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Europe, Canada and US

Canada's Muslim problem: Who’s demonizing who?

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The return of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo, Canadian Islamophobia, and a trip by a native leader to Iran make Harper’s human rights award an embarrassment, says Eric Walberg

After 10 years in Guantanamo, former child soldier Omar Khadr, the last Western national being held there, was finally repatriated last week after years of mistreatment. The illegality of the procedures used against Khadr from day one mean that the Canadian government faces a multi-million dollar law suit for damages. Various court cases against the government failed to convince it to expedite his return, until the US government finally pulled the plug, forcing the Canadian government to take him after his plea of guilty to various charges, clearly made as the only way to end his ordeal and give him hope of eventual release.

At the same time, Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmud has issued arrest warrants for Canadian Egyptians Nader Fawzy Jacques Attalla of Montreal, claiming they were involved in the production of the film "Innocence of Muslims", which defames Islam and led to the death of dozens including the US ambassador to Libya, and the closing of Canada’s embassies in Egypt and Libya (since reopened). Of course, both Coptic Christian activists insist on their own "innocence". Attalla asked for police protection, claiming he and his family in Egypt are now targets of potential violence, calling the arrest warrant issued by the prosecutor general a "fatwa". As if to confirm his own guilt, Attalla said, "Egypt was exporting civilisation before and now it's exporting terrorism and killing and hatred." It will take some doing for the Conservatives to finesse this diplomatic tangle.

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TIFF: Cultural Starwars

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This year's Toronto International Film Festival highlights the new direction in filmmaking: Iran is the enemy du jour, but at the same time it is not longer kosher to praise everything Israel does, notes Eric Walberg

The empire requires a nice juicy enemy to keep people's minds off its own sins. During the Cold War, Hollywood responded admirably to the challenge, churning out anti-communist thrillers with Russian bad guys, most memorably during Reagan's surreal presidency, when "Red Dawn" and "Rocky IV" reduced international politics to a comic book parody.

Given who the official enemy is these days, it is no surprise that the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which boasts of 72 participating countries, did not include a 'Spotlight on Iranian cinema' this year. On the contrary, it showcased the latest serving of propaganda against Iran with the premiere of “Argo”, a docudrama depicting the escape of six US diplomats from Iran following the November 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, when 52 Americans were held hostage, and Iranian student protesters dumped US diplomatic correspondence on the street in a spectacular premodern WikiLeak.

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Canada-Iran: Canada's diplomatic disaster

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Tehran is officially non grata in Ottawa now. What’s cooking, asks Eric Walberg

On 7 September, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Canada is suspending all diplomatic relations with Iran, expelling all Iranian diplomats, closing its embassy in Tehran, and authorizing Turkey to act on Canada's behalf for consular services there. Baird cited Iran’s enmity with Israel, its support of Syria and terrorism. "Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," Baird said at the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Vladivostok, Russia.

Canada has not had a full ambassador in Iran since 2007. Relations between the two countries cooled after Iranian-Canadian free-lance photographer Zahra Kazemi died in Iran in 2003 under disputed circumstances, and went from bad to worse under the Conservative government in power in Ottawa since then.

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Republican primaries: Fooling some of the people

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As the primary race heats up for the Republicans, Eric Walberg looks at the “radical centre”

Salafist (excuse me, “deeply Catholic”) Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum appears back in the race for chief elephant after trouncing Mitt Romney in Minnesota and Colorado. But beware: Minnesotans are an unpredictable lot, with the only black Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, their own Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, and of course 9/11 Truther and wrestler-governor Jesse Ventura (1999-2003).

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Greece in flames: Cassandra strikes again

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Greek protesters defied the pleading of their prime minister in a televised address to the nation to accept austerity measures to allow a massive loan and “debt swap” plan by the IMF and EU to stave off bankruptcy. The measures approved by parliament involve slashing the minimum wage by up to one-third, deregulating the labour market to make it easier to lay off workers, and cutting pensions.

In a scene worthy of “Battle of the Damned” gas-mask clad protesters left 40 buildings in Athens in flames as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, wounding hundreds. Greece’s 99 per cent have little or nothing to lose in a “structurally readjusted” country, leaving them at the forefront in the growing battle in the West to wrest the torch of democracy from politicians, both left and right, in thrall to their behind-the-scene corporate-banking masters.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

Europe, Canada & USA

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html