredulous.

In the same way, I also discovered that the Polish had a saying that went “Not my circus, not my monkeys”, or basically, whatever seems to have gone haywire here is NOT my problem at all.

The problem however your Excellency, is that this IS our bloody circus and those ARE our damn monkeys, and they are now on the loose, and now nobody is safe.

War is a Racket

I have recently discovered a work written by retired United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler in 1935, titled “War is a Racket”, which was an expanded form of a speech he began giving after his retirement in 1931. It seriously resonated with me, and as I finished reading it, I realized that some 30 years before Dwight D. Eisenhower would first use the term “military-industrial complex” in his 1961 farewell address to the nation before turning things over to John F. Kennedy, Butler had already identified it.

He sums things up quite nicely in five chapters, though I find Chapter Three of particular importance. It’s the chapter where he lays out who pays the price for war and the answer is pretty obvious. It’s the average person, the ones like my friends who decided to serve their country, only to have it go horribly awry and as a result, would somehow never be the same again. That is simply a price that is too high and should no longer be getting paid.

In conclusion.

Please understand your Excellency that it is not my intention to insult you personally in this response, however, I believe that the circumstances dictate that I speak plainly with you today. I hold no ill will towards you nor any other citizen of Poland, Russia, or Ukraine.

It is the governments of the world who have placed us all in this untenable position, and as such, I categorically reject what it is that you are saying about this matter.

Perhaps, in another time, in another universe, we could have been friends, perhaps had drinks together. That time may or may not yet happen, and I truly wish that it will. But not the way that things stand right now your Excellency.

That sir, is my five cents, or 10 zloty worth on the subject.

War Is a Racket

Written by: United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, 1935.

Butler in uniform, c. 1929 Photo: Wikipedia

https://ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html?fbclid=IwAR1h3wSZWBLxg3SPGHVAXGWJQ_aHPXZLLDPztex3uGnuxXgV0MrgmCBRK8Y

A friend of mine sent me the link to this piece that was written in 1935 by retired United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler. Butler was born July 30th, 1881, in West Chester, Pennsylvania to Quaker parents, and received his commission as a First Lieutenant in the USMC on April 8th, 1899.

Ol’ Gimlet Eye

Butler would go on to become the most decorated Marine in its history until that distinction was passed on to the legendary Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller. It should be noted however that Puller was never awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, whereas Butler was awarded the accolade twice. He earned his nickname during one of his three deployments to Nicaragua, where he was given the name after leading his men into battle despite having a fever of 104 degrees from a bout of malaria.

An incredible TWO Congressional Medals of Honor.

He won his first CMH in 1914, following action in Vera Cruz, Mexico where the then Major “was eminent and conspicuous in command of his Battalion. He exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through the action of the 22nd and in the final occupation of the city.”

His second was awarded only 19 months later for action in Haiti “for bravery and forceful leadership as Commanding Officer of detachments of Marines and seamen of the USS Connecticut in repulsing Caco resistance on Fort Riviere, Haiti, 17 November 1915″ when he was a Lt. Colonel.

Service in the Great War.

During World War I, he commanded the 13th Regiment in France. For exceptionally meritorious service, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the French Order of the Black Star.

Post-war service and retirement.

Following the war Butler would go on to serve as Commanding General in Quantico, Virginia and San Diego, California, spending time in China as well before retiring on October 1st, 1931.

After retiring, Butler toured the United States giving a speech he called “War is a Racket”, and upon seeing how successful it was he decided to publish a longer version as a booklet in 1935.

Rather than publishing it in its entirety, I am going to select key passages from each chapter, the exception being Chapter Three which I am posting in its entirety. I would however recommend everyone click on the link and give this a good read for themselves.

Context

Whenever studying the people of times gone by, it is ALWAYS important to put things into the proper context, namely, the times during which they lived and wrote the things that they did.

So, here is a retired Marine Corps General, who spent 33 years in uniform, and whose experiences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries shaped his worldview.

At the time he retires the world is gripped by the Great Depression and Adolf Hitler is still just a loud-mouthed rabble-rouser. By 1935 Hitler has taken over as the Chancellor of Germany, and rumours of another European war have started to circulate. The United States is very much in the hands of isolationists who want absolutely nothing to do with another war in Europe, Hitler be damned.

The changing nature of war.

Prior to the War of 1914-18, European wars had been waged for economic reasons, between the various royal houses spread across the continent. It was being done for the overall economic gain of the nation, or at least the royal houses leading them anyway. For the most part.

Although World War One may have started out as a battle between a bunch of European cousins, it would ultimately end up becoming the beginning of the age of the modern military-industrial complex.

Everyone should read this.

This message is as relevant today as it was almost 100 years on, so I would ask you to please take a bit of time to look this over, thoroughly.

Humanity needs to remember these words now more than ever.

Chapter One: War Is a Racket.

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

….a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit — fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Chapter Two: Who Makes the Profits?

The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven’t paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children’s children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits — ah! that is another matter — twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people — didn’t one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump — or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren’t the only ones. There are still others. Let’s take leather.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That’s all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000 was recorded.

Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.

But here’s how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought — and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making during the war.

One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen 48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls. Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.

Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn’t ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well, some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels! Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war profit.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

Chapter Three: Who Pays the Bills?

I have chosen to print this chapter in its entirety.

Who provides the profits — these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them — in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us — the people — got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par — and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men — men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face” ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement — the young boys couldn’t stand it.

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead — they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded — they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too — they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam — on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain — with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don’t forget — the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share — at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn’t bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn’t.

Napoleon once said,

“All men are enamored of decorations . . . they positively hunger for them.”

So by developing the Napoleonic system — the medal business — the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn’t join the army.

So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side . . . it is His will that the Germans be killed.

And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies . . . to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill . . . and be killed.

But wait!

Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance — something the employer pays for in an enlightened state — and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.

Then, the most crowning insolence of all — he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.

We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back — when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work — at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds!

Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly — his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too — as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.

And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering and still paying.

Chapter Four: How to Smash This Racket!

WELL, it’s a racket, all right.

A few profit — and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation — it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn’t they?

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won’t permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people — those who do the suffering and still pay the price — make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn’t be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant — all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war — voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms — to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide — and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

  1. We must take the profit out of war.
  2. We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.
  3. We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.

Chapter Five: To Hell With War!

I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war.

Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had “kept us out of war” and on the implied promise that he would “keep us out of war.” Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die.

Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly?

Money.

There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this, if it were possible, would not be enough.

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war — even the munitions makers.

So…I say,

To Hell With War!

Everyone Hates the Taliban

I was engaged in a discussion amongst some people about the state of affairs in Afghanistan after reports had come out on Sunday about a border skirmish between Taliban and Iranian troops at the border with Iran. This had come after the explosion earlier in the day that would turn out to be the CIA blowing up Ayman al-Zawahiri I had made something of a tongue-in-cheek comment about the Taliban having such a bad day, and that it had seemed to me as though everybody hated them. I mean hell, they’ve been known to have deadly factional clashes amongst themselves. A short time later I received a rather eloquent message from someone who wanted to remain anonymous, and I thought that it warranted being published. This individual is a retired professional with a bachelor’s degree and has experience living and working in the Middle East and Central Asia, having been to a number of countries including Syria.

I had been impressed not only by the response but also by the fact that it had been crafted and sent to me with the utmost confidence in a relatively short period of time, telling me that they knew of what they spoke. They also speak plainly and at times use explicit language that might be offensive to some readers, therefore I highly recommend discretion for anyone proceeding beyond this point. While I have made some minor changes to the formatting and have included photos and illustrations in this piece, I have left the content itself unchanged. I will also state that the contents published herein do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of either myself or Invictus Bellator Media Corporation.

