Sunday, July 08, 2007

Guest Blogging: John Scully

I'm putting the finishing touches on this year's "Politicians in Cowboy Hats" stampede fashion review...expect a post shortly on that. Until then, I turn things over to John Scully for a guest blog post on Canada's role in the world.

And just like all talk show hosts plug their guest's latest movies, I'll engage in a bit of that now. You can check out John's blog here. And, of course, his book "Am I Dead Yet" is available for sale at fine bookstores across this country. It makes for a great summer read!


The world exhaled last week when one BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, was released. Thugs had held him hostage in Gaza for 144 days. But few anywhere were paying attention to another extraordinary event in Bogotá, Colombia. Defiant protesters demanded the release of 3000 hostages being held by guerrillas. Three thousand. Some for as long as 11 years.
When Edmonton Liberal David Kilgour was Secretary for State for Latin America and Africa, he made four trips to Colombia. Kilgour was deeply concerned not only about the drug wars in Colombia, but also the human misery they created. He took active steps through various NGOs to try alleviate a desperate situation. Sadly, he failed.

An estimated four million peasants have been now forced off their land. Half a million have fled the country. And no wonder. The murder rate at about 20, 000 a year, is described as the second highest in the world (South Africa is apparently number one). Favourite targets are the usual do-gooders: reporters, union leaders, teachers, the Popular Women’s Organisation, missionaries and anyone who tries to step in the way of the mighty drug gangs. One of them, the AUC, the United Self Defence Force of Colombia, is allegedly a front for U.S.-financed government para-militaries who reportedly dispatch enemies of right wing U.S. supplicant, President Alvaro Uribe.

The demonstration last week seemed, if there can be such a thing, a final straw. It was a rare show of national unity for the 44 million people of Colombia. They have seen civil war and drug cartels dominate them for 50 years. The catalyst this time was the execution of eleven politicians held hostage for five years by several gangs and the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces For Colombia.

The BBC interpreted the protest as a chance by the Uribe government to channel the outrage at the killings into support for Uribe’s alleged stand against FARC. But Uribe and Colombians are dreaming if they think FARC, the AUC and other gangs holding the hostages will be influenced by banners and slogans. But unlike Alan Johnson, the question is: will these hostages ever be seen again, alive and free?

Earlier this year Uribe himself was accused of being involved in massacres in his home province of Antioquia. Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore took the unproven allegations so seriously he cancelled a meeting with Uribe about the environment.

There have been improvements in Colombia under Uribe who has received $3 billion worth of help from the U.S. but human rights groups say that, as usual, the rich continue to benefit and the poor continue to suffer.

And that brings us back to David Kilgour.He said in Bogotá in 1999:” Prospects for a solution to the civil conflict remain uncertain. The Colombian government (has) begun a formal peace dialogue with the major guerrilla groups. Canada has expressed a willingness to assist in the peacemaking efforts if all parties agree.”

That was eight years ago. Perhaps someone should ask Stephen Harper how willing Canada is now to assist in the peacemaking. Oh, wait a minute, aren’t we busy somewhere else?

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  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Josh, at 8:28 p.m.  

  • Oh, wait a minute, aren’t we busy somewhere else?

    Why, yes, we are in a major engagement in Afghanistan. I assume you're trying to make a point here, but don't have the guts to actually say it.

    By Blogger Josh, at 8:29 p.m.  

  • Some questions raised by the guest post:

    1. Is Afghanistan unworthy of our time and effort? If so, how? Is Columbia more worthy of our time and effort? If so, how? Is there anywhere else more worthy of our time and effort than Columbia? If so, how?

    2. Would our efforts in Colombia be military? Or merely humanitarian? If the latter, where else could humanitarian aid be diverted from other than Afghanistan? Do these places merit our humanitarian aid more or less than Columbia?

    3. Do we do more good in the world by more, shallower initiatives or by fewer, deeper initiatives?

    By Blogger matt, at 8:41 p.m.  

