“Still So September 10”?
Just over a year ago, writer Arthur Weinreb filed a piece titled “Canada—Still So September 10” [Canada Free Press
, 29 March 2004. Article posted at http://www.canadafreepress.com/2004/weinreb032904.htm
]. The argument, simply, was that PM Paul Martin understood terrorism had impacted the world, but he remained content to merely acknowledge the fact and do little to change Canada’s policies in response. “What was missing [from Martin]… was any indication that Canada has the resolve to step up the fight against terrorism in the wake of the attacks in Spain. Unlike George W. Bush and Tony Blair, the former high school football player is content to play defense when he’s not simply watching from the sidelines, vigilantly of course,” said Weinreb. The author also argued that the PM had both public sentiment and support on his side: “Canada’s refusal to take the combating of terrorism seriously is perfectly okay with a vast number of Canadians. Many in this country are of the view that because we are so diverse, so tolerant, so nice, so multicultural, terrorist attacks cannot possibly happen here.”
But right about the time Weinreb wrote, Martin seemed to be changing his mind, stating, in no uncertain terms, that terrorism was a priority. But let’s not lose sight of the key issue: was that just rhetoric? Did the announcements about terror amount to little more than concerted efforts to distance the new Ottawa from Chretien’s legacy, and to curry favour with Washington? Martin in fact did go so far as to dub terror this generation’s Cold War. “I believe that terrorism will be, for our generation, what the Cold War was to generations that preceded us,” he insisted [for this and all citations in this paragraph see Stephanie Rubec, “Saddam’s Missing Weapons in Terrorists’ Hands: Martin,” Sun Media, 11 May 2004. Article posted at http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2004/05/11/pf-455210.html
]. And in a move to distance himself even further from Chretien, the then new PM observed poverty and privation were not necessarily always the root causes giving way to this new era Cold War. Terrorism had its roots in ideology and hostile regimes, sophisticated enough to go past hate, right to acquiring, distributing, and concealing weapons of mass destruction. The PM even added he felt Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was behind a WMD trade: “Martin said the threat of terrorism is even greater now than it was following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, because terrorists have acquired nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from the toppled Iraqi leader.” This indeed was a bleak picture. But what was missing was any description of what Martin thought Canada ought to do counter terror.
Today Canada’s top military official, Rick Hillier, is watching as Canadian soldiers deploy in southern Afghanistan, a war zone. He says combat is almost a certainty, and unlike the Prime Minister, dispenses with diplomatic language when explaining what terror is. He argues failed states serve as a breeding ground for both organized crime and the terror networks they support. He describes Canadians as having endured a long slumber, and as a population only now beginning to wake up to the threats posed by the new international order. When Canadian forces arrive in Afghanistan, says Hillier, they will encounter enemies as repugnant as any notorious Canadian serial killer [See, for example, “Failed States Pose Grave Danger, Top General Warns,” by Daniel Leblanc, Globe and Mail
, 23 July 2005. Story posted at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20050723/HILLIER23/TPNational/TopStories
]. But in the latest twist, independent Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish has surfaced as a counterbalance to the pointed rhetoric.
Recent media reports suggest Parrish may be reconciling with the Liberal Party, a development that may not sit well with the PM. In any case, Parrish has been watching Hillier, and she says she finds repugnant many of the General’s opinions, especially perhaps his view that killing is in the job description Canadian soldiers have. In fact, according to at least one report, she “calls Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier ‘dangerous’ and ‘testosterone-fuelled’ for saying the job of Canadian soldiers is to be able to kill people” [cited in Josh Pringle’s “Parrish Calls Top Soldier ‘Dangerous’”, CFRA Talk Radio, 26 July 2005. Story posted at http://www.cfra.com/headlines/index.asp?cat=2&nid=30310
So what does this all mean? Are we “still so September 10”?
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