Voice of Fairness

My personal opinion on science, religion and politics

Bomb first, ......, and no question allowed

On April 4, 2017, Syrian government forces launched an airstrike against the rebel-held town of Khan Shaykhun. Chemical poisoning soon followed the airstrike, killing at least 74 people, of which many are children. No party has so far claimed responsibility for the chemical poisoning.

Two hypotheses were immediately suggested, one by the American government and one by the Russian. The American one claimed that the Syrian government forces dropped poison-containing bombs during the airstrike. The regime has used chemical weapons before, so the Bayesian prior is against them. The Russian one pointed to the possibility of the airstrike hitting a chemical weapon store of the rebels. After all, given that the Assad regime has been winning battle after battle, and reclaiming town after town from the rebels, why would it choose to turn the whole world against itself? Besides, previous international investigations have shown both sides of the war to possess chemical weapons.

These are two valid hypotheses and should be readily testable. Weapon experts should be able to tell us which hypothesis is more consistent with the existing evidence on the ground. For this reason, almost all world leaders, including our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have originally called for an investigation to assign the blame. This is a great opportunity for the western world that has been in favour of getting rid of Assad. If the Syrian government forces is the culprit, then there is literally no chance for Assad to stay on, and the Russian government will be forced to apologize to the whole world for misplacing its support for a brutal regime.

But Americans decided to act alone without an investigation, and fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat Air Base, which U.S. intelligence believed was the source of the attack.

In retrospect, it is not too bad an idea for U.S. to launch the attack. Imagine that Syrian planes were loaded with, or in the process of loading, chemical weapons and got hit right on the spot, spilling chemical poisons everywhere. Then the regime would be caught red-handed.

Unfortunately, this scenario did not seem to materialize.

Now all leaders of the western world were essentially hijacked to support Trump and assign blame to the Assad regime. It would be nice if U.S. could find another Colin Powell to offer solid evidence against Assad regime, but none in the U.S. government seemed to be willing to come forward. This created a rather awkward situation for U.S. allies. For example, when Justin Trudeau was asked why he changed his position so abruptly from calling for an investigation to assigning blame to Assad, he was forced to say something like "A trusted and reliable ally in the United States informed us that the Assad regime was responsible for these chemical attacks." [2]

Why such an important piece of information was not released publicly? Such a release seems to have huge benefit and little cost. It would be embarrassing to the Russian government and fatal to the Assad regime.

Did the Assad regime really used the chemical weapons? Given that Assad is supported by the Russian government, the regime probably would consult Russians before using chemical weapons, and Russians most certainly would say no. The Syrian/Russian alliance has been victorious in the battlefield. All what they need to achieve their objective is NOT to get international attention.

So people of the world were all eagerly waiting for U.S. to enlighten them, but then came the disappointing news. It turns out that, according to Eric Trump, President Trump did not base his decision of launching the airstrike against Syria on solid evidence and detailed analysis. Instead, his decision was based on the gut feeling of Ivanka Trump [3].

One may argue that President Trump listens to people, and Ivanka Trump happens to be a member of the people, so there is really nothing wrong to listen to her advice. One might even argue that U.S. government should in fact ask people to vote either in favour or against the airstrike and then simply follow it through with the voting outcome. However, when such voting is done not by people as a whole, but by a single sample of a single individual, there is clearly something gone wrong.

Now that the bombing has been done, can people still ask questions?

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/04/06/trudeau-syria-chemical-atttack_n_15850344.html

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/04/07/trudeau-us-syria-strike_n_15858668.html

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/11/politics/ivanka-trump-syria-strike-influence-telegraph/

“Established Procedures”

A boarded and seated passenger was yanked from his seat, beaten and dragged off the plane because of the overbooking of United Airlines.

Defending this horrific abuse of passenger rights, United CEO Oscar Munoz wrote to United employees: “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you.....”[1].

“Established procedures”!

Isn’t this reminiscent of how Jews were treated in Nazi Germany just before the mass killing?

Nazis did not start the holocaust right after their ascending to power. They were initially cautious. However, after testing the public and finding no strong reaction to their abuse of Jews, they were emboldened and formulated an established procedure to treat Jews, i.e., rounding them up and killing them.

All dictatorial regimes have “established procedures” to treat dissidents.

All brutal slave owners have “established procedures” to treat slaves.

Will these “established procedures” be made great again?

Will these “established procedures” be expanded beyond airlines and into other sectors of the society?

Will these “established procedures”, made in USA, force their way into Canada which happens to be my beloved country?

What if these “established procedures” are implemented in the whole world?

Sitting in front of my computer, I feel a profound sense of helplessness. I can hear the screaming of women in the video clip. Did they feel the same sense of helplessness? Why had there been no male passengers who would respond to the scream and stand up for human dignity?

Has our society really degraded to such an extent that we no longer know what is right and what is wrong?

How loud does the screaming need to be before the society as a whole can hear it and react to it?