Afghan Taliban fighters and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal signed between U.S. and Taliban in Laghman Province, Alingar district on March 2, 2020 / Wali Sabawoon / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Certainly, they do.

The ‘stans.

The other “Stans” hate the current Afghan Taliban (the Talibs) regime because it fulfills and supports the grassroots Western fear-driven view of countries with “Crazy Islamic Governments” that they are all trying to distance themselves from.  Iran hates them because of what they as a Pashtun-dominated, predominantly Sunni organization, have done to the Shia/Hazaras for decades (such as recent bombings in Western Kabul targeting Hazaras) and because they draw US attention.  From the Iranian perspective, who wants another US base in Helmand, close enough for sneaky sneaky JSOC ninjas to do ground incursions into Iran without detection?

Turkey.

Turkey hates them because it’s a short leap of Canadian and US-based Republican/MAGA/Scared Liberal/Green/Democrat/Conservative/People’s Party of Canada faith to draw the conclusions that “Erdogan = Muslim dictator, Taliban=Muslim dictators, therefore Erdogan=Taliban = WHY DO WE GIVE AID TO TURKEY, OMG THE USA HAS A BASE THERE?????  OMG CLOSE INCIRLIK, OMG WHY DO WE LET L3 FROM CANADA GIVE CAMERAS TO THE BAKTAYR DRONES…AAHHH TERROR!

And greater scrutiny on Turkey may just draw forward the skeletons of the Ottoman (Turkish) Armenian Genocide of 1915 onwards, and the ongoing long-standing persecution of ethnic Kurds by the Ottoman Empire and modern-day Turkey back into the media cycle.  And then there will be questions….  Turkey doesn’t want that.

Russia.

Russia hates them, well, because.  So many books have been written on the subject, no need to mention it again here.  That being said, would Russia try to exploit them as a lever against regional competitors?  To keep the “Stans” off balance and a convenient buffer for Russia proper as it’s been since the days of the Tsars?  To pressure Pakistan?  To keep India off-balance?  Absolutely.  They may hate them… but would not be above using them.

Pakistan.

Pakistan hates them because they are shrugging off/ignoring ISI and Pakistani “advice/influence”. These Talibs grew up seeing Pakistan sell them out daily by playing USA vs Pakistan vs Taliban/Afghan Armed Faction chess where the Afghans always lost.  If these Taliban are truly devout they have to realize Pakistan’s long-standing duplicity, finally, and say “enough is enough… yes, you let HiG and others hide there for years, but you have been FUCKING US for years”.  Pakistan, of course, will not like to be called on its duplicitous bullshit.

India.

The Indians hate them because they are an unstable Islamic fanatic rulership in the region, and just because the Taliban hate the Pakistanis now, doesn’t mean that hate will stay hate, so therefore the Taliban can’t be trusted.  This is bolstered by the fact that for religious and propaganda reasons, the Talibs need to hate the Indians on spec just because, so those feelings are mutual.  It won’t stop India from making feelers into Afghanistan via aid and influence, to be a thorn in Pakistan’s side; if the Talibs rebuff India’s attempts… more reason to hate them.

Bangladesh.

Bangladesh hates the Taliban for causing the current refugee flood (think of Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian feelings, reflected in their domestic policies towards Palestinian refugees that keep them impoverished, stateless and unable to own property) and because Western people (American Dems/Republicans and Euro Brexiteers and Greens, plus pretty much all Canadians with a limited view of the world) will look at a map and be like “OMFG Bangladesh is like 3cm away from Afghanistan on a map, so they might be ISLAMIC RADICALS THAT CRUSH HUMAN RIGHTS AND PERSECUTE LBGTQS++ PEOPLE and NOT EMBRACE GREEN ENERGY and MIGHT BE TERRORISTS so we CANNNOT GIVE THEM AID” so Bangladesh gets painted with the same brush and guess what no US/Western Aid Dollars for it. Plus the Talib recruits from Bangladesh and takes leave there while the Bangladeshi security service look the other way while pocketing the requisite bribe money proceeds.

China.

China hates them because again, instability, the Talibs likely are not willing to follow directions from Beijing, may not let China exploit their resources, and are generally a regional pain in the ass that could give the USA another “Foot in the Door” into the region, and just after they finally left after 20 years! 

The Gulf States.

The Gulf States hate the Talibs because FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY WILL YOU STOP WITH THIS JIHAD ALREADY YOU ARE FUCKING UP OUR OIL SALES AND IT’S EXHAUSTING TRYING TO PRETEND TO BE FRIENDS WITH THE USA AND KEEPING UP THE CHARADE OF THAT WHILE YOU FUCK THE USA OFF IN PUBLIC AND THEN CALL US YOUR FRIENDS… AT SOME POINT THEY MAY START NOTICING!!! The Gulf States, of course, particularly their more virulent and fundamentalist Wahabbist elements, want all Westerners dead or converted to Islam, but they don’t want that stated in public because it’s bad for business and hampers the cash flow.  No cash, hard to buy a new Lamborghini… Again, closeness to Talibs, such as the Taliban offices in Qatar, makes them suspect in the eyes of concerned citizens from Des Moines Iowa, Tyrell, Texas, and Cleveland. 

Canada.

In the Great White North, no one in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto cares, nor does anyone in Red Deer, Iqaluit, Saint John or Revelstoke.  Not that Canada’s thoughts or any lip service pontification by Canadian politicians would matter, because the Gulf States love current Canadian policies that hamstring Canada’s own domestic energy industry, essentially giving the Gulf States a ready, hungry energy market on a platter that they need make NO political concessions to access!  Money talks… So they DON’T want the Talibs messing with cash flow!

North Korea.

NK hates the Talibs because they are subhumans who believe in the fairytale of Imaginary SkyGod which is anathema to the True Realism of Communism and the understanding that the Family Kim are the TRUE GODS. Plus, they are not orderly and are a chaotic society so worthy only of contempt. While not as morally corrupt as what the USA has done to their Brothers in the South, they still must be destroyed to ensure purity and order in the world.  Plus, they may have much-needed resources, that NK will be unable to access under the Talib regime.

South Korea.

SK hates them because the US hates them and the last thing the SK wants are more fanatics on the doorstep, giving them another problem to deal with when “they know who the real enemy is” – ie The North and possibly China. They also hate the Talibs because they know that at some point the USA will get interested in quelling Afghan Terror again, which will draw attention, US Aid and diplomatic resolve away from supporting SK against NK and others, reducing their regional importance and making them stand more on their own vice relying on Big USA Brother whose attention is drawn away.

Also, Talibs in power and a failed Afghan state are not going to buy Samsung and LG appliances, Hyundai cars, trucks and equipment, Doosan excavators, paving machines and heavy equipment, which limits economic development and expansion, therefore it’s best they go so that the Afghan market can open up and benefit South Korea’s economy.

Australia.

Australia hates the Talibs because they know that due to the recently-consummated Pacific Defence BroMance (that Canada was excluded from, and rightly because Canada, despite rhetoric, is a non-lifter in the Pacific and inept, less lip service, in all aspects of Defence) they will get sucked into the USA’s next intervention there, so they are like “Oh Crikey like Vietnam again… and Iraq… and Afghanistan, fuck that shyte mate, we got to think about the Indonesians, sort the Solomon Islands out and get rid of these fackin migrants”.  So they just don’t relish the thought of getting involved in that Afghan quagmire (some may describe it as a shower of shit) again, which they will if the USA goes in.