  • Oh, wait a minute, aren’t we busy somewhere else
    What is your point?

    And yes we are busy in Afghanistan, but if our military had been properly supported over the past decade we would be capable of deploying much more then 2,500 troops abroad.

    That was eight years ago. Perhaps someone should ask Stephen Harper how willing Canada is now to assist in the peacemaking.
    What? First there is a difference between willing and capable of doing, and like I just said, Canada is not capable of deploying much more troops abroad because the military has been underfunded for decades. And in the past year the Liberals have been in power for 6 and a half years and Harper 18 months, perhaps you should ask your own party some questions?

    By Blogger Brad, at 10:25 p.m.  

  • Thanks for a good post John. I also just saw this story on Amnesty International's home page

    "A plague of death threats and killings, a sham paramilitary demobilization process and almost total impunity - these are the perpetual battles facing trade unionists in Colombia. The country is one of the most dangerous places in the world to stand up for workers' rights."

    And coincidentally, this story just surfaced on some US political blogs:


    "Multinationals operating in Colombia have admitted paying right-wing militias known as paramilitaries to protect their operations. But human rights activists claim the companies went further, using the fighters to violently keep their labor costs down."

    A case has just come before the courts in Alabama against Drumond Co. The plaintiff's claim that they paid militias to kill union leaders:

    "The bus had just left Drummond Co. Inc.'s coal mine carrying about 50 workers when gunmen halted it and forced two union leaders off. They shot one on the spot, pumping four bullets into his head, and dragged the other one off to be tortured and killed."

    Seems clear Columbia could use a little more MSM air time to be sure.

    By Blogger Ian, at 11:40 p.m.  

  • Canada has expressed a willingness to assist in the peacemaking efforts if all parties agree.

    And eight years later they haven't agreed to why would we inject ourselves into their "peace" process? Are you suggesting we pull out of Afghanistan and invade Columbia and force peace on them?

    Weird post.

    By Blogger le politico, at 11:45 a.m.  

  • Regarding Afghanistan - I took a look at Scully's blog, as linked in the original post. This post should tell you all you need to know about Scully.

    Honestly, Dan, this is really disappointing for your blog.

    By Blogger Josh, at 1:05 p.m.  

  • Why in god's name should that fact that Canada intervenes in one place translate into our intervening elsewhere - notwithstanding even our minimal resources?

    Canada isn't going to intervene in Columbia because nobody else is intervening in Columbia - we can't go it alone. Furthermore Afghanistan has national security implications for us, with respect to 1. ensuring friendly governments in a region with resources vital to our economic well-being (no blood for oil? I say, how much blood, for how much oil are we talking about here...).

    Lets play a numbers game. 3000 disappeared - boo f'ing hoo. If 3000 disappeared are sufficient reason to make this so morally abhorrent that we simply must intervene - then by your aforementioned "we do A so we should do B" logic there are plenty of bigger fish to fry.

    But this is my problem with the foreign policy debate in general. We don't have any immediate threats, and so we talk about moral do-goodery, instead of our national interest. The west collectively (and Canada is definitely part of it) face a clear and present threat from an emerging superpower in the far east - and another one that is going down rapidly, but still has some solid hardware (and given that the US is increasingly retooling to fight stupid imperial wars on the periphery, Russia's technological deficit becomes much more ephemeral).

    Canada has neither the capability to intervene, nor any national interest in Columbia. Even if we are interested in fuzzy objectives (despite the fact that the past 50 years have demonstrated that Canada can have a good guy reputation without substantial effort) it is highly unclear that Columbia is the most pressing case.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 2:57 p.m.  


    Explain Scully, the relationship between Afghanistan and Columbia please. And please read through the above link, looking closely at the numbers of missing and murdered Iraqi's and Kurds, in the hundreds of thousands. On your blog you make reference to the Iraq invasion and bashing it's neccesity.

    So please tell me why you think going to Columbis is worthwhile and Afghanistan and Iraq are not.