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/united-airlines-ceo-oscar-munoz-s-leaked-email-in-full-read-video-incident-dragging-passenger-staff-a7677721.html

War and Peace

Canadian media today is full of claims that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment for Canada, and that “For many historians, Canada truly came together as a nation in April 1917, when our troops sacrificed lives and limbs to win the Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France.” [1]. It seems that "many historians" have apparently forgotten that the 1st Canadian Prime Minister started his duties in 1867. The poor ghosts of Sir John A. Macdonald and Alexander Mackenzie must feel deeply troubled upon learning that Canada had never been a nation under their watch.

At the same time, American media is full of claims that bombing Syria was a defining moment for Trump presidency, stating that Donald Trump became president of the United States only when he authorized airstrikes on Syria [2].

Will Canada never emerge as a nation without a bloody war? 

Will Trump never become an American President without flexing American military muscle?

Does a nation really have to gain her identify by wars?

Is raining missiles on another nation the only way for a president to gain recognition and legitimacy? Did Richard Nixon become a less president when he went to China to initiate a dialogue for peace?

Why does the western world, which often claimed to be civilized, have so many idiotic war-maniacs as news reporters and news anchors?

CBC Radio this morning (Apr. 9, 2017) was asking listeners what one can learn from these two wars, one in Vimy Ridge and one in Syria, separated in time by 100 years. I am not sure if Donald Trump ever tunes himself to CBC. If he did, he probably would say that the most important lesson is that one should never pick a fight against an enemy that is roughly equal in strength. Instead, one should find an enemy who is so weak as to be unable to return a punch. George W. Bush might add that, to avoid being perceived as a coward, one has to leak out some information to the idiots working in the media to initiate a propaganda campaign that the weak enemy is actually mighty strong.

Capitalists have learned from wars that they always get cheap labor whenever a prosperous society is bombed back to the Stone Age.

Media Moguls learned that people suddenly pay more attention to their news and their business profit jumps up every time a new war erupts.

Some retired generals learned that a new war is the only way for them to regain some limelight.

Bar owners learned that their customers are suddenly transformed into a group of agitated rednecks.

Ordinary people know that they will lose loved ones in wars, and their widows and poor children will then get brainwashed to prevent them from learning the most fundamental lesson, i.e., we should say no to warmongers, and that civilized societies should introduce legislature to allow citizens to refuse service in an aggressive war.

[1] http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/why-the-battle-of-vimy-ridge-was-a-defining-moment-for-canada-1.3345828
[2] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/04/08/essential-pundit-take-trump-became-president-bombing-syria

Betrayers of their own trade: on Canadian journalists Peter Worthington and Candice Malcolm

Just read an article in Toronto Sun on Wednesday Sept. 21, 2016 entitled “Canada's worship of Norman Bethune misguided” by Candice Malcolm [1]. This immediately led to another article entitled “Dr. Norman Bethune: China's Hero, Canada's Traitor”, written by Peter Worthington [2]. Neither article provides any substantiation of their claim except a full display of shallow journalism and ignorance. The two thought that they could get away because they believed that other Canadians were equally ignorant. Malcolm wrote that “Most Canadians have never heard of Norman Bethune”, and Worthington asserted that Bethune is “Virtually unknown in Canada” (which is perhaps paraphrased from "Virtually unknown in his homeland" in Wikipedia's article on Bethune). Hence they both picked up the license to lie and to mislead.

“Bethune first moved to Spain to fight for communism in the Spanish civil war”, Malcolm wrote, but ignored the fact that Bethune went there to fight the Franco regime funded by Nazi Germany and Italian fascists [3]. The fact is also omitted in Worthington’s article. Yes, the opposition against the dictatorship was ruthlessly crashed, and Dr. Bethune was on the losing side, but the noble doctor had always been on the side of the weak and the poor all his life. As Worthington has acknowledged, “as a medical doctor he was ahead of his time and genuinely saw socialized medicine as the way to go…… After serving briefly as a stretcher-bearer in WWI, he completed his medical degree at the University of Toronto, and then joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon-lieutenant…… he developed battlefield blood transfusions that cut down deaths caused by loss of blood” (All of these can be found in the Wikipedia article). In short, peoples of the world, especially the poor and the weak, are still benefiting from the pioneering work by Dr. Bethune. No one, except for the few wicked ones, should feel ashamed to claim the doctor as our fellow Canadian.

But then, how Dr. Bethune became “Canada’s Traitor” in the words of Worthington? In a similar vein, Malcolm handed out her judgement that “Bethune was no hero. He betrayed Canadian values. He essentially defected from Canada to fight for a foreign army”.

And the substantiation for the judgment? Because he went to China to fight the Japanese Imperial Army butchering innocent Chinese children and raping Chinese women!

Dr. Bethune went to China to help in the war against Japanese Imperial Army during the darkest period of the war, with bombing and shelling around him most of the time. He could not stand alone after having been shown the brutal massacre of Chinese people carried out by Japanese soldiers. The weak and the poor needed help, so he took the long journey.

He was right at the war frontier. Most of his surgical operations were done close to the enemy line. Whenever a wounded soldier asked him to retreat to safety, he always had the almost stereotyped answer, “No, my child, no one has the right to leave without caring for you.”