Plus, Australians killing Muslims in Afghanistan gives their greatest regional rival, Indonesia (the reason why Australia bought F-111 fighter-bombers, so they could fly them over Jakarta as needed and maybe influence the Indonesians with some High Explosive bombs If needed), a great source of diplomatic and regional influence ammunition to use against “Australian White Christian Commonwealth Colonizer Aggression” on the world stage, therefore opening Australia up to terror attacks from like-minded Western-influence-hating groups all over.

Singapore.

Singapore… like AC/DC says, Money Talks.  Sucking interest into a worthless desert in SouthWest Asia draws attention from the Pacific Commons where Singapore’s economy needs the attention, US dollars, oil tanker transit money, wharfage fees, brokerage fees and the umbrella of security that US Carrier Battle Groups interested in playing Maritime Chess with China provide to Singapore.  Carriers in the Indian Ocean flying air strikes into Afghanistan are less helpful.

Ukraine.

Ukraine and the Caspian Region… They are the latest members (with Syria’s rebels) of the “hey the Russians and Russian Proxies attacked us too and keep doing bad things, help us”.  Drawing attention and money from them back into Afghanistan is a bad thing when they are looking for arms and reconstruction money.  Now, Ukraine, everyone can agree, is in a terrible situation.  However, as seen in Afghanistan, particularly the disastrous Western (ie USA) withdrawal from Afghanistan, and how many countries, including Canada as one of the worst culprits, have, to be clear, fucked over their Afghan former employees, military and police proxies and refugees, thoughts/prayers and Strongest Possible Condemnation and Support today mean NOTHING for tomorrow, and I’m sure Ukraine realizes this.  Right now, Ukraine is the flavour of the day.  It won’t last.  If the penny drops and attentions pivot back to the “urgent need to defeat the Taliban”, Ukraine will become a bullet point on a briefing slide.  

So in the long game, once Russia declares defeat and shows itself as well and truly finished, and/or collapses, will divide attention away from Ukraine’s need for reconstruction money, aid, etc, particularly if the West turns to a Mission of Mercy/Reconstruction (ie the 2024 version of the Marshall Plan) to reconstruct a collapsed and unstable nuclear-armed Russia.  Concurrently, if the Talibs continue with their ways, the hungry-for-weapons-release Western Military Machine that didn’t get to drop a lot of ordnance in Ukraine will want to get Back Into The War Business and send its sons and daughters back into the Hindu Kush.  This will be bad for Ukraine – they could get squeezed out and forgotten if the attention is divided between “Build Back Better” for Russia and “defeat Terrorist, Human Rights Abusing Dictators in Afghanistan”.  We all know how that goes.

Israel.

Well, Israel has, for its entire existence, posited itself to the West (after being rebuffed by the Soviet Union in the 1950s) as the “friend” that says “Hey, we need to be your primary for you to everything to give to us, we are the true front line against Islamic terror that keeps you safe”. But the Talibs might consider giving Hamas, PLO, PFLP, Hezbollah (although they are filthy Shia unbelievers that the Talib would love to exterminate, to White People, they are all stinky scary bearded guys that beat women and want to blow themselves up), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other GoodTime Fun Guys a run for their money.

And that is NO GOOD for Israel.  The world needs to focus, from the Israeli perspective, on the Greatest Threat to Israel, ensure it’s also seen as Greatest Threat to the USA, to ensure that free F35s, Iron Dome rockets, M109s, F16s, F15s, HIMARS, MLRS, communications intercept, digital surveillance and satellite intelligence keep flowing unhindered into Israel. Therefore, a Talib government that can actually govern and is coherent is a HUGE THREAT to Israel’s place in the world and its position as the “world’s greatest Victim that USA and Germany and Europe need to fund and cater to”. Better for them if the Afghans are just another collection of starving barefooted Muslims, like Palestinians but thankfully with no land claims in the West Bank to have to deal with.  The Afghans?  Fuck ’em says Chaim from Ramat Gan, Dorit from Azur, and Shlomo from Ashdod… we are the Chosen People and the USA and World need to keep showing that by giving us money and weapons.

Better for Israel to have a hostile terrorist Syria on their flank to tug at the Park Slope heartstrings and bank accounts in NYC than have to take action themselves, action which isn’t Cordon and Search operations on Palestinian villages and shooting kids throwing rocks which, as seen in the 2006 Hezbollah/Israel Rocket War facing an armed and determined enemy, they kind of suck at.

So from the Israeli perspective, having the West crush the Talibs and keep Afghanistan a stone age puppet state, but Free of ISLAMIC TERROR, plus keeping a hostile but ineffective Syria on the doorstep to enhance the Victim Culture that keeps Western money flowing and gives Israel carte blanche for assassination, murder, atrocities and use of heavy weapons in densely populated areas in Gaza and the West Bank and Ramallah and Bethlehem and Nazareth and Beit Jinn to “stop Palestinian Terrorists” without too much oversight is the best option.  Therefore… need to hate the Taliban!

Syria.

Syria. Under the radar now, Assad is like “yeah everybody leave me alone, I’ll continue to gas my own population and fly my Russian-supplied gunships to rocket urban areas where the “terrorists” are when I FEEL LIKE IT.” Sucks for Assad if Russia collapses and Turkey gets tired of Syria’s shit and takes the gloves off.  But likely it won’t happen, the USA will keep Turkey on the leash.  However, if the Talibs get sporty and aggressive, someone like the Toms (Ricks or L. Friedman) or a place like the Centre for a New American Security think tank will start talking again about the “New Axis Of Evil” and you bet they’ll line up Syria with the Taliban government again, to justify and demand crossing “red lines”… and Tomahawks will fly…

So Syria will get hit with the splatter of Western hand-wringing “OMFG The Taliban are EVIL and DANGEROUS”, of course, players like Israel will feed that because why have half the Golan Heights when you can have all of it…. plus everything else up to the Litani River in the North and the Euphrates in the East (ie the State That Will No Longer Exist That Was Once Called Syria) as the Greater Eretz Israel, if given permission (plus significant continuing military aid) to do so, in order to ensure “Security” against “Terror”. While extremely unlikely to happen, the culturally-ingrained Baath Party suspicion of Israel’s desire to occupy and destroy Syria colours a lot of thinking as it has since the days of Assad Senior and his struggle to rule, hence, not wanting the undue attention that the Talibs can bring to the region and the convenient “Axis of Evil” regrouping popping up again.  It would be best for all in that region if the whole “Syria/Talib” issue is not linked and causes bloodshed. In conclusion…

In conclusion…

Whew. I’m done.. for now. But that’s the world as I see it in real-person terms, not couched in the flowery and obtuse Nadsat-speak favoured by International Relations experts.  To me, it does not really serve any of the players to have the Talibs be effective in governing, whether they are a terror-focused government or not. Like neighbourhood kids who want to keep a vacant lot in the hood to play in, find dead things in, drink stolen beers, light fires, in short a place where no one really cares too much what happens, that’s what the World and Region want for Afghanistan.  A vacant lot is best for all because it doesn’t mess with the established order of things, or cause the upset that the 20+ years in Afghanistan before caused to the flow of aid, arms and attention to those “long-standing” players in the game who feel they deserve the attention of Rich Western Countries vice them wasting money dropping Hellfires on illiterate 15-year-olds putting bombs in the road.

Food for thought…. have a happy day, comrades!

Analysis & Observation Extra: al Qaeda Leader al Zawahiri Killed in Afghanistan Drone Strike

Source of mystery missile attack solved and its victim identified.

Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri in a photograph taken by Hamid Mir, who took this picture during his third and last interview with Osama bin Laden in November 2001 in Kabul. Dr. al-Zawahri was present at the interview where he acted as translator for bin Laden. Source: Wikipedia

So it would appear as though the mystery behind the recent missile attack in Kabul may have been solved, as news broke Monday that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike on Sunday in Afghanistan. As it turns out I was wrong in thinking that the explosion was probably linked to violence between Taliban factions, in fact, I hadn’t even considered this as a possibility. Then again I also wasn’t aware that the Egyptian-born cleric and heir to Usama bin Laden was even in Kabul, nor were many others.

