The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

War in Afghanistan 2009 Week 18

We're all Coulterians now apparently.

In the wake of the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the brilliant wit Ann Coulter made no bones of what she thought her country's reaction should be.

In her column two days after the attacks she wrote:

“Airports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.

“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.”

The roots causes crowd was aghast.

Invade their countries? Convert them to Christianity? Insanity.


Eight years later Taliban Jack Layton and the rest of the hug-a-terrorist bunch are stamping their feet and demanding somebody do something about a new law in Afghanistan which allows the Shia Muslim minority to practice Shariah law.

Suddenly they’ve discovered that Shariah law says men and women are equal, providing women know their place as wives and mothers, and don’t get uppity.

And being a wife means putting out.

And if she’s reluctant, hubby is entitled to remind her of her duty by the application of the rod, for her own spiritual good, of course. Muhammed said so.

Is this why we’re in Afghanistan, they shout? To listen to the former talk-to-the-Taliban lobby, we should, er, use the presence of our military forces in Afghanistan to force the duly-elected government of Afghanistan to scrap the law and impose a Judeo-Christian ethic on the people of Afghanistan.

Sound familiar?

Apparently they’re all in favour of invading a country, pushing aside its leaders and imposing Christian-based laws -- providing they get to say which country and which laws.

But it’s a fair question. Is this why we’re in Afghanistan?


We didn’t invade Afghanistan. We’re not at war with Afghanistan. We don’t want to conquer the country.

We’re there on a United Nations mission to drive out Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban allies, to destroy their training bases, and to stabilize the country to prevent a return to a terrorist training ground.

We’ve supported a government picked through western-style universal country-wide elections. The hope is that democracy will bring with it a rule of law which, in turn, will foster the concept of universal human rights.

It will take years, perhaps decades, to turn a medieval, illiterate society into a stable, functioning 20th century state.

We can, however, accomplish our mission regardless of whether that project succeeds. Killing 8-10,000 terrorists each year, forcing their leaders to live under rocks in daily fear for their lives, disrupting their communications and planning is success enough for the bottom line of the mission. We’re sending a clear message---we’re going to win, you’re going to lose. Mess with us and we’ll destroy you. We did it in Afghanistan. We did it in Iraq. And, if necessary, we’ll do it in Pakistan next.

All together, 11 percent of Pakistan, almost 90,000 square kilometres, is already either under complete 'Taliban control', 'contested control' or 'Taliban influenced'.
Until now Taliban forces have known they could always retreat to their sanctuaries in the lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan to regroup. But with up to 20,000more American troops coming this year, that absolute refuge is coming to an end.

That's prompted the Taliban expansion deeper into Pakistan to put more distance between the Americans and the terrorist forces. Had the Pakistani forces held their ground, they would have put the Taliban forces into a classic hammer-and-anvil situation. Instead, the Pakistani government has made "peace" deals with the Taliban, under which they surrender regions and move all government troops out.

In December, Major-General Faisal Alavi, a former head of Pakistan’s special forces, was murdered after sending a letter to the head of the army naming two generals who made deals with Taliban leaders, paying them off not to attack Pakistani troops and promising in return to let them attack NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan without interference.

The Pakistani Taliban exploited these signs of weakness immediately, pushing fighters deeper still into the heartland.

But there's a limit to what the U.S. will allow.

According to the Pakistani magazine The Nation, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen laid down the law to Pakistan’s political and military leadership on his recent visit. If the Pakistan government showed any reluctance to confront the terrorists, the US itself would launch air strikes against the hideouts of these al-Qaeda militants.

According to their sources, "Admiral Mullen warned that US could use daisy-cutters to crush these elements in what he called a ‘decisive operation,’ which could start any time."

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, has disclosed exactly where the new American combat troops arriving this summer will deploy.

The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, expected in May or June, will operate in eastern Farah province, and in Helmand province from Lashkar Gah - the capital of Helmand, south toward Garmsir.

An Army Stryker brigade expected in July and August will deploy in Kandahar province, in the eastern districts around Spin Boldak and northern regions around Arghandab, Khakrez and Shah Wali Kot.