No surgical operation can be perfectly accurate and precise when bombs and shells are falling next to you. So in one fateful operation, Dr. Bethune accidentally inflicted a cut at his finger and contracted a fatal bacterial infection, to which he eventually succumbed.

Dr. Bethune is not the only western medical doctor participating in the fight against Japanese armies in China. Another doctor is Jakob Rosenfeld, well-known as “Bid-nose magic doctor” among soldiers and officers healed by him. He did not die in war and decided to go back to his homeland in Austria. A statue of him was also erected, and a hospital was named after him in China. There are many others, including Japanese who fought on the side of Chinese and sacrificed their young lives. It is the sacrifice of people like them that ultimately resulted in the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945.

In his death-bed, Dr. Bethune did express his wish to send a letter to Tim Buck, and Worthington mean-spiritedly emphasized that Tim Buck was the leader of Canadian Communist Party, as if a letter to a communist leader must imply a mortal sin beyond redemption. For the benefit of English readers, I will translate part of the letter from Chinese to English:

“Dear Commander Nie:

Today I am not feeling well…… perhaps we will part forever. Please send a letter to Tim Buck (Secretary of Canadian Communist Party) at 10 Wellington St, Toronto, Canada.

Please also send the same letter to International Committee of Aid to China [4] and Canadian Democracy and Peace Alliance [4]. Let them know that I am very happy here. I only wish to contribute more. These letters can be written in Chinese and be translated on the other side.

My photos, diaries, documents, films, etc., should also be mailed to Toronto and let Tim Buck look after the distribution. Let him know that one film should soon be finished. Put all these in a box, use the $18 given to me from Mr. Lin for the mailing expenses. The box should be very strong, wrapped in leather belt and strengthened with three ropes.

Please request some living expenses for my ex-wife from International Committee of Aid to China, either in a lump sum or periodic support. I am heavily indebted to her, and should never leave her in poverty. Please explain to her that I am very sorry. Please also let her know that I was very happy with her before.

The two camp beds are gifts for you and your wife, so are the two pairs of leather shoes. The riding boots and pants are for Commander Lv. Please leave some souvenirs for General He Long…….

Medical books and the alarm clock are for the Health School.

The last two years is the happiest and most significant period of my life……

I can’t write more. A thousand thanks to you and millions of my dear comrades.

Norman Bethune”

It is a simple letter. A letter that divides his love and compassion between the two countries that he loved. Dr. Bethune is not just a Canadian. He belongs to both Canada and China.

If Dr. Bethune does not exemplify Canadian value, then who does?

I read the articles by Peter Worthington and Candice Malcolm several times trying to find any good reasons for their assertion that Dr. Bethune is “Canada’s Traitor”. It turned out that neither claimed to know much about the doctor. They had come up with two capital crimes. First, Bethune was praised by Chairman Mao who later became a dictator. Second, Worthington claimed to have an old friend, Michel Gauvin, who did not like Bethune. Michel Gauvin was Canadian Ambassador to China (1980-84), and Worthington alleged that Gauvin confided to him that he (Gauvin) strongly disapproved Norman Bethune and expressed his strong feeling against Bethune to Chinese Foreign Minister in the very first welcoming banquet in his honour. This sounds rather unusual for a skilled diplomat. Unfortunately, Michel Gauvin died a long time before Peter Worthington put words into his mouth (and Worthington repeated the story multiple times, perhaps in an attempt to make it sound a bit more realistic). Even if the Gauvin story is true, Gauvin's opinion of Bethune is just his personal opinion. Similarly, Stalin praised many heroes, within and beyond Russia, who sacrificed their lives defending their homeland against Nazi invasion. Does Stalin's praise transform those heroes to villains?

And that concludes the reality of Canadian journalism. We expect journalists to disseminate truth, but only observe an extraordinary zeal of spreading falsehood, by repeating oneself multiple times in the case of Peter Worthington, and repeating others in the case of Candice Malcolm. I do not see a traitor of Canada, but I do see two betrayers of their own trade.

What else can I say? Norman Bethune is my hero, so is Jakob Rosenfeld and many others who dedicated their productive years helping the poor and the weak. I don’t know if Peter Worthington and Candice Malcolm have any heroes in their mind, other than a pitiful ego writ gigantic.

[1] http://www.torontosun.com/2016/08/31/canadas-worship-of-norman-bethune-misguided

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/peter-worthington/bethune-china_b_1909347.html

[3] From Wikipedia’s entry of Francisco Franco: “Franco's Nationalist faction received military support from fascist regimes and groups, especially Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy, while the Republican side was supported by Spanish communists and anarchists as well as help from the Soviet Union, Mexico, and the International Brigades. Leaving half a million dead, the war was eventually won by Franco in 1939. He established a military dictatorship, which he defined as a totalitarian state.[3] Franco proclaimed himself Head of State and Government under the title El Caudillo (the Chief), a term similar to Il Duce (Italian) and Der Führer (German). Under Franco, Spain became a one-party state with a merger of the monarchist party and the fascist party that helped him during the war, the FET y de las JONS, while all other political parties were outlawed.”

[4] Literal translation from Chinese and may not correspond to the official name of the organization.