This image taken from a video issued by As-Sahab, al Qaeda’s media branch, on April 5, 2022, shows al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri speaking. (As-Sahab via AP)

Don’t uncork the champagne quite yet.

Screengrab from an address made by Joe Biden announcing the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In announcing the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri, US President Joe Biden had the opportunity to make an address to the American people that many of his predecessors made. Making it almost seem as though they had gone out and killed one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, the fact is that Biden and the others just happened to be in office at the time these events took place. So even though Biden and his administration might be happy that something has finally happened which might actually translate into some better polling numbers heading into the mid-terms, they shouldn’t exactly be uncorking any champagne.

Many serious concerns still remain.

That al Zawahiri was hanging his hat in downtown Kabul came as a complete surprise to observers and analysts, myself included, but it just goes to show yet again that the Taliban had absolutely no intent on living up to their commitments in the Doha Agreement. As you may remember, one of the things that the Mullahs agreed to was that they wouldn’t allow al Qaeda or any other terrorist organizations to set up shop in areas under Taliban control. It would be rather impossible for them to deny knowledge of the fact that he was there when he was living in an area known to house their senior leadership and administration. Ties between the two groups were clearly not severed.

A statement put out by the Atlantic Council outlined their major concerns in the wake of the assassination.

Three critical counterterrorism concerns raised by the strike

The killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri is a huge blow for al-Qaeda, which has spent the past year working to rebuild its capabilities in Afghanistan after the chaotic US withdrawal. Zawahiri may not have been as charismatic a leader as his predecessor Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS. But the fact that he has now met the same fate will demoralize al-Qaeda’s rank and file, demonstrating that no terrorist is beyond the United States’ reach.

While this is a day to celebrate, Zawahiri’s death raises a number of critical questions about the future of American counterterrorism.

First, Zawahiri’s presence in post-withdrawal Afghanistan may indicate that, as feared, the Taliban has once more granted safe haven to the leaders of al-Qaeda—a group with which it has never broken. Zawahiri evidently felt safe enough to move back to downtown Kabul.

Second, it’s not clear if Sunday’s success can be replicated against other terrorist targets. This was the first US drone strike in Afghanistan in almost a year, and it remains to be seen whether the administration has the capability or intent to systematically dismantle the terror networks in the country that threaten the homeland. Until we know more, we should resist the urge to see the strike as a vindication of “over the horizon” counterterrorism.

Third, the next man on al Qaeda’s depth chart is Saif al-Adel—who has long been a guest of the Iranian regime. Tehran and al-Qaeda have made common cause against their shared enemies in recent years. We’ll need to keep a close eye on what their relationship looks like if, as expected, Saif ascends to al-Qaeda’s top role.

Atlantic Council

Ending the charade.

It is well past time enough now for this ridiculous charade to come to an end. I’m speaking of the dog and pony show that the Mullahs have been putting on for the benefit of whatever foreign media happens to be in Kabul. It is high time they realize that their quest for international recognition has not and will not be successful and that there are consequences that need to be paid for their intransigence. They need to know in absolutely no uncertain terms that death will rain down upon them from above if they continue to constitute a threat not only to international security but also to the security and well-being of the people of Afghanistan. The targeting and brutal killing of innocent civilians whom they consider to be traitors who aided the “foreign invaders” needs to end, and the only way that will ever happen is if the Taliban are punished through the use of devastating military force by the US and its NATO allies.

NATO would rather be in the Balkans however.

There is absolutely no chance that NATO will be doing this, considering they didn’t act one year ago when they should have. Instead, they put on an embarrassing display in allowing themselves to prove completely ineffective against a group of misfits who didn’t even have a semblance of having any kind of organized and coordinated leadership at the helm. They still don’t have that.

Instead, NATO will be doing as it always has, intervening in a situation that would be best left to take care of itself on its own, not unlike their other Balkan adventures over the years. Rather than acting to try and fix the problems that it was responsible for creating in Afghanistan to begin with, NATO has decided that it has much better things to do, like setting up the conditions for an all-out global conflict which could end in catastrophe for the human race. The next time mystery missiles start to rain down on people, they could have nuclear warheads, and it won’t really matter who launched them.

Analysis & Observation: Mystery Missiles Raining Down Upon Mullahs

Analysts and observers will no doubt be debating over who could be launching attacks targeting Taliban leadership.

(I had been wanting to do something for some time that would really let me get my foreign policy/international relations geek on, and since I recently decided to break ground on a new project I thought this would be a great time to start another one. This time it will be a weekly (I hope) thing where I will either be writing about a particular subject, or, hopefully, having a discussion in a podcast. So, I present to you the premiere edition of “Analysis & Observation”.)

A pair of loud explosions rocked Kabul at 6:30 AM local time today according to one of my sources in Kabul, who says he heard and felt the blasts while he was the passenger in a car several kilometers away. According to another reliable source, a release put out by the Ministry of the Interior stated that a BM missile had landed in the densely populated area of Sherpor in Kabul at 6:30 AM and that there were no reports of any casualties. My first source tells me that the area the attack took place in was once the home to many senior Afghan government officials, and is now occupied by senior Taliban officials.

He also tells me that according to some of the responses to a story about this in the local media, there were unconfirmed reports of a drone being in the area immediately before the explosions were heard. This is similar to an incident that happened a few months ago after an explosion at a Taliban ammunition depot in which people were claiming to have seen drones in the air prior to the explosions. He tells me that he believes these reports to be “gossips and stomach speech”, so I will definitely be taking these claims with a grain of salt.

The BM-21 Grad is a Soviet truck-mounted 122-mm multiple rocket launcher, developed in the early 1960s. The development of the 122 mm BM-21 Grad divisional-level RSZO took place in the mid-1950s under the guidance of the Splav Scientific Production Concern at Tula. The BM-21 122 mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL) system entered service with the Soviet Army in 1963 to replace the aging 140 mm BM-14 system. The main role of the BM-21 Grad system is to support the division with suppressive fire to counter anti-tank missile, artillery and mortar positions, destroy strong points and eliminate enemy nodes of resistance on the immediate battlefield. (Army Recognition)

The only problem is that the Ministry of the Interior is now under the control of the Taliban, so I view any statements from them as being specious at best. Assuming they are actually on the level this time, there are three possibilities as to who might be responsible for launching these attacks on Taliban targets, since as yet no group has claimed responsibility.

The National Resistance

Formally The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, the rebel group operates out of its stronghold in the Panjshir Valley in the north of the country. It is led by Ahmad Massoud, son of the charismatic Ahmad Shah Massoud, the onetime guerilla commander and Afghan politician who was assassinated in 2001, one week after his 48th birthday and two days before the September 11th attacks rocked the world.

Photo: Wikipedia
Ahmad Massoud, son of Afghanistan’s slain anti-Soviet resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, is seen in Bazarak of Panjshir province in this file photo.(Reuters Photo)

While it is within the realm of possibility that the Northern Resistance could have launched an attack using a BM-21 Grad rocket launcher, likely as not they would have claimed responsibility for the attacks by now. This doesn’t seem to fall into line with their past behaviour.

Flag of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan

Daesh K

The Khorasan franchise of the organization known colloquially in the region as Daesh, otherwise known as ISIS-K, is yet another possible choice.

ISIS members in Aleppo, Syria teach recruits to spread its message through a combination of preaching and violence. (Medyan Dairieh/Corbis)

But Daesh also tends to claim responsibility for their operations in fairly quick order as well, so again it seems unlikely that they would be responsible.