In many cases, the Americans will be pushing into areas where few or no troops have been before. Many of the new American soldiers will fan out along southern Afghanistan’s largely unguarded 550-mile-long border with Pakistan

One of the main impacts of the enhanced American presence is expected to be a wider and fiercer fight against the opium traders.

Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to collect between $100 million and $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade.
American military sources say that is enough to pay for all of the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan for an entire year.

In Kandahar province, U.S. commanders have been told the government is getting serious this year about poppy eradication.

The Stars and Stripes Mideast Edition reports Haji Noor Muhammad Akhund, the government-appointed leader for Maiwand, said that he’s been directed to eradicate one-quarter of the district’s poppy fields this year. According to Akhund, the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued the directive to the Kandahar governor, and other provincial leaders last week.

Last year, more than 100 Afghan police officers were killed during opium-eradication operations in Kandahar province, according to Akhund. The Taliban killed 35 police officers in Maiwand district alone, according to Canadian officers posted here.

Akhund said he intended to involve tribal elders in the process of selecting which fields would be destroyed. He said he had warned them in a meeting earlier this week not to attack Afghan or NATO units involved in the effort.

But the Taliban have reportedly been demanding money from villagers in Maiwand to protect the poppy fields.

Charging farmers for protection is one way the Taliban makes its money. But its turning out to be an unprofitable arrangement, if history is any guide.

The New York Times reports that in March
"a force of British marines moved into a district called Nad Ali in Helmand Province, the center of the country’s poppy cultivation. The Taliban were waiting. In a five-day battle, the British killed 120 Taliban fighters and wounded 150." British casualties were one wounded.

Something unusual is popping up in accounts of Taliban ambushes. Take these two examples:

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2009 - Coalition and Afghan forces killed 32 insurgents today during operations in southern Afghanistan, military officials reported.

In the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province, 15 insurgents were killed after opening fire on a U.S.-Afghan patrol. The coalition troops returned fire, killing all 15 attackers with small-arms, heavy weapons and aviation weapon support.

In Oruzgan province’s Shahid E-Hassas district, enemy fighters fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. and Afghan forces on a reconnaissance patrol. The attackers fled to a nearby shopping district, but the coalition force eventually killed all 12 as they were found trying to regroup outside the bazaar.

All of the attackers were killed in each engagement. That can't be comforting when word gets back to wherever they came from.

The Taliban meanwhile has its sights on a big propaganda victory. And Canadian commanders in Kandahar better be paying close attention.

The plan is to shoot down a Chinook helicopter, killing everyone aboard.

According to Thomas Harding, defence correspondent for the Telegraph (U.K.), four twin barrelled 14.5mm cannons mounted on pick-up trucks have been destroyed recently.

"Within the space of 12 hours local villager reported two ZPU-1s (anti-aircraft guns) mounted on the back of pick-ups trucks were destroyed by US aircraft in the Nad-e-Ali district close to the town of Lashkar Gah where the British brigade headquarters is based and is frequently visited by Chinooks, often carrying VIPs."

"The weapons were loaded and ready to fire in an area which has been a focus of heavy fighting between British forces and the Taliban in recent months."

"A few days later the deadly twin-barrelled ZPU-2 model appeared on April 25 and was destroyed followed a day later by another ZPU-2 towed by a tractor that was taken out by Hellfire missiles fired from a Reaper drone. "

In March, a Chinook carrying Gulab Mangal, the governor of Helmand Province, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade near Musa Qala. The pilot, Flt Lt Alexander Duncan, managed to land the helicopter safely. He was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Every British Chinook flight is always escorted by Apache attack helicopters.

Canada has six new CH-47 Chinooks, heavy-lift choppers stationed at the Kandahar airfield. Eight specially modified CH-146 Griffon utility helicopters, equipped with large machine-guns and sensors, provide security escorts.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh has already tried to hamstring the military's use of the helicopters.

"We need to put absolute restrictions on these escort helicopters…they cannot be used for attack purposes. They should be purely for defensive purposes, for escorting," he said last November.

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