Video frame grab of U.S. President George W. Bush (L) ducking from a shoe during a news conference in Baghdad December 14, 2008. An Iraqi reporter called visiting U.S. President Bush a “dog” in Arabic on Sunday and threw his shoes at him during a news conference in Baghdad. REUTERS/Reuters TV
London was the scene of a shoe-in on December 19. Some 50 opponents of the Iraq war shook shoes in front of the American embassy, where they left a pile of footwear. The next day, Canada joined in.
A frosty December 20 was the date of protests before American consulates in Toronto and Montreal, with about 40 people braving the cold in each city to vent their anger at the war and their support for al-Zeidi. Montreal opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pelted a photo of Bush with footwear. Amar Sabih, an Iraqi-born professor at McGill, was there to show his support for the shoe-toss, as was Amir Khadir, the recently elected Québec Solidaire member of the Quebec National Assembly. Toronto protesters waved slogan-bearing flip-flops. They were cheered on by honking motorists passing by.
Meanwhile, al-Zaidi awaits his fate. Dhia al-Kinani, the investigating judge in the case, is initiating a probe into al-Zaidi’s mistreatment, as it appears that he has been beaten in custody. Relatives claim that he has suffered broken bones.
Communist-era official new Kandahar governor
In George Orwell’s “1984,” the countries were constantly at war, in always-changing coalitions. People suddenly discovered a switch in who was the enemy and who an ally when an orator would change in mid-sentence from a previous enemy to a new one, without missing a beat and without comment. Well, things are not quite so rapid as that, but welcome to today’s Afghanistan.
For those of a shorter memory, let’s put a bit of history on the table. When there was a Soviet-backed Communist government in Afghanistan, the United States provided aid to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda to help them throw the Communists out. The U.S. efforts were successful beyond the White House’s wildest dreams, as we can now clearly see. But now there is another turn of events.
An Afghan-Canadian, Tooryalai Wesa, is the new governor of Kandahar Province. Wesa served as Minister for Higher Education in the Communist government. This is not to suggest that Wesa is a died-in-the-wool Communist, but history has a strange way of playing tricks on those who make it. What if the U.S. had not undermined the Communist régime? Could Afghanistan today be any worse off? And might the world have been spared the current war there? Well, enough of speculation. Let’s talk about Wesa.
He was appointed by Afghan President Ahmad Karzai on December 18. He is a long-standing friend of the Karzai family. The Wesas left Afghanistan in 1991 because the wife had to have back surgery which was not available in the country. After some wanderings around Europe and some time in Switzerland, they were admitted to Canada in 1992 and became citizens three years later. Wesa is a researcher at the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia, specializing in agricultural development.
Wesa pursued studies in agriculture at home and then in Lebanon and at the University of Nebraska, after which he returned to Afghanistan as professor at Kabul University. He was also founding president of Kandahar University. Later, in Canada, he obtained a doctorate in adult education. In recent years, he has been involved with development projects in his homeland.
This man has had an outstanding career in his field, with an international reputation. He now puts himself in mortal danger. His appointment gives a most ironic twist to the history of recent interventions in that sad country. And his colleagues at the University of British Columbia will miss him.
Thirteen U.S. deserters face deportation
Thirteen anti-war deserters who have sought refuge to avoid fighting in Iraq now fear deportation from Canada. The House of Commons voted to request the government to allow the war resisters to stay, but the Conservative minority government is not sympathetic. Speaking for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Alykhan Velshi said, “The government remains convinced that U.S. military deserters are not genuine refugees and do not fall under internationally accepted definitions of people in need of protection.”
As a result, these matters have been left to the courts and the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Robin Long is a deserter who was returned to the United States and who on August 22 was sentenced to 15 months in a military prison and a dishonorable discharge. Currently, Cliff Cornell is under order to leave Canada by December 24. A newspaper letter writer with a black sense of humor suggested a “positive” side: He’ll be home for Christmas. He currently works as an assistant manager of a store in Coquitlam, British Columbia.
Others fighting deportation include Jeremy Hinzman, in Toronto with his wife and child; Brandon Hughey; Joshua Key, in Canada with his wife and four children; Ryan Johnson, here with his wife; Patrick Hart, with his wife and son; Christian Kjar; Corey Glass; Phil McDowell, here with his partner; Dean Walcott, and Steve Yoczik. Kimberly Rivera is the first woman war resister in Canada, here with her family. All of them have in common a conviction that they now believe that the war in Iraq is wrong. As Hughey put it, soldiers have a right to refuse an order that is “not only illegal, but immoral as well.” Key was repelled by “the atrocities that were happening to the innocent people of Iraq” that he witnessed on an earlier rotation in that country.
The most promising case right now is that of Joshua Key. The Federal Court has ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to give him a new hearing.