Factional infighting within the Taliban

With Haqqani Network controlling Kabul and Mullah Yaqoob holding the Kandahar, there is concern that the Taliban government may have a pro-Afghan faction of Kandaharis and pro-Pak faction of Haqqanis. Photo: Hindustan Times

The third, and I think the most likely possibility, is that this has been the result of factional infighting within the Taliban. What many people do not realize is that the Taliban are not an organized and cohesive group by any stretch of the imagination. It is made up of a loose association of a number of factions, primarily the Yaqoob and Haqqani factions, so named for their leaders, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob and the late Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Yaqoob and Haqqani factions fight over Taliban government

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/yaqoob-and-haqqani-factions-fight-over-taliban-government-101630474732128.html

Mullah Yaqoob

Afghan Taliban’s acting Minister of Defense Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, January 11, 2022. Photo: Defense ministry/mod.gov.af

The Yaqoob Faction is led by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the one-eyed Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar who died of illness in April 2013.

Mullah Mohammed Omar

Mullah Haqqani

The Haqqani Faction is believed to be led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the late founder of the infamous Haqqani Network, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Sirajuddin Haqqani

Formed in the late ’70s or early ’80s depending upon the information you read online, the Haqqani Network had a fearsome reputation for executing devastating and brutal attacks that primarily targeted innocent civilians. They constituted the “muscle” of the Taliban and used a number of diabolical methods to terrorize and kill innocent civilians, including the use of suicide bombers.

Jalaluddin Haqqani’s network was known for picking civilian targets. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

In a previous article I called the Taliban “basically a group of Central Asian hillbillies”, and to carry this just a little bit further, the situation would be comparable to a feud among clans as in the case of the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Reports of drone sightings

I was also told that there had been reports of drone sightings prior to this incident today and the other incident that I mentioned earlier. The initial feeling that my contact had was that these claims were started by “people who want to start rumors and stomach speakers”, he then sent me a Facebook post from the former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, which was their version of the CIA once upon a time.

Rahmatullah Nabil, chief of the Afghan National Directorate of Security from 2010-2012

Rahmatullah Nabil has also made claims in online posts that US drones had been spotted over Kabul. I’m not sure how he would know this with any kind of certainty, when you consider the fact that drones are ubiquitous now and no longer strictly the domain of the American military and intelligence communities.

I’m not sure if he is implying that these drones were used as the weapons platforms to carry these attacks out, or if they were used in more of a spotting and observation capacity for artillery or rocket attacks. For me, either of these assertions doesn’t hold any water with me. The reason is that given the current state of US military drone technology, it would be safe to assume that any drone they would use for either observational or strategic purposes would be small enough and operating at a height that would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see unaided.

Afghanistan is something of an intelligence battleground for neighboring countries right now, and some of them also have drones. Iran has drones, Pakistan has drones, Russia has drones, and likely as not so do the Chinese. Any of these alleged drones that Nabil speaks of could just as easily belong to one or possibly more of these other regional stakeholders.

It isn’t easy being king.

Having been in power for almost a year now, the Mullah’s are learning a valuable piece of wisdom that I myself learned while watching Star Trek many years ago. The episode in question is the one where Spock must return to Vulcan to either mate or die, titled “Amok Time”. Near the end, he reproaches his about to be former wife in some words that he speaks to the man who wants to marry the woman himself.

Photo: Star Trek.com

“She is yours”, Spock tells the man named Ston, “however, you may find that over time, having, is not as desirous a thing, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

Now that they have what they have wanted, the Taliban must now face the bitter reality that their hold on power is tenuous, and that they are now being targeted by many, even from within theor own ranks. In as much as I don’t really care who it is that kills them, what I do care about are the innocent civilians who will be the victims of this bloody internal conflict. They will be among the ones to suffer through this, adding further trauma to a population already traumatized by years of violence.

My Five Cents Worth…

War in Ukraine overshadows the plight of those who remain left behind in Afghanistan.

26th February, 2022, Ukraine, Uzhgorod-Vyshne Nemeckoe: Refugees from Ukraine on the border with Slovakia (checkpoint “Uzhgorod-Vyshne Nemeckoe”) in the Zakarpatya regions. — Photo by Fotoreserg

I’m writing this on day 154 of the war in Ukraine, or day 154 of Russia’s “Special Military Operation” as Vladimir Putin prefers to call it. That the conflict has gone on this long has been a surprise to many analysts and observers, and has shown not only the incredible resolve of Ukrainians but also how unbelievably inept Russia has been in its execution of this Special Military Operation.

A disaster created by NATO.

When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February it really came as no surprise to many who years ago knew that something like this would eventually happen, and it is because of NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 by the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and several other Western European nations, as a counter to the eastern bloc’s Warsaw Pact.

By the early 1990s, a dramatic turn of events would see many eastern European countries abandoning communism and on January 1st, 1992, the Soviet Union no longer existed, being replaced by the Russian Federation. For all intents and purposes, from that point on, NATO no longer had a raison d’etre, or so it would seem.

According to the NATO website:

NATO endured because while the Soviet Union was no more, the Alliance’s two other original if unspoken mandates still held: to deter the rise of militant nationalism and to provide the foundation of collective security that would encourage democratisation and political integration in Europe.

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/declassified_139339.htm

Over time, other European nations would join the organization, and soon the buffer zone between NATO and Russia that was once made up of Eastern Bloc countries began to get smaller. Vladimir Vladimirovich is a former KGB officer and was known to have sentimental feelings about the Soviet Union, so it shouldn’t come as any great surprise to anyone that he would view NATO’s incursion eastwards as a potential threat to Russia. If the Ukrainians were to become a member of the alliance, it would mean that NATO forces could be set up right on the Russian border, with no buffer zone of any kind between them. It isn’t unreasonable or irrational for him to act accordingly in the way that he has.

Fear and loathing in Central Asia.

Taliban patrol during a protest by Afghans, outside the building of former US embassy, demanding the US to unfreeze Afghan assets, in Kabul, Afghanistan, 21 December 2021. [EPA-EFE/STRINGER]

A little over a year ago, I co-authored a guest essay with Australian veteran Stuart McCarthy that appeared in the July 10th weekend edition of The Globe and Mail titled “Opinion: By abandoning our Afghan interpreters, we’re leaving them for dead.”. Prior to that, we had been campaigning for almost two months to get this issue front and centre in the Australian and Canadian news media.

The issue would eventually begin to make the headlines internationally, however, it would do little to spur any country into taking the actions that they should have taken in the first place, namely employing the use of military force to protect and evacuate those in Afghanistan who were at risk. Instead, a group of the world’s “most powerful” militaries, which was led by the only apparent “superpower” nowadays, had their collective asses handed to them by what is essentially a gang of Central Asian hillbillies. This was definitely not the proudest moment in NATO’s history, and only a few short months later another catastrophe of their making was making news.

Afghanistan veterans answer pleas for help.

Afghanistan veterans from a number of countries began receiving messages from their former colleagues, usually interpreters, who were in grave danger of being the victims of Taliban retribution. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these former soldiers were contacted around the world, several years after their deployments. For many, it would bring back past traumas and reopen once-healed psychic wounds.

One of these is Canadian veteran Brock Blaszczyk, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. He was 21 years old when he lost his leg to an explosion from an IED made out of an old Soviet landmine, spending several months afterwards in rehabilitation.

Afghanistan veteran Brock Blaszczyk

But it wasn’t until February of 2018 that Blaszczyk would become a hero to many Canadians, though for a different reason. It was during a federal election campaign, and a town hall was being held in Edmonton by Liberal candidate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Blaszczyk stood and took Trudeau to task over his government’s treatment of veterans and the very controversial $10.5 Million payout to Omar Khadr. A seemingly flustered Trudeau would issue a response he would later go on to regret, with the words “veterans are simply asking for more than the government can afford to give”, words which would come back to haunt him repeatedly in the campaign and in the years after.

