Wednesday Night #1023

Written by  //  October 10, 2001  //  Reports, Terrorism, Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1023

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It seems that it will be a long time before we feel that we can be frivolous about an invitation to Wednesday Night. The events of the past few days remind us that we are embarking on a long drawn-out period of world-wide edginess, punctuated by moments of high drama. The problem with the high drama is that each occurrence is played out so often, and so repetitively on and in the media that a degree of numbness eventually overtakes us, until the next event disturbs that quasi quiescent state.
Meanwhile, we wonder if we are somehow being feckless when we try to resume normal lives and examine normal concerns. Is there any point in rejoicing over the results of the by-elections in Québec; do we care that Gérald Tremblay is neck and neck with Pierre Bourque in the election for Mayor of the hateful Mega City? Is anyone worried about the fact that all the allied governments are racing into deficit spending? Can we shrug off the dismal news of lay-offs in the transportation/travel/tourism industry. What ever happened to dot coms?


As Diana was off to Mexico first thing Thursday morning, everyone wished her a safe trip. Actress Una Kay told of having her breakfast of an apple taken away from her by US Customs. “When you check off No Food on the Entry Card – this means No food! ‘Can I eat it now?’, she asked. ‘No!’ ” Apart from missing her lunch and being upset, she felt this vignette deserved an Aislin cartoon. Both John Ciaccia and Gerald Ratzer commented that they had no problems going into the States, but recommended that a Canadian passport be taken, just in case.
Fred Girvan of Altimage was introduced. He has worked with MultiMag for over 20 years in advertisements, communications, Internet and video media distribution.
Dr. Nobby Gilmore gave details about his up-coming exhibition. It is in Casa Obscura on Papineau on Thursday the 11th. Nobby assured us that there would be plenty ofWine, Women and Song! The show will run through the 18th.
David said he was recording the West Wing and knew that the President would be running for a second term. Copies available on request.

9-11 WTCPost 9/11 events and thoughts
David posed the question in relation to the US reaction to the events of 11th September “What is the difference between Justice and Revenge?” With 30,000 troops and 350 aircraft in the area or on the way there, is this “Justice or Vengeance?” Terrorists in 23 countries have been arrested, which shows the extent of Al Qaeda. It was pointed out that we are going after not only the criminals but the countries that hide them. Afghanistan is just one case. Is the U.S. going to treat the other countries the same .. with bombs? The Taliban were hoping for panic, yes, but they also were hoping for attacks against the Muslim countries so they could rouse up the population. When Bush says they are going after the bad guys in any country… is he going to bomb Iran, Indonesia , Malaysia? Is this the way to end terrorism or are there other things that should be done? It is okay for the US to go after terrorists, but they should look very hard inside their own country, where many of the terrorists trained. They got a good US education, learned to fly in Florida and took karate lessons.
Americans are now beginning to pay attention to the hatred against them around the world. It is naïve to think that just bombing the hills in Afghanistan will solve the problem. It will raise the level of hatred against the US, and cause the terrorist cells around the world to continue their activities, like the anthrax distribution by mail. Meanwhile, it must always be remembered that there are many variations in Islam. Turkey for instance is a stable, secular Islamic state and the majority are moderate Muslims. Many Muslim people totally disagree with the Taliban.

