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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Cloud of Tragedy and Uncertainty

As the Middle East and North Africa erupt in violence, people around the World are watching carefully.  It's interesting to see a dictatorship overthrown in hopes that a new democratic government representing the people will emerge.  But history shows us that it is not always a democratic and free government that will arise from such turbulence.  Still, hope springs eternal even under such a cloud of tragedy and uncertainty.

Some people decry the slow action of the international community, but citizens must be evacuated and international connections must be maintained during the process.  In the case of Libya, this has been a time consuming process fraught with great difficulty and complexity.  There is only so much capacity to move aircraft in and out of Tripoli or ships in and out of Libyan ports.  This logistical nightmare is complicated by the need to contact and arrange the movement and extraction of citizens.  Now, however, most of the expatriates are finally out of Libya, clearing the way for intervention.

The United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union have all completed the required bureaucratic processes necessary to move towards deployment of an international force against the Libyan dictator.  Mr. Gaddafi has nowhere to go and there shall be no moving funds in and out of other nations, there will be no billions to siphon off from Swiss banks.  There are no crazed dictators left in the World foolish enough to take Gaddafi in as a permanent house guest.

The United Nations General Secretary will speak with President Obama on Monday, the nations of the World are shutting down their embassies and consulates.  It is eminently clear to the international community that Muammar Gaddafi is mentally unstable.  A sociopathic belief that history will record him as a martyr could be the only solace Muammar Gaddafi has left.  Such a person would be entirely likely to take down as many people as he can in the pursuit of imagined glory and martyrdom.

To attain this martyrdom, Muammar Gaddafi has an impressive inventory at hand including Kalashnikov assault rifles, light anti-tank weapons, grenades, tanks, and even chemical weapons like mustard gas.  If Gaddafi tries to use such weapons, we can only hope that those who would be asked to deploy them would become the final defectors from the Gaddafi regime.

None of us can predict how this will end, only that it will stand as a tragedy.  But out of this tragedy we can hope that freedom and liberty will emerge in a country where oppression has been a thick cloud that has not lifted for decades.

I should note that I am not without personal feelings toward Muammar Gaddafi.  I went to university in London with the students of Syracuse University who died in Muammar Gaddafi's bombing of PanAm flight 103.  My friends were sent hurtling to their death from 30,000 feet, their lives ended in sheer terror and intense pain.  The lives of innocent people in Lockerbie, Scotland ended when the flaming wreckage of PanAm 103 landed upon their small town as they slept in their beds.  I have never forgotten who was responsible for their deaths.

There is one overarching consideration that must guide our faith as we move into the future.  We believe that democracy is good, and that people ought to be able to rule themselves.  Nobody should have to live with the fears that Libyans have endured for so many decades under Gaddafi.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

There is no more silence

Lybia continues to suffer unspeakable violence, descending into a state of sheer terror.  The United Nations has decided to meet on Friday, February 25th, 2011 in a special session of the Human Rights Council to consider suspending Libya from the Human Rights Council.  The United Nations Security Council has condemned the actions of Lybia.  Some members of the UN are asking for an investigation to uncover violations of human rights.  Some are calling for "crimes against humanity" language to be used.  History will record the outcome of these discussions.

The League of Arab states has suspended Lybia, the African Union has condemned Lybia in the strongest possible terms.  They are sending a mission to evaluate the situation and they intend to remain seized of the matter.  Every major international organisation with some jurisdiction has expressed outrage at the actions of Muammar Gaddafi and his mercenary forces. 

Military, diplomatic, and government staff have renounced the government of Lybia.  Most of the foreign nationals trapped in the country have now been extricated.  These factors combined with the sense of urgency to act due to the obvious economic pressure of oil security have created suitable ingredients for political action and, possibly, military intervention.

Hopefully, this situation will be resolved in a timely manner, so as to minimize the death and suffering.  The scope of the tragedy is profound and darkness envelops a people struggling to be free.  Revolution has always been bloody, but so is freedom.  And Thomas Jefferson would remind us that all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.  There is no more silence.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Can Be Done in Libya

With the airspace being closed over Libya, the ability to get expats out of the country just got a lot tougher.  It has been reported the government of Turkey has ordered their government officials not to say a word until such time as the 25,000 Turkish citizens are evacuated, lest they create problems for their own citizens. 

As we know, the Libyan ruler is entirely prepared to engage in genocide to preserve a hold on power.  There are not hundreds dying... there are thousands dying.  The problem now is that nation states are focusing on how to extricate their citizens.  The more they can fly under the radar, the more citizens they are likely to get out of Libya. 

We have seen many Libyan ambassadors resign, a few minutes ago the Libyan ambassador to the United States came out and condemned what is taking place in Libya. There are reports that Libyan Naval Ships are moving to the Tripoli coast and may begin firing into the city.  Probably the defection of the Libyan Air Force officers in Malta has created enough evidence for the United Nations to act.  If the UN invokes article 7 and creates a "no fly" zone, as they did in Bosnia, then the Libyan military will be forced to consider their actions as they would then be subject to war crimes.  The demand for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, evidently, has come from the Prime Minister of Qatar.

Twitter Revolution : Libya Falling

Libyan diplomats at the UN are calling for Gadaffi to step down.  The United Nations general secretary has called for an end to the violence.  Even the United States has been fairly quiet so far, but the silence of the leader of the free world is deafening to Libyans and the White House is starting to recognize they have a role to play.  The Qatar foreign minister has called for the Arab League to convene an emergency meeting and the EU ministers are calling for an end to the violence.

Yesterday three Libyan ambassadors had resigned, the Army was starting to defect, and Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested Gadaffi could be on his way to Venezuela, but high ranking sources in the Venezuelan government deny this.  Reports flying around the twitterverse said all the private jets at Tripoli airport had departed, carrying the elite of Libyan society to the far reaches of the Globe.  How much of that is true?  We don't know, it's all hearsay until proven.

Today dawned with reports of Libyan Air Force jets bombing civilians.  We have no confirmation on that yet, but we do know two Libyan Air Force pilots defected and flew to Malta. 

The Air Force pilots refused to take part in the operations against civilians.  They are both colonels and have now asked for political asylum.  They were part of a squadron that was ordered to bomb civilians in Benghazi and they elected not to do that.  During their interrogation in Malta, the two colonels have supplied officials with classified materials related to Libyan military operations taking place in the country right now.

People are trying to figure out how many people have been killed in the carnage.  The numbers being discussed in mainstream press is measured in the hundreds, but some physicians in Benghazi have suggested that such a number would apply to one single hospital.  The extrapolation is that thousands could be dead.  The Libyan people are crying for help because they know they must defeat Gadaffi or they will pay for their defiance with their lives.

As many nations evacuate their diplomatic staff and corporations scramble to remove their people, the Libyan people continue their struggle for freedom.  And the World watches.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Alberta Tourism

In 2008, tourism activity generated over $74.7 billion in revenues and directly employed over 660,000 Canadians.  That's a lot of economic activity.

Tourism is crucial to the bottom-line of key industry sectors, the primary source of revenues for passenger airlines and accommodation properties. Tourism also supports restaurants and the entertainment industry, including performing arts, cultural and sporting events, and a variety of small- and medium-sized businesses.


Bike Town

Bike Town has generated a lot of questions... here's a link to a PowerPoint deck that should answer most of your questions.