Now, unbeknownst to many, Blaszczyk is one of those veterans who was contacted by someone in Afghanistan looking for help. I had heard this through the grapevine, and so I got in touch with him to talk about things. I had wanted to reach out to him before but hadn’t, and now this gave me the opportunity to talk to him. I wanted to know how he was holding up through all that had been happening, but I also wanted to talk with someone else who was able to relate to this in a way that so many other people I knew simply couldn’t.

Brock Blaszczyk is very much a hero in the truest sense of the word, as are many other veterans who answered the call for help from afar. They willingly decided to act, knowing that it would mean having to relive some of the nightmares from their past. They were well aware of the fact that there would be a psychological toll to be paid, and that they could possibly end up with a profoundly broken heart as a result. This in my book is very much the definition of a hero.

Taliban treachery.

Kabul City, Afghanistan 08.10.2012: Men climbing on Mini Truck in Evening. People trying to leave town with all kind of vehicles, Kabul, Afghanistan, War, Civil War, Escape, Traffic Jam on the Main Routes out of the city, Bicycles, small truck or horse drawn carts. Credit:FotoGablitz

For months now, the Taliban have been trying to put on its best face for the world’s media in Kabul, and their efforts so far have at best given them a rather homely visage that even their mothers would have a hard time loving.

The mullahs have been desperately seeking international recognition and in an effort to court the world community at large they have embarked on a campaign aimed at rehabilitating their image somewhat. In Kabul for instance, they have scaled back their searches for those who are on their list of people who helped the “foreign invaders”, and aren’t carrying out extrajudicial executions like they were when they first took charge. These activities are now only taking place out in the rural areas of the country. They also made the unprecedented move of appealing for foreign assistance in the wake of last month’s earthquake that killed over 1,100 people in the southeast of the country.

If history has taught us anything however it’s that the Taliban are not to be trusted under any circumstances, having proven time and again that they are unable to live up to any agreements, and are devious and underhanded when dealing with them. They have also demonstrated an absolute contempt for human life and are more often than not cruel and barbaric in the way they deal with their opponents.

This appears to be the case in the dramatic rise in the number of heroin addicts on Kabul’s streets over the last twelve months. According to what Al tells me, about 90% of those who became heroin addicts in that period of time are former members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. In “Kabul Trolleyman”, I wrote that what the Taliban have done is to effectively neutralize any potential future threat these men might pose by getting them hooked on junk and keeping them loaded. They have succeeded in eliminating a potentially existential threat to themselves without having to fire a shot, leaving their victims as nothing more than a tragic backdrop for foreign cameras to shoot.

The man in the red cap is Taliban, and he is there to ensure that nobody else is selling heroin other than those who have been authorized to do so. He has also been known to give out free heroin to those addicts who cannot afford their fix.

With the knowledge that he has obtained in recent days, Al really begins to worry about what kind of future his children will have if he isn’t able to get them out of Afghanistan. One wonders what future any of the children have under the malevolent tyranny of the mullahs and their henchmen.

Let there be none left behind.

If there is one thing that a government bureaucracy does not feel it is loyalty. Loyalty is the reason why many people have tried to help these poor wretched souls in Afghanistan, and it is why they would do it again if they had to. It is a loyalty that was forged in the furnace of combat and was quenched in trust, the trust that is formed when two people rely on each other in order to protect their lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.

It is this ethos that is at the very heart of the belief that nobody gets left behind, and it is what drives so many veterans to act in this instance. I myself have not formed that level of trust with anyone in Afghanistan, I just happen to think that it’s the right thing to do. I made a promise to Al and a number of other people, that I would make sure the world knew about them and that I would tell their stories. A number of other people made promises to the Left Behinds as well, and they intend on holding to those promises, even if Afghanistan is yesterday’s news to the rest of the world and all the attention is being put on Ukraine.

I’m pretty sure that I can speak here for many of the veterans who have given so much of themselves to help their friends in their darkest and most desperate hour. We support the people of the Ukraine who have fled to other countries as refugees and are saddened by the humanitarian tragedy that is still unfolding.

But I also support those fleeing from or who remain trapped in Afghanistan, and I made them a promise. It’s a promise I intend to keep until there are no more left behind.

And that is my five cents worth about that.

Kabul Trolleyman

A former government employee, he now sells produce in the bazaars of Kabul and bears witness to Taliban treachery.

In August of last year, I was busy keeping up with events in Kabul and writing about them in the hopes that it would get people everywhere to put pressure on their governments to help rescue those at risk in the country, in particular the translators and other Locally Employed Civilians who had once worked for NATO/ISAF coalition forces.

About half an hour after hearing that the last flights had departed from Hamid Karzai International Airport, I received a message on social media from someone in Kabul. He was desperately looking to get out of Afghanistan and was seeking my assistance to do so. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a thing that I could do for him at that point, but I promised him that I would do whatever I could to help him.

Al had once worked as an interpreter for the Canadians on the Provincial Reconstruction Teams as a part of ISAF, and as such he was in danger of being killed by the Taliban. Unfortunately, Al had been employed by one of the many shady fly-by-night companies that had been hired by the various coalition countries with troops in Afghanistan, leaving him without the required proof of employment he would need for a Special Immigrant Visa in Canada or elsewhere. He is one of the untold thousands who were left behind by Canada and the numerous other foreign governments that sent troops there.

Nearly one year on, Al and his family remain stuck in Kabul, surviving at first on what savings Al had managed to put away. It eventually ran out after a few months, and Al needed to find some means of providing for his family. Another job in his field was completely out of the question meaning he would have to find something else, only there wasn’t exactly a lot of work to be found in Kabul of any kind. They had already lost the home they had owned and were living in when the Taliban suddenly took over the capital and many residences within it. Now they were living in something that was more ramshackle, but they were at least together. Unless he could find a way to provide for his family, they would have to part ways, his wife and kids moving in with her brother, and Al on his own somewhere, not knowing whether his family would ever be together again. Never again seeing his children, whom he refers to as his jewels, is what he fears the most. Ultimately, he would do what many other entrepreneurial Afghan men have done and go into business for himself selling goods from a cart at the local bazaars, and on occasion, at the side of the road. 

Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, thousands of men across Kabul load up their wheeled trolleys and head to one of the capital’s many open-air markets, where they sell almost anything that one might find in a western department store, and probably more than a few things that you most definitely would not find in one. There are even Trolleymen who sell hot or cold drinks and as well as packs of cigarettes in a variety of brands like Seven Stars and Mild88s from Japan, as well as Marlboro and other American brands. They even sell the cheaper locally made cigarettes, that that you really can’t be sure don’t contain any cow manure that isn’t listed on the ingredients. It’s mostly these Trolleymen that work the overnight hours, sometimes in a bazaar, sometimes along the side of a road, like pop-up convenience stores. 

A vendor sells cold drinks and cigarettes in a Kabul bazaar.

No matter what country you are in, going into business for yourself, assuming you’re allowed to in the first place, can be a risky proposition. This is especially the case in those countries where haggling over the price is a part of the culture, something we in the West aren’t all that familiar with since the price is the price whenever we go shopping. Businesses that operate this way are extremely sensitive to the pressures of supply and demand, as the retail prices that they can sell their merchandise for are driven directly by the demand in the market in which they are selling. If demand should unexpectedly tank in a particular marketplace, it can mean immediate ruination for some of these Trolleymen. 

A vendor sells bolani, a popular Afghan offering of stuffed flatbread.