Sept 11 Could have Grounds for Hope & Good
Comrade Harry suggested that despite the horrible events and suffering over the last month, there are grounds for hope.
Over the long period of time the world’s nations and groups have not understood each other. The U.S. assumed that because of their power they could either control events everywhere or they could ignore and get along without the rest of the world. Examples:  they have turned their back on more than six International Agreements, including Kyoto, the land mines, the International Court of Justice, and more. The sanctions against Iraq – supported by the Security Council -have killed 500,000 small children.  For many years successive American administrations have snubbed the UN and not paid their dues. Now, there has been a change of attitude. They now realize they need the support of a coalition of other nations in their fight against terrorism. Just this week the US paid $500 million of their back dues.
Big corporations are vulnerable. The minute something goes wrong these monster companies could fall apart. On the aviation front it was noted that Swissair had declared bankruptcy and Sabena, in which Swissair has a major stake, is in a similar precarious position. After two days of no flying, airlines believe they need a big bail out, Air Canada included. Ronald Regan deregulated the airline industry, and security was devolved to the private sector. People [90%] are now expecting federal control of security again.
Professor Desmond Morton commented on the US situation, saying that the recession has become an achievement of the terrorists, and governments are coming to the rescue in stimulating a recovery. …The World Trade Center building met its design goals. Bringing down both buildings was the terrorists’ dream come true. They achieved their goal of proving that the US is not invulnerable, by bringing terror right into the heart of US territory. We saw points of light with the courage of the repair crews, fire fighters police etc. People did do well.
The terrorist’s dream is to cause panic. The U.S. should never have thought they were invulnerable… this has never happened before. We were never touched in either World War… Canada not since the Fenian Raids in the 1860s … the U.S. not since the 1812 burning of the White House.
Colin Powell has stated that the US has been misunderstood by other cultures. The US can no longer dictate unilaterally the events around the world, nor act without the world, as the balance of power has shifted. It needs allies, and must therefore respect other cultures and countries. The events of the last month have been a wake-up call for the US, but also for the Arab countries. What will they do to stop the terror? Fifty-six leaders of Muslim countries are currently meeting in Doha, Qatar. They have denounced Bin Laden, as has the Saudi government and American Muslim clerics.

US foreign policy is one item that unites Islamic members against the US
The basic problem is that US foreign policy is in error

There is no underlying principle in the US foreign policy, and this has created resentment and hatred. The US has supported dictators around the world from Chile, and El Salvador to the Shah of Iran. In order to accomplish certain objectives, they are even now supporting governments that have no respect for the rule of law. In Iraq, they funded Saddam Hussein, seeing no viable alternatives; in Afghanistan, they funded and trained the group which became the Taliban. There were no guiding  principles. They have to acknowledge that some of their foreign policy is wrong, and move to correct the errors. We won’t have security in the world until we address some of the basic causes.
Warren Allmand mentioned the Monroe Doctrine. While the US claims to support democracy, it breaks the rules in many cases itself and has a poor record in Cuba, Nicaragua and other developing countries. It has further alienated many people by turning its back on six international treaties that other UN members support. It has to learn to cooperate with the rest of the world.
Desmond Morton continued the point about the flawed US foreign policy, and the extraordinary expectation that the world has that the Americans don’t want to satisfy. The US, after their experience in Vietnam, has no colonial aspirations, no desire of having an occupying army there for ever. The only colonial experience was in the Philippines and now Filipinos still blame the Americans for everything except perhaps the weather and some times even that. The US are the great alibi for everything that goes on sex trade, drugs, mismanagement. The Americans don’t want add to that experience. They don’t want to get involved in Afghan warfare after they have seen what happened to  the Russians.
Des Morton reminded us of the First World War in 1914. There was a coalition of countries formed against Germany. At first we were at war with the leaders and the Kaiser, not with the German people, but as the German troops were successful, sentiment tuned against the German people. In April 1915 the Lusitania was sunk, and more countries joined the coalition.
In 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The first reaction, from respected people, was to say it is not the people, it’s their armies, their military, but with enemy victories, panic began to grow and the Americans joined the Second World War in earnest. Panic is a problem, but the leaders have to be tough to deal with the terrorists.

Security issues
Former Canadian Ambassador to Israel David Berger expressed concern that the current events could destabilize the whole Middle East region. Among the problems are the great disparities in the regions from the super wealth of the Saudi royal family on down to some of the very poorest that are now caught up the war in Afghanistan. Poor people are very susceptible to brain washing. This is a rich versus poor conflict.
He is also concerned about racial profiling. Based on one’s family name and those of one’s parents it is easy for the authorities to make a quick determination of one’s religious background, and possible motives. Israel does have guest workers from many countries and it is difficult to guess why a Thai worker would go berserk and murder people. Israel is different in that it has only one international airport (Ben Gurion), and all the flights from there are basically long range. Thus the State can afford to be more vigilant and have among the highest level of airport security in the world.
Warren Allmand, as a previous Solicitor General, was in a good position to comment on security. He said that in a free country, security is needed and is good. However, in the U.S. there are serious communication problems [not to mention ‘turf wars’] between the FBI, the CIA, and the many other security/intelligence agencies. The Canadian situation may be better with our one department.

