Emerging Home Front
PM Paul Martin was in Scotland attending the G8 meeting when, on 7 July 2005, bombers struck across London, claiming over fifty lives and injuring perhaps dozens more. Exactly two weeks later, the terrorists hit again; this time only a few Londoners were injured, and there were no deaths.
Egypt is now the target. On 23 July 2005 a series of car bombs went off in the tourist resort area of Sharm el-Sheik. So far 88 are reported dead, and fears are the toll may escalate in the coming hours. In addition, at least 120 have been wounded.
The terrorists appear to be intensifying their actions. But why, and why now? Are these terror attacks some sort of end-game, or do they foreshadow something much bigger, much more menacing, say perhaps a far wider conflict that is now simply in its earliest stages? Years ago media reported that Al-Qaeda masterminds sought to get their hands on nuclear devices. While “dirty bombs” are not likely to kill many, they may have the important effect of generating waves of mass panic and anxiety. As one report from 2001 noted, “At a meeting of senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan within the last year, a member of the terrorist network displayed a cylinder and said it contained radiological material that could be used in a so-called ‘dirty bomb,’ according to U.S. officials…A ‘dirty bomb’ is a conventional explosive laced with radioactive materials designed more to terrify people than to kill large numbers, experts said” [CNN 4 December 2001. Posted at http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/12/04/ret.nuclear.report/?related
]. Reports that terror networks have renewed their interest in nuclear materials are beginning to resurface.
Meanwhile, Ottawa has spent decades downgrading and degrading its security and military capacities. At the political and top bureaucratic levels, there is the ongoing preoccupation with portraying Canada as a peacekeeper, indeed ready to intervene, but in order to offer reconstruction and aid where failed states are in critical need of repair. But could things in the nation’s capital now be changing? Are members of Canada’s elite trading in their complacency, and starting to realize the terror threat may be real, even in and for this country? For a long time, it has been common knowledge that Canada is on a shadowy terror-network hit list along with 19 other states. That Canada and only one other nation have not been targeted may suggest this country is perhaps somehow immune. And is this what our officials are thinking and believing?
In recent days and weeks, Deputy PM and Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan has commented on “a new normal” developing across the West since the London bombings. While she says there is no specific threat to Canadians, she acknowledges much more has to be done to deal with any potential threat of terrorism. She reportedly notes “would-be terrorists walk among us” and has been quoted saying “I believe - I know - that there are those in this country who, either alone or with others, might at some point choose to do harm.” But Tory Leader Stephen Harper cautions all this may be little more than rhetoric. “I believe we're awfully complacent…This unfortunately tends to be the situation until people are actually faced with a terrorist incident. The basic co-ordination of our security agencies has not been done in this country,” he says [all citations in this paragraph appear in “McLellan Assures Canadians No Threat Here After Second London Bombing,” by Stephen Thorne and Alexander Panetta, National Post
, 23 July 2005. Posted at http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=0b698899-853b-4532-87a7-405bc25cdb59
Then there was a recent incident involving Canada’s top military official, General Rick Hillier. Our troops are now in southern Afghanistan, and what they are likely to encounter, Hillier publicly dubbed “detestable murderers and scumbags [Taliban]…They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties.” Members of the Polaris Institute, a left-leaning foreign affairs think tank asked the General’s remarks be clarified. This was rejected. And PM Martin went farther, defending Hillier, saying “The point he [Hillier] is simply making is we are at war with terrorism and we're not going to let them win” [citations in this paragraph appear in “‘Murderous Scumbag’ Shot Par for the Course for New Defence Chief; No Reprimand,” by Stephen Thorne, CP, 15 July 2005. Posted at http://www.cp.org/english/online/full/National/050715/n071542A.html
So, are recent events forcing real changes on how foreign affairs are done in Ottawa? This will have to be answered in time.
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