The alarm on Al’s phone wakes him at 5AM, and he gets out of bed trying not to wake up his sleeping wife. His kids are still asleep at this early hour as he heads to the kitchen to make himself a breakfast consisting of a cup of tea and a toffee before he heads out the door to work. He makes his way to retrieve his trolley from where he keeps it near the market where he will buy the produce that he will sell that day. It can change from one day to another, okra one day and peaches the next, it all depends on what is available and what the prices are like.  

I ask him where the fruits and vegetables that he sells come from, expecting that some might come from abroad and I’m surprised when he tells me that it all comes from within Afghanistan. They can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables because of the different growing climates within the country without having to rely on imports from other countries. This means that people can enjoy cherries, peaches, and other seasonal fruits along with things like okra, cucumber, and potatoes. Once he arrives at the market, he will then know what he will have available for him to sell that day.  

Afghanistan’s chief export is produce with Pakistan being one of its largest importers, as the country can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in its various climate zones. Vegetables such as potato, onion, carrot, tomato, pepper, okra, cucumber, cauliflower, pumpkin, and eggplant are staples of the bazaars, and apricots, apples, cherries, melons, and grapes are among the many fruits that Afghanistan has to offer. Al tells me that he makes better money selling fruit than he does when he sells vegetables. The margins are considerably better, meaning that he can make more money selling a smaller amount of fruit as compared to vegetables.  

He bought his trolley in March, paying 4,600AFG (about $50USD) for a used cart with new ones going for around 6,000AFG (about $65USD). They will typically weigh a few hundred pounds and even on wheels moving them for any kind of distance can prove to be a workout. Add say another 50 or 60 Kilograms or more in merchandise onto it, and Al really starts feeling the burn as he navigates his way through the streets of Kabul to the places that he frequently sells from. The oppressive daytime heat of Kabul in the summer is also a huge drain on his energy and he needs to be sure to carry several litres of water along in order to keep himself hydrated. On many of the hottest days, he will wait until after 5 o’clock in the afternoon to head to the bazaar, as the day begins to cool down some. 

 

Al usually puts in a six-day work week, he typically takes a day off in order to spend time with his family. He has a son in elementary school, so he spends some time helping with homework lessons. When he is able, Al takes his wife and kids out for a picnic lunch, a special treat whenever he has been able to earn enough money in the bazaar. Some days are busy, and then there are others that are absolutely abysmal, days he says when children are the only ones who are coming out to buy anything. With 60 KGs of okra on his trolley to unload, a day like this could see him dropping his prices early and often, hoping that he might at least be able to break even. On average he says that he makes between 250AFG and 300AFG per day, or about $3USD. It doesn’t sound like very much, and it really isn’t, but it’s just enough for him to squeak by every month. It covers the rent on the small two-bedroom house they live in, which sustained some minor damage during last month’s major earthquake.   

It wasn’t very long after that temblor however that Taliban officials began going through the bazaars in order to levy a new municipal tax on the Trolleymen. They were imposing a fee of 50 Afghanis per stall per day from all the Trolleymen selling goods in the bazaars, or roughly $0.50USD. There were some who resisted and refused to pay, so the Taliban dealt with them by beating the crap out of the poor merchant and throwing them and their trolley’s out of the bazaar and onto the street. 

I then had to explain to Al what a “shakedown” was, showing him the similarities between paying the “municipal levy” to the Taliban and the way some business owners in the United States pay members of organized crime “protection” money. He agreed that my word was by far better suited to the situation. A few days after this he informs me that the Taliban have amended the formula for calculating how much they would be ripping off each Trolleyman. Instead of a flat fee, the amount payable would now vary according to the size of each trolley. The rate would be set at 100AFG per square meter of trolley.     

Based on the size of his trolley, Al was having to pay over 150 Afghanis per day to sell in the bazaar, and other Trolleymen were seeing similar increases. This would effectively wipe out most of what he takes in daily, leaving him with very little left over to support his family, and he wouldn’t be alone. Thousands of Trolleymen across Kabul risked holding a demonstration, in response to the massive increases on a tax that had been thrust upon them with no warning. The Trolleymen were successful in putting some pressure on the authorities, thanks to some local and international media coverage of the demonstration, seeing the amount of the tax lowered slightly. Having said that, Al is still paying more than twice the original rate of 50 Afghanis per day.  

Using numbers that Al has provided me as to the approximate number of trolleys in his district and multiplying that number by the number of districts in Kabul (twenty-two), I calculated that the Taliban were collecting tax equivalent to somewhere between $17,500(USD) and $20,000(USD) per day from the Trolleymen. He’s beyond angry and frustrated, having to give so much of what he earns to the people he considers murderers and butchers, but he has very little choice in the matter right now. He explains to me how it all works, and it sounds like Al and many other Trolleymen are getting the dirty end of the stick. 

There are those Trolleymen who are known as “stake holders”, the ones who have been in the bazaars for some time and make the highest sales, typically earning 1,000 Afghanis per day at an absolute minimum. These vendors have established preferential spots in the bazaars, and they also pay taxes at a much better rate than others. Then, there are the guys like Al, who haven’t reached that level, or even come anywhere near it. They end up paying a bigger proportion of their earnings, and the idea of making at least 1,000 Afghanis per day is but a dream.  

Sweets for sale in a Kabul bazaar.

Alternately, they can set up shop on the side of the road somewhere and pay no taxes, however, they will also make far fewer sales than they would in a bazaar. He also points out to me that there are “official” hours of business in the bazaars, those hours being 8AM to 4PM daily, which tend to be the busiest hours of the day. What this means is that there will be Taliban officials on hand during those times who are there to collect the levy from the Trolleymen. Many vendors simply wait until later in the day, 5PM and after, to set up in the bazaar, but this draws the ire of many of the more seasoned veterans who abide by the “official” hours. 

 

Every day, beggars come to him asking for handouts, the vast majority of them being drug addicts. Initially, I found this surprising, but then after some consideration, I figured that it shouldn’t have been a great surprise at all. Afghanistan is after all the supplier of much of the world’s heroin, and the Taliban have done nothing to put a stop to it. In fact, they seem to be rather flexible in their enforcement of Islamic law, ignoring it completely whenever it is convenient for them, which are usually those instances where they could be making a lot of money from illicit activities.  

He tells me that there have always been heroin addicts wandering the streets of Kabul, but their numbers increased dramatically over the last year. Many are what Al calls “new” addicts, ones whose addictions began over that same period, and they consist primarily of former Afghan National Army troops and former Afghan Federal Police officers. The Taliban seem quite content to leave these men to die on the streets while taking their money and providing them with the poison that will ultimately kill them. Al isn’t sure how much heroin goes for on the streets, but he’s sure it couldn’t be very much considering its availability. 

Heroin addicts huddled together on a Kabul street.
Many of these addicts were once in the Afghan National Army or with the Afghan National Police.
The man in the red cap is Taliban, and he is there to ensure that nobody else is selling heroin other than those who have been authorized to do so. He has also been known to give out free heroin to those addicts who cannot afford their fix.
An “authorized” heroin dealer conducting business.

This is the plight of perhaps hundreds of thousands of other Trollymen in Kabul and in the other cities, towns, and villages of Afghanistan. I hate that this man I now call a friend and brother must live like this, and it serves to motivate me to do what I have to do in order to get him and his family over here. It is a story that the world needs to hear because there are so few stories to come out of Afghanistan that tell of the everyday lives of the people who live there. The world needs to know about the daily struggles that the average family in Afghanistan now faces under Taliban rule.

I also thought that the world needed to hear about how the Taliban are using heroin not only as a means of generating revenue, but also to effectively neutralize any potential future threats to itself from former members of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and done so without the need to fire a shot. The Taliban will not be subject to international backlash as would happen if they were to summarily shoot and butcher thousands of men. Instead, these poor souls will be considered just another tragic image among the many others that are to be seen in the stories and reports published by the international media.

