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The Afghan Election Complaints Commission (ECC), with Canadian UN appointee Grant Kippen at it's helm, has published the first results of it's investigation into fraud in the presidential election, held on August 20th. On Thursday the commission announced it would throw out the ballots from 83 Afghan polling stations, where there is definite evidence of fraud. 51 of the problem stations were in Kandahar, 27 in Ghazni, and five in Paktika, according to ECC press releases. Of the 2300 complaints the ECC has received, the largest group concern irregularities at the polls, including ballot box stuffing. Other common complaints include allegations of intimidation, and lack of access to the polls, particularly for women. The ECC investigation is ongoing and could result in a fresh election.
Currently, as vote tallying continues, the three front runners in the presidential election are the incumbent Hamed Karzai with 54.1%, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah with 28 %, and Ramazan Bashardost with 9.2 %. 91.6% of polling stations have been tallied, so the counting is almost done, but further investigations into fraud could change things significantly. According to electoral law, if Karzai doesn't receive at least 50% of the valid votes, there will have to be a run-off election this fall. If enough ballots are invalidated as a result of the ECC investigation, Karzai could lose his current winning position, and fall below the necessary 50%.
The ongoing outsourcing in Afghanistan
Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kandahar, Afghanistan will not be put in harms way, despite the oft-repeated political promise that all of Canada’s ground troops will be withdrawn by 2011. The responsibility of the security of these specialists-contractors themselves- will instead be provided by private companies, who will need to go through a selection process, according to Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Ron Hoffmann who spoke to journalists via video-conference, earlier this week.
This is not the first time that the Canadian government has decided to hire private security companies in Afghanistan. The British based firm, Saladin Security , has been protecting the Canadian Embassy in Kabul for many years, while many Afghan contractors including warlords, have been hired to protects convoys of Canadian personnel or provide a "security cordon" for high risk situations, such as roadside bombs going off.
The July 15 release of seven hours of footage of a CSIS agent interrogating Omar Khadr is the first footage released of an interrogation at Guantanamo, and the first time that footage of a CSIS interrogation has been made public.
Toronto-born Khadr has been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay since 2002. He was 15 years old when he was accused of throwing a grenade that killed SFC Chris Speer in Afghanistan.
Romeo Dallaire is quoted in today's Guardian saying: "[Canada has] worked for years to assist other nations in eradicating the use of children in conflict. But our own country doesn't even want to recognise that our own citizen (is a child soldier). No matter what his politics are, it's totally irrelevant."
Chiming in on behalf of the small but powerful extreme right, hyper militarized Canuck class, the National Post editorial board had this to say today, in an editorial titled Keep Khadr Where he is: "...the question becomes, do we trust an American military tribunal to dispense justice? Frankly, we do."
This situation is so terrible, and so wrong in so many ways.
Click here for information on writing your MP & the PM demanding that Khadr be transferred from US to Canadian custody.
Rabble.ca's Derrick O'Keefe recently gathered a significant statement by Malalai Joya, one of the more courageous and heroic political figures in Afghanistan today. She makes the memorable statement below about the billions of dollars in military spending and aid money which has effectively been squandered in Afghanistan by the run-away corruption of the Karzai government.
The Congressional Budget Office says that the U.S. will spend $2.4 trillion over the next ten years on the "war on terror." If they instead spent this money properly and honestly, not only would Iraq and Afghanistan be made into heaven but, also, world poverty would be eliminated.
The Canadian Peace Alliance has a few things to say about the recent poll (trumpeted by the Globe and La Presse) that ostensively shows Afghans supporting the occupation.
One by one, protesters stood up to interrupt recently appointed foreign minister Maxime Bernier during a speech urging support for the occupation of Afghanistan.
Press accounts in both French and English called it a "baptism of fire" for Bernier.
Toronto Star correspondent Allan Woods couldn't make the drive from Ottawa, and ended up publishing quotes from the transcript that was sent to him. He probably got home early enough to watch it on TV.
So. It's been determined that Canada was sending Afghani POWs to be tortured. If true, it means that Canadian officers are guilty of war crimes.
But its also the case that Canadian soldiers are directly engaged in combat operations, undoubtedly resulting in civilian deaths. Which there is no doubt information about, but it's not available. The press seems content to repeat claims that "40 Taliban were killed" in fighting, and so on.
A Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU has resulted in a grim look at the killing done by US soldiers in Afghanistan, something which is rarely discussed.
Natually, Canadians are doing the same stuff, but that doesn't mean it will be discussed.
But someone could file an Access to Information Act request about Canada's "ex gratia" payments of no more than $2000 to the families of the people they kill.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.