By PATRICK HUNTER
So Canada is off to war, again. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his band of “merry men and women” have decided that after sticking Canada’s toes into the water that is the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), it will now put a foot in.
The premise of the Harper government’s action is that ISIS poses a serious threat against Canada and Canadians. So, it is incumbent on us to stand with our allies who face similar threats, to defeat them before the threat has a more direct impact on Canada.
Think back for a moment to the post-911 world. President George W. Bush wanted Canada to join in the invasion of Iraq. The premise of that undertaking was to remove Saddam Hussein from power – regime change in political parlance – and destroy the build-up of his arsenal of nuclear weapons. Remember, to make its case, the Bush co-conspirators fed then-Secretary of State, Colin Powell, fake information to deliver to the United Nations Security Council proving that the nuclear arsenal was real.
Anyway, Canada’s then-prime minister, Jean Chretien, said no. Harper, who was then the leader of the Canadian Alliance, wanted Canada to be involved.
Could this venture be an attempt to discredit the Chretien decision these many years later?
Our current venture was supposed to be short-lived. A half-dozen F-16s with the supporting personnel were dispatched. No actual boots on the ground in the war itself, just participation in air attacks. If that directive held, those troops and equipment would be getting ready to return to Canada.
Instead, Harper sought, and with his parliamentary majority, won the approval of Parliament to extend the action, not only over time, but area as well. That means that Canada may extend its attack region into Syria, notwithstanding the fact that it has not, nor will it seek, the permission of the Syrian leader.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no love for Assad. His desire to hold on to power by waging war on his own citizens is not my idea of good leadership.
But for Canada to be prepared to essentially invade another sovereign territory, for a reason that is less than obvious to me, that presents a problem.
We have already lost one soldier in this “not-on-the-frontlines” war. And while I sincerely hope there won’t be other losses, because it is war, we should expect more. Those are real bullets. Will innocent citizens in Syria be out of harm’s way when Canada attacks?
On the basis of some terrorist attacks in different parts of the world, and a couple of “lone-wolf” attacks, the Harper government introduced legislation to further increase the powers of surveillance against our residents (citizens and non-citizens alike). There are also reports of young people who have already left Canada, or planning to leave, to join up with ISIS or other terrorist forces.
This is the heightening of fear. We are being lulled into a crisis mode. It is the kind of mode that will have us suspecting and reporting our neighbours for “suspicious behaviour”, especially if they are Muslims.
Could this also be one of the reasons why the prime minister has taken such a strong stance against niqab-wearers?
We have seen this act before locally. One of the proposed reactions to the so-called summer of the gun was to increase penalties for illicit gun possession. The Supreme Court overturned the mandatory minimum of three years for a first offense.
It probably should not come as a surprise that the Conservatives, and particularly under the leadership of Harper, have adopted the politics of fear. It is a growing epidemic among leaders in the western world. What is worrisome is that it uses the same old tired line of “we are under serious threat to our freedom and our way of life”, or words to that effect. So, they introduce legislation that limits our freedoms and civil rights, and take action militarily against a paper tiger. And that is supposed to make us feel more secure.
We all know that governments lie. Whether it is to “protect” us or to avert panic, they use the art of communication to paper over the real reasons. So, sometimes, I suppose, there is a need to lie to us. But, there are lies and then there are bare-faced lies. The latter is often for political gain. We are in an election year, and the need to shore up popular support is necessary. The gut-wrenching reality is that many buy into the bare-faced lies as some of the public opinion polls suggest.
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