My Five Cents Worth…..

ON TARGET: THE DEMISE OF SOLDIERING IN CANADA?

http://espritdecorps.ca/on-target-4/on-target-the-demise-of-soldiering-in-canada?fbclid=IwAR3eX5H_iYIB8eoVqqzpdQ3uJFe_8eVTW6nXda4QFUDU5lZXvQ8IvN2dlRA

When the Government of Canada decided to do away with the penny about a decade ago, it also did away with the phrase “Putting in my two cents” as a means of expressing one’s opinion, leaving the nickel as the next available alternative. Hence, I have decided to start a new regular (or at least somewhat regular) opinion piece that I am calling “My Five Cents Worth…”.

I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while now, and so I thought that I might take a page from Scott Taylor’s book and try something a little different, as he has done lately with his On Target videos now on YouTube and articles in Esprit de Corps. Since I seem to have an opinion on most of what Scott has to say, I figured that I would use this new space to add my voice to the fray.

I will begin then, with the July 11th article, “The Demise of Soldiering in Canada?”, because the subject matter has succeeded in angrying up the blood of a good many veterans, and a LOT of them have something to say about it.

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes!

It all started on July 5th, when the Government of Canada unveiled the “Changes to the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions” which had the subheading “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Changes to the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions” Upon reading the document I was left wondering if ANYBODY had even asked ANY of these questions a single time.

Now, I should put some things into context here before I go any further. I’m what you might call “old school”, though not as old school as Taylor. I entered CF reserve basic training in 1987, five years after he joined the regular force, and more or less at the beginning of the “human rights” era of the Canadian Forces. I seem to remember that at least once a day one of our instructors would go on about how we now had “human rights” and as such, they were prohibited from doling out to us the punishments we so richly deserved. I had heard stories from old-timers who told of beatings with swagger sticks or the occasional smack to the teeth as a means of enforcing unit discipline and cohesion. Suppose we were lucky enough to be dodging that bullet.

Company Photo SYEP ’87 BMT/GMT Course. I’m third from the left, second row from the top.

It would still mean having to comply with the regs on dress and deportment, and both male and female soldiers would have to abide by the orders that were set out with regards to the length of our hair and how much facial hair we were allowed to have. Sure, there were some obvious safety reasons for many of these, but we also understood that these regulations were put in place as a means of ensuring that we would obey the orders that we were given, as we were given them. Obeying an order could mean the difference between living or dying in a combat situation.

One of the most important things that I think it helped to instil in us was a sense of team. Something that was constantly being pounded into our heads, metaphorically speaking, was that this was not the place to have individuals, and there was absolutely ZERO room for individuals in my platoon or the other two that were in our company. Jerry Gilligan was a platoon warrant in the company, and I’m fairly certain that his ticker would explode in the middle of the parade square upon seeing the sight of an entire company full of nothing but individuals. He would have completely lost his shit and probably turned around and walked out, never to return. I know I’d probably be doing that.

An iconic movie helped build team cohesion

About a week before the course began, Stanley Kubrick’s summer blockbuster “Full Metal Jacket” made its theatre debut. For the instructors and officers who were there to turn us into soldiers, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only would it be bringing out the gung-ho in a bunch of young men with testosterone to spare, but it would also prove to be an excellent team builder, as recruits from different platoons in the company would get to bond at the movie theatre.

It’s all in the Details

There’s a section right at the end that is called “Details”, which is apparently the section that contains the aforementioned frequently asked questions.

Will recruits need to shave their head on (sic) basic training?

No, the updated hair policy applies to all CAF members from recruitment to retirement.

So the answer is no, recruits will not have to shave their heads DURING basic training. Okay so someone didn’t run this through Grammarly first apparently.

Is there a maximum length for hair?

No, there are no restrictions on the length of hair. However, during  parade and ceremony long hair must be tied when extending below the top/ridge of the shoulder or that extends below the service dress collar for ceremonial occasion. It must not prevent the proper wear of headdress and must not impede the visibility of the member’s face. Safety and operational requirements shall be met.

Clear as mud.

What types of braids are considered acceptable?

Any style braid(s) may be worn, as long as it remains in line with safety and operational requirements. Hair must be tied to ensure the headdress can be worn properly and the face is visible. A bun, braids, or ponytail are examples of appropriate ways to tie the hair.

Okay, so back when I was in reserve basic in ’87, I had a Master Corporal who would jump all over my ass if my hair was a millimetre longer than he liked it. I can just picture Ed Capulong’s head about exploding in today’s Canadian Forces.

Are tattoos on the face permitted? And what is considered the face?

The face is the front part of the head that extends from the forehead to the chin and from the anterior part of one ear to the other. Tattoos are permitted on the face as long as they conform to the regulations outlined in Section 2 – Appearance. “Tattoos that the member knows, or ought to know, are associated with criminal activities (e.g. criminal gangs), tattoos that promote and/or express, on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), the following: hatred, violence, discrimination, or harassment: and tattoos that a CAF member knows, or ought to know, promote and/or express: racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism, or sexual explicit material” are not permitted.

Did anyone else read this and right away picture “Harry, the Guy With A Snake On His Face” on a parade square?

Can CAF members with eye lash extensions be ordered to have them removed?

Yes, if they affect operational duties, as in the case of wearing night-vision goggles (NVGs).

Would this happen often?

Are CAF members permitted to have long fingernails in uniform?

Yes, long fingernails are permitted so long as they do not impede the member’s ability to perform their duties. An example of this is being unable to do weapons drills due to long fingernails. Safety and operational requirements must always be met.

Why no follow-up question with regards to the colour of said nails? Would it have to coordinate with the uniform of the day? Do they even make “Goose-shit Green” nail polish?

Are CAF members required to wear gloves at all times while wearing a toque?

No, gloves do not need to be worn when the toque is worn or vice versa. The toque is authorized as alternative winter headdress and can be worn with all orders of dress.

Okay, what? We’re seriously paying money for someone to come up with this?

Changing values dictate changing styles

Throughout history, the Canadian military has indeed reflected the values of society at large.

When viewed through the prism of 2022 hindsight, those values do not always stand the test of time.

Scott Taylor – The Demise of Soldiering in Canada

As Taylor sees it, our society’s changing values are at the heart of this decision, and he isn’t wrong on this point. He provides as an example the challenges faced by Black Canadians who wanted to volunteer to fight during the War of 1914-18. As a means of accommodating these men, they were placed in the segregated No. 2 Construction Battalion and were only ever tasked with performing menial labour under the watch of white officers. This would warrant an official apology to the descendants of these men nearly one hundred years later. I wonder who Little Potato sent to cry in his place for that one?

More than just about values

I myself see it a little bit differently. Yes, the shift in societal values over the last generation has led to the need for employers in every sector to change with the times, and some have resorted to changing the workplace culture in order to be able to attract new employees. The military has followed along with other employers in this regard.

However, what if there are things about the workplace culture that simply can’t be fixed using cosmetic means? What young person in Canada would seriously give any kind of consideration to a career in the Canadian Armed Forces given the untold scandals involving sexual assault and abuse, or soldiers being sent out on deployments without the proper equipment, or veterans being unable to count on a system that should be there to look after them in their time of need.

Unless and until the Canadian Forces can manage to get its collective shit together, and very quickly, it will continue to see ever dwindling recruitment numbers. The brain trust within DND Headquarters in Ottawa hasn’t seemed to learn that you can put lipstick, and nail polish on a pig, and maybe braid its hair, but…well you know.

And now you’ve heard my five cents worth about that.