Sunday, November 19, 2006

Reality Check for Canadian Prime Minister

The Right Honourable
Stephen Harper

As it has been in the past, and shall no doubt be again in the future, there is once again an instance where a major political figure (if Canada’s prime minister can be considered that … ok, stop laughing) is in need of a serious reality check. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised … well, to tell the truth, I may have exaggerated, just a tiny bit. Actually, in all honesty I’m not. Quite frankly, it’s taking every bit of self-control for me to not spit-up my coffee all over my keyboard … but it’s good coffee, and I don’t really want to buy a new keyboard at the moment.

Don’t get me wrong though, my exaggeration has absolutely nothing to do with the latest acts of our glorious PM and his seeming ability to walk around in a world of his own (this wouldn’t be too much of a problem save for the fact that his world bears striking little resemblance to the real world which is, alas, the one that everyone else, including his constituents, live). The problem has reared its head through an article published today in a Canadian Press article about the prime ministers trip to Hanoi for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The headline of the article is actually what caught my attention at first: “Harper declares his government has a gutsier style on the world stage”, but the story itself is well worth reading.

The first thing that jumped out was something that I had heard on the radio while still in bed this morning. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC Radio, and television for that matter, for those non-Canadian’s out there … the equivalent to the U.S. NPR, or the U.K. BBC) news broadcast that I was listening to when I had finally shaken the sleep from my head was covering the APEC summit in great detail (well, our PM is there … it IS news!).

One of the things that I remember having heard was that Prime Minister Harper had met with the Chinese President, but was only able to raise the issue of the case of an imprisoned Chinese-Canadian in Beijing to have the issue dropped without further discussion. The reason? The Chinese government do not acknowledge that this individual, named Huseyin Celil, has a Canadian citizenship, and is therefore protected under any treaties or consular protections offered to other individuals. Since Celil is a naturalized Canadian when he returned to China he was arrested and detained there under Chinese law (which doesn’t recognize “dual citizenship) with the Chinese government ignoring all requests for access from the Canadian consul.

Huseyin Celil
So, the CBC reported that the issue was a dead rock. Not touched. Not broached. What was Harper’s view of things? Not quite the same … not quite at all:
“Harper pointed to a brief, informal meeting he had with Chinese President Hu Jintao at a reception the night before as evidence of his forcefulness. The two leaders were among 21 gathered in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

He said he raised the case of a Chinese-Canadian, Huseyin Celil, imprisoned by Beijing without access to consular assistance. A few days earlier, he had pressed the Vietnamese prime minister on human rights, including press and religious freedoms.

“We've had very frank discussions with a wide range of leaders, including although it was not a very long discussion, a very frank discussion with President Hu of China - a distinct impression, if I may say that, that the Chinese aren't used to that from a Canadian government, but I can't speak for them,” Harper said at the end of the APEC gathering.”
This idea of a Canadian government being more “frank” in their discussions with others is what fed the delusion that Prime Minister Harper’s version of government was “gutsier” than the previous versions. It is this idea that I find not only amusing but, in all honesty, quite frankly, disturbing. It is amusing simply because this “gutsier” government of Prime Minister Harper is a minority government and the PM is well aware of the fact (a fact, mind you, not a theory, not a conjecture; not an hypothesis nor a suggestion, an actual bona fide fact) that there is absolutely nothing that can be accomplished by his “government” without the cooperation of at least one of their political opponents in the House of Parliament.

Prime Minister Harper is also quite cognizant of the fact that the only reason the Liberals haven’t forced a vote of non-confidence in the House is simply because they haven’t had their Leadership Convention, which will take place at the beginning of December, in Montreal. The “grace period” that the Conservatives have been enjoying had been a gift as a result of the resignation of Paul Martin as leader of the party, otherwise it is not likely that this government would have lasted more than ninety days (though the voter backlash for having another election so soon would likely have resulted in a Conservative majority, but that’s another story).

One of the other things, according the prime minister that qualifies as being “gutsier” has to do with his position on other world events:
“The prime minister also alluded to his public statements at previous international gatherings. At the Francophonie Summit in September, Harper insisted that the other leaders acknowledge the plight of not just Lebanese citizens embroiled in the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, but also of Israeli victims.”
Harper insisted that other leaders acknowledge the plight of the Israeli victims. Now, as you know, I am Jewish, and my father lives in Jerusalem, so I have a vested interest in there being a “peace in the land”. At the same time, I cannot ignore simple facts: one cannot have a victim without having an aggressor. When you answer a stone with a bullet, a bullet with a bomb, an unguided ‘model rocket’ missile with precision munitions and airs strikes that kill 11 members of a family that had nothing to do with anything, you are NOT on the same level with those whom you are fighting.

Israel’s “war against terror” is entirely lopsided. The only way it could be more in favour of the IDF would be if they used tactical nuclear weapons against the Hezbollah rocket sites. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that the United States hasn’t surreptitiously dropped a few MK-33’s into a “care” package addressed to the IDF c/o Olmert and said, “here, guys, be done with it already”. Considering that the U.S. is pathologically incapable of demonstrating the intestinal fortitude necessary to say that Israel’s actions are not acceptable, I don’t understand why giving them a few nukes should be a problem. Where is the ethical dilemma for the nation that started a war against the country that had absolutely nothing to do with the largest terrorist attack to have taken place on their nation’s soil?

