Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Insight into the Challenges Facing the U.S. Bombing Coalitition of Iraq and Syria

U.S. temporary memorial of Americans lost in Iraq (Photo source: radioislam.org.za)
This open, anonymous letter was submitted to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement. The letter raises a main point about hypocrisy of expressed values, and armed conflict and its encouragement.

"If someone invades my country, I will join resistance, and I will fight back until I make the invader leave. Also, I will encourage my people to provoke a popular revolution against it to defeat the oppression and the aggression. Not only that, I will accept and welcome any help from abroad whether military or financial. I believe that people were born to live freely and to practice their rights in a democratic way without interference from any side and to enjoy their lives peacefully. In fact, many countries in this world especially the ones who consider themselves democratic are totally a far cry from this expression because they are supporting terrorist groups and encourage fights, deaths, and devastation. Actually, the UN Security Council should get involved and take decisive actions to stop the disputes, disagreements, and wars that are occurring in this world."  

Questions

Is the Security Council the answer to preventing further conflict? What about the permanent members veto?

How can countries be made accountable for their hypocrisy and inconsistency between their expressed values and actions? What is causing this lack of accountability?

Open Letter on Canada's Indian Residential Schools


Battleford Industrial School (Battleford, Saskatchewan) (Photo by D. Cadzow)
This open, anonymous letter was submitted to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement. The letter raises a number important questions about human rights and democracy in Canada.

“Schools, by definition, are places of learning; where the minds of young children can flourish in a safe and psychologically constructive environment. Yet some of Canada’s earliest schools were in fact aggressive assimilation camps where Aboriginal children were forcibly placed into, with or without the consent of their parents. Little was truly taught in the schools other than menial work skills and academia sufficient for grade 3 curriculum. Mostly these schools were intended to eradicate the Aboriginal culture and languages of the children and set them on a path of brutal assimilation into a society that did not particular care whether they assimilated or were merely culturally destroyed. The schools teachings were constructed around Christian values and beliefs. Thus much of the lessons taught were in praise of religious doctrine, and the “civilized” ethics and morals of the time. Children who attempted to conduct their indigenous beliefs in the residential schools were punished. So extreme were these restrictions that, even those caught talking in a native language were penalized by having needles stuck in their tongues. These forms of barbarism may seem a horrid and dead ignorance. Yet, many are often surprised to find that the last residential school was shut down in 1996, a mere 18 years ago, and the first residential school, Mohawk Indian Residential School, opened in 1831 in Brantford, Ontario.

The children would hardly see their parents, since the school year lasted 10 months. The schools operated on a half-a-day structure whereby half the day would be spent in the classroom and the other half working. This work was in reality meant more so for the maintenance of the school itself, rather than any legitimate educational value. However, the full horrors of the school were only recently uncovered, thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose goal was to raise awareness of the atrocities of the residential schools, through eye-witness and written testimonies. The testimonies spoke of children who were, physically, psychologically and sexually abused. Others died either from disease or infections, or practical murder. Cecile Ketlo, who attended Lejac Indian Residential School was one of the many to speak of such events:

"We had chores to do. Like you go into the bakery. You go to work as a cook, or work in the egg room. I tried cooking and they kicked me out because I fainted on them. So I didn’t really learn how to cook. I didn’t know how to bake. I never worked in the bakery."

Others painted an even grimmer picture of the untold dealings, such as Grant Severight who attended St. Philips Indian Residential School, stating:

"I was sexually molested by a school teacher, I mean not a school teacher, but the music teacher. He used to take me into piano practice during study sessions. He would come and get me from the classroom and take me to the room and do funny things. He used to pay me. He used to give me money for it. I didn’t really like it. For a while I thought I was the only one that he was doing that to, so I kept it kind of to myself. I never told anybody because of the shame and maybe the boys would make fun of me. But then I started noticing he was taking other boys and one day I kind of followed, just kind of sneaking behind. I was peaking through the curtains to see if that boy was actually having piano practice but he wasn’t. That man was sexually fondling him and kissing him."