    And by the way, that Taliban 6, Canada 0 scoreboard is one of the most vile things I have ever seen posted. Hope you think twice about the company you keep Dan.

    By Blogger paulsstuff, at 4:35 p.m.  

  • This commentary is a severe mischaracterization of the situation in Colombia. I was there just last year and it is delightful place to vacation. There are no meaningful security concerns in the largest cities, and the security situation has improved dramatically under Uribe. Colombia has a healthy democracy and Uribe has overwhelming support from the electorate by Canadian standards. I have investments in Colombia that have risen more than ten-fold under Uribe but I don't get a vote. I thought this was a Liberal blog, not an NDP one: this rant against Uribe sounds like it is written by someone who thinks Colombia needs its own Hugo Chavez. Go to Colombia and you'll see that the people there know better.

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 4:55 p.m.  

  • Wow. What a strange post.

    Has Columbia asked for Canada's help? Has the United Nations? If so, why would Afghanistan keep us from helping there? Do they need military help? If so, are you suggesting we redeploy away from a UN Security Council approved, NATO backed mission in Afghanistan and insert our troops into a fierce guerilla drug war, separated from the rest of our Western allies who are still fighting over there? I don't get it.

    If your point is that there are many violent and troubled countries in the world, then yes, great point. Thank you for enlightening us-- but then why the cheap shot at the end? If your point is that we should not be in Afghanistan because we should be in Columbia, then I think you've lost your mind.

    And that "Taliban 6, Canada 0" post title on your blog truly is shameful. CG, who is this guy?!

    By Blogger brian platt, at 10:01 p.m.  

  • A couple of days ago I wrote a guest blog on Calgary Grit. I am grateful for Calgary Grit’s generosity in giving me the space although I guess he regrets it now. The topic was Colombia and its suffering. Calgary Grit readers hated it.

    I feeel I owe them some explanations. First an answer to a question from a writer who did not have the courage to identify him or herself but only uses the initials BP: “Who is this guy, anyway?” Unlike BP, I suspect, I am a journalist with almost 50 years experience who has covered stories in 70 countries, including 36 war zones for some of the world’s most trusted broadcasters including the BBC and CBC. Like it or not, I have something BP appears to lack: credibility.

    A writer with the pseudonym Hosertohoosier (again, no courage to use a real name) made the following statement about the hostages being held in Columbia (11 of whom were murdered last week):”If 3000 disappeared-boo f’ing hoo.” I wonder if the writer made the same erudite and scholastic comments about the 3000 on 9/11. Of course not. Colombians are merely brown-skinned Latinos whom we can insult and dismiss at will.

    Again what appears to be a pseudonym from Paulsstuff who makes the correct accusation that I “bash” Iraq. You betcha. The US invaded on the premise of a series of lies and now tens of thousands are dead. But you know that. So does the rest of the world. And the connection between Afghanistan and, as he/she writes it “Columbis”(sic)? In Afghanistan “we” will lose. Just yesterday Nato made the assessment it would take a generation, if not longer for any kind of “success” to be obvious. Unpalatable as it may be, no foreign force has ever conquered the Afghanis. And if you chose to ignore history, you are more ignorant than your anonymous missive suggests.

    Colombia is in what we call the Americas. It is part of our hemisphere. It matters because of its petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds, and hydroelectricity. It is also part of international agreements: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber and Wetlands. And Afghanistan?

    Afghanistan’s poppy-heroin production is booming. Eradication efforts, are, according to the UN, not working. Colombia is similar but infinitely more closer and with the presence of the drug gangs, ever more dangerous. That’s why it is worth giving it a modicum of our attention.

    To Brian Dell (congratulations Brian for having the guts to use your real name), I am delighted your investments are doing well and you found Colombia safe. But you are a Gringo. You are not one of the 20,000 Colombians murdered each year or one of the four million campesinos who have been forced from their land by the militias, including the Uribe-backed AUC.