The sorry state of the Canadian armed forces
Des Morton returned to the state of the Canadian forces and the CF18s in particular. In their last NATO mission in Europe there was a problem with the CF18s, as they did not have the required anti-jamming equipment. This would have cost some $300 million for the upgrade. Would it have been better to spend these funds on improving housing in Cold Lake for our defence personnel? Canada puts our highly educated Hi tech, pilots and radar officers and their well trained wives in married quarters … WWI Nissan huts with no heating.
The Canadian government is spending $250 million to support the effort in the Middle East, by sending a Canadian frigate and its support vessels. Mr Chrétien’s government has done the sensible thing by sending some of the only equipment that we could be reasonably proud of … the City Class patrol frigates and one elderly destroyer. The army’s joint task force is 250 soldiers. We used to have a policy to never send any unit abroad not commanded by Canadians. We have now scaled down; first in East Timor and now with this, to a company-sized group which is in no sense autonomous and recognizable as a sizable contingent. Even in the bad old days, the Boer War, we sent contingents that were big enough to be commanded by Canadians. Maybe the Americans are nicer allies than the British but practical experience doesn’t suggest it. However this is the only unit we could send to the Afghan conflict.

Maybe the entire world should be run like the Roman empire with American legionaries everywhere. But the Romans got tired of being killed in distant wars where no one knew anything was going on and began using Barbarians as the cheapest available cannon fodder. Americans feel very strongly that they don’t want to volunteer their sons for another Vietnam-type episode. Colin Powell, who commanded a division in Vietnam, speaks from first-hand experience, and was one of those who recommended using more Vietnamese troops and fewer Americans.

Osama bin Laden is not interested in American public opinion, but in Islamic people. He is an extreme fundamentalist – a Pat Roberts of Islam. He believes passionately in what he believes in. Our people who may or may not go to their churches on Sunday take religion fairly coolly. What about people who actually believe. This is no longer an age of believers, but there are still sects like Branch Davidians or the Jonestown people who actually take these things very very seriously. Osama bin Laden is one of them and the conventional Islamic organization find it as terrifying as they find it seductive. He despises North America with its vulgarity, free sex, and … but what he really hates most is what they call hypocrites, the Saudi leadership, the corruption that made his father very rich and destroyed the spiritual values of Islam. He wants to reach the people.
So we say he was middle class, well educated and yet a revolutionary. He was willing to give up a comfortable life for the hardships of living in Afghanistan. The best place for bin Laden – the worst place in the world to live
The British government is playing a major role in the current events. They are acting as better diplomats than the Americans, but they have many vested interests in the area, including trade with Iran and others.

The Markets
Martin Barnes commented that the stock markets, after a short run up, had recovered to where they were on 10 September. However, he said, many people are suspicious, the market is oversold, and he recommended caution as the recovery may be short lived. The economy is fragile and the earnings prospect bleak. Chil Heward agrees that it is too soon to get aggressive. With bonds only returning 2 to 3%, people are looking for better opportunities to place their funds.
When asked if Bombardier was a buy, Ron Meisels replied that at $16 it had over shot, and at $11 probably oversold, but “there is still a danger of coming down to $7”. He added that the new highs are very misleading, and there still may be a further decline. “For the market I think we have seen A LOW but, I don’t think we have seen THE LOW. No year-end rally this year, but a lot of tax selling – and a lot of losses this year. This is not the end-of-the-world scenario the media is portraying, but cool heads are needed.

“The Uprising” at Concordia. This student publication is a translation of the Arabic word Intifada. Several Wednesday Nighters supported Concordia’s Fred Lowy, and if needed, police should be involved in campus affairs.

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