Countless others have told their story, many of which can be read or heard on wherearethechildren.ca. The original number of the victims that died was 4,000 but in light of recent testimonies, the numbers may be higher.

Despite the horrid atrocities the biggest issue of the residential schools, lies in the here and now. It lies in an Aboriginal culture forever scarred by the travesties forced upon them. Many Canadians don’t fully grasp the generational impact such systematic brutality has on the later generations. Even today's Aboriginal youth still suffers from the aftereffects of the residential schools in forms such as grief and hopelessness and loss of self-esteem. No one can change the past, yet we all have a responsibility as Canadians to change the present. We all have a responsibility to realize what truly went on within Canada’s residential schools and consider how it impacts the contemporary Aboriginal society of Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and others like it are an important branch of education in this manner, and should continue to be supported by Canadians, coast to coast."

Questions

How can a similar tragedy be prevented in Canada again?

What are the flaws in the Canadian federal system that allowed the residential school system to exist for 177 years?

Further reading

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Indigenous Foundation of the University of B.C.

Where are the Children 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Open Letter on Cause of Western Bombing Campaign Against ISIS


Below is an excerpt from an open, anonymous letter to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement on the cause of the western bombing campaign against ISIS:

 "Oil and Israel. That is what modern Middle Eastern geopolitics are usually about. Given the vast energy resources required for western economies, influence and involvement in the Middle East has been of paramount importance for many countries. World oil and gas companies have major investments not just in northern Iraq and Syria, but everywhere in the Middle East (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Yemen, Iran). ISIS may threaten the stability of these rich oil countries. Also, Suez Canal and Bab-el-Mandeb are considered two of the world’s oil transit chokepoints. If these chokepoints become under the control of ISIS, you can imagine what would happen. As you know Jordan is close to Syria, and I think it is easy for ISIS to invade it if they take over Syria, then you have the Sinai Peninsula (Suez Canal there) and armed tribes and groups who hate the current Egyptian government and may support ISIS."

Oil Transit Points

ISIS Influence in Egypt

ISIS Influence in Egypt1


Questions

Given the excerpt above, why so far are no countries willing to battle ISIS on the ground with troops? 

Is democracy possible in the Middle East when geopolitics trumps everything?

If there was no oil involved with ISIS, how much interest would there be in the organization?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Open Letters on ISIS and Canada's Military Involvement



Below are excerpts from open, anonymous letters to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement on the current Canadian federal government's decision to partake in a bombing campaign against ISIS:


"The coalition military campaign is in the interest of the Syrian regime and against the Syrian people. Even the bombing strikes that they are going to do are unproductive because they will hit empty buildings or kill civilians. Also, the main reason that pushed the current Canadian federal government (Conservative Party of Canada led by Harper) to get involved in this conflict is that ISIS now has control over a vast territory and its oil resources, from which it intends to launch a terrorist jihad, not only against targets in the region, but on a global basis. Actually, ISIS has specifically targeted Canada and Canadians. What I mean is by controlling oil resources, ISIS will compete with oil producing countries such as Canada through selling oil in the black market, and this situation is unsuitable for the current federal government and its special interest partners."


"The coalition airstrikes won’t work to stop ISIS. More and more people around the globe are joining ISIS everyday for the reasons mentioned in this article. Even non-Muslims are converting to Islam to join ISIS to get the incentives (salary, house etc.). Instead of wasting billions of dollars on these airstrikes, the US and its allies ought to give aid to impoverished people in the region in order to help them have a better future. Poor people think it’s better to join ISIS instead of living a helpless and painful life. Also, western governments need to have programs that will help improve the integration of Muslim immigrants. The western media and some politicians play a role in fueling hatred against Muslims and consider Muslims terrorists."

Questions:

What are the democratic implications of the current Canadian federal government participating in a bombing campaign that will kill civilians and likely increase new recruits into ISIS?

Should the current Canadian federal government be accountable for any resulting domestic terrorism linked to ISIS?

Should oil interests come before the well-being and safety of Canadians?