    Finally to those anonymous heroes who took objection to my headline: Taliban 6 Canada 0 in relation to the latest roadside bombing. I was writing what is known as irony. Our guys tragically died for nothing. That’s what the zero means.

    By Blogger John Scully, at 11:05 a.m.  

  • John, your sharp wit and perspicacity wins a again.

    By Blogger Lily, at 11:17 a.m.  

  • Thanks for replying John.

    The comments section is a vicious field, and few are brave anough to wade into it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:04 p.m.  

  • I guess John has no idea about the use of blogger names for posting, and the fact that Dan uses Calgarygrit himself appears lost on him.

    But if you really think giving your name gives you validity, mine is Paul Burling.

    Now a few questions. I provided a link showing the hundreds of thousands of missing or murdered under Saddam's reign. So why do you speak of the 3000 in Colombia and the need for action by other countries, and the unneccesary action taken in Iraq? Reading your post, I can see your reasoning for action in Colombia, but Iraq and Afghanistan are just as worthy if not more.

    As for your assertion the Canadian soldiers died for nothing, I and most others probably disagree with you, and it's still vile in my opinion to post it, wether you see it as irony or not.

    By Blogger paulsstuff, at 1:19 p.m.  

  • If you guys/girls have questions and want faster replies to your comments, please post your comments on

    By Blogger Lily, at 6:29 p.m.  

  • Well I would encourage John Scully to blog again, it is just that his style is distinctly different from CalgaryGrit's in that CalgaryGrit generally doesn't call for moral crusades and instead often calls attention to the ironies and absurdities of politicians. This is what makes CalgaryGrit a popular Liberal with non-Liberal readers.

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 3:31 a.m.  

  • Maybe you can use the proceeds from your book to buy a dictionary and look up the definition of irony.

    But seriously; there are a lot of violent countries in the world and information on them is always a good thing. But in my humble, inexperienced, anonymous opinion, it is bad policy to pull out of a mission because success doesn't come overnight. We made a commitment to Afghanistan, and I hope we stick with it. Even if you disagree, I don't understand how a mission to Columbia would be any different.

    And I also don't think that "conquering a people" and providing them enough security to vote for their own government is quite the same thing.

    By Blogger brian platt, at 7:08 a.m.  

  • That's the kind of thing that if any politician from outside Alberta said it, the media would be talking about for a week, using it as proof of his ignorance of all things Albertan and his stupidity in general.

    And some Albertans would still be dredging it up a generation later as one of the many reasons to never vote for that politician's party.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 10:20 a.m.  

  • Oops! Talk about stupidity! That comment was obviously meant for the Stelmach Stampede post.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 10:21 a.m.  

  • feel free to check out John's own blog at

    By Blogger Lily, at 10:54 a.m.  

  • This posting from the G&M today says what I am talking about:

    Michael Richardson from
    MontrealOakville, Canada writes: Most of you posters have no idea what you are talking about, ranting away about Colombia, kidnappings, cocaine, paramilitaries, Marxist rebels, corruption in politics and the like. Uribe is a strong leader, but he is a just, honestly elected president who is overwhlemingly loved by his poeple. I have lived and worked in Colombia as a foreigner and my wife is from Medellin, the once capital of the infamous Escobar cartel. I have lived and seen the improvement that have come thanks to Mr. Uribe's government on the ground, and I challenge any of you AI monkeys to come down here and tell me his actions justify isolationism. He is a hero to many Colombians, fed up with countless regimes that were 1000 times more corrupt and useless. He stands for Colombian's right to freedom and has been shot at many times for doing so. I wonder how many of you out there have been shot at for your beliefs. Do not disparage this man!! If you do your are only displaying your ignorance of the facts on the ground. I sincerely hope Canadians and Canada is better then this. I am a Liberal / Green Party supporter, but today I say, Go HARPER!

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 6:52 p.m.  

  • By Blogger jeje, at 4:01 a.m.  

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