By the way, as an historical aside (and since it gives me a chance to talk about nukes – which I NEVER get to do), here is a small bit about TNA shells. Tactical nuclear artillery shells were designed by the United States as early as 1953, for deployment in against the “Western Front”, the likely incursion point in Europe where the “Red Menace” would make its move against the free peoples of the western democracies on “this side” of the iron curtain. Several models were developed over the decades, though thankfully they were never been (in one dark historical blemish Richard Nixon considered their use against the North Vietnamese in 1969, but someone had the presence of mind to convince him that this wasn’t the best way to make a name for himself in the history books … I guess he wanted to be the second American president to commit mass murder … oh well, he had his chance … so, in order to make a name for himself he turned to larceny).

The fact that these used to be in the hands of second level field commanders during the Cold War is a chilling fact indeed, especially when you consider the potential yield of these weapons. The very first model produced, which bore the moniker “W-9” began its production in 1953 and had a yield of 15 Kilo tonnes of TNT, which happens to be the same yield as the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Hiroshima, after "Little Boy"
Now, think about this for a moment: in 1945 it took the USAF’s most powerful aircraft, the B-29 Superfortress, to deliver the first atomic “devices” to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These first bombs were so heavy that they had to strip all of the “extras” out of the B-29’s … things like the extra defensive guns and such, nothing too important. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima, “Little Boy”, weighed in at a mere 8,900 pounds while the bomb that was delivered to the residents of Nagasaki, “Fat Man” was a plutonium device and weighed in at an impressive 10,300 pounds.

The W-9 only weighs about 800 pounds and could deliver the same punch as the bomb weighing 8,900 pounds, and yet this is dwarfed by the latest in American advancements in the art of mass destruction.

The W-79 (the "neutron bomb)
The W-79, which is stockpiled today (there are 550 in storage … somewhere) has two variants, one of which is called the “pure fission” mode, or “enhanced radiation”, otherwise known as the “neutron bomb” – something that Israel would be particularly interested in as it would only kill the people without harming the structures (for a change). This is also a perfect weapon for Israel as it has variable yields. It can be “dialled back” to 100 tonnes of TNT to as much as 1.1 kilo tonnes. A blast the size of Hiroshima in Israel would probably not go over too well, but this shell could solve all of their problems, real quick.

You see, it is this kind of delusional thinking that gets people into trouble. The very idea that the use of tactical nuclear weapons is something should be even remotely considered is tantamount to having committed mass murder yourself; it doesn’t really matter if you have personally murdered anyone, just having conceived an idea as heinous as that is tantamount to committing the act. There is no way in the world that we can solve problems with the use of these weapons and the fact that the United States is still maintaining a stockpile of them indicates that they aren’t really as interested in creating an atmosphere of “world peace” as they are of maintaining an attitude of intimidation by acting like the school-yard bully, walking around with a .44 Magnum in their back pocket.

The fact that Canada’s prime minister doesn’t have the guts to stand up and say that Israel has been killing innocent civilians is indicative of the fact that the headline to the Canadian Press article was a journalistic play on words: this government is gutless. They are afraid of doing anything that may, God forbid, cause a controversy, or lose them some of their precious donations. Harper knows that if he is critical of Israel he will lose the support of the “pro-Israel” groups in Canada. What he doesn’t realize is that he would gain the support of all the “anti-Israel” groups (who likely outnumber the former by quite a few).

Quite frankly, I hope he doesn’t figure this out for himself; I’d rather not see him get elected – again. As the rest of the Canadian Press article continued to unfold there were more and more examples of how this man exists in a world that seems to have no relationship with the realities that the rest of us experience (is this a prerequisite for political life?).

What the Canadian Press story continued to report regarding the interactions between Prime Minister Harper and the Chinese President Hu Jintao is quite telling on its own, and is enough to prove it all: Harper had previously said that he hoped for a bilateral meeting with the Chinese president, but while travelling to Hanoi he said that the Chinese had withdrawn the offer to meet.

As CP reports it there is a slightly different “spin”, as they say:
“[But] Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters earlier Sunday that they had never planned such a meeting. Hu met with at least six other leaders in the 30-to-60 minute one-on-ones. A Hong-Kong based reporter tried to ask Harper a question about being snubbed by China, but he walked away.”
So, one man’s perception of an event is that there was to be a meeting – one in which I’m sure tremendous things would have occurred, and yet, according to several others, no such meeting was planned. How can this be true? Is it some grand conspiracy to make an intelligent, wise international diplomat appear the fool? Well, one would first have to be a wise, international diplomat … and a fool hath not to be made what he already is, though practice doth make perfect ones craft.

“There is something rotten in Denmark,” the Bard would have said, though in this case it is in Hanoi.

If our prime minister can attend a conference with other world leaders and not know whom he has spoke with, and what the topics of discussion were covered, how on earth can he be trusted with the running of the government, something that takes the full faculties of an individual (ok, a questionable statement, but one hopes).

The best came at the end of the article, where our prime minister once again demonstrated his disdain for the Fifth estate … that damn media and the rights of the citizenry to know what their elected officials are up to whilst traipsing about the world:
Harper's staff also blocked Canadian journalists from attending all but the first of Harper's public activities, even while foreign media were present or invited.

“I think if you're going to have frank discussions with other leaders, then you know, except obviously for the broad objectives you're trying to pursue, I think the details of those discussions have to be private,” Harper said. “If you run out of private discussions every 10 minutes and give a play-by-play of everything that was said, nobody will have a frank discussion with you.””
Well, that says it all, doesn’t it: if your government, and its practices have to be transparent, there is no way it will be able to function … and others won’t want to work with you either. It is a statement about our prime minister, but also of those “others” and the nations that they represent.

God bless democracy and the freedom it has granted us all.

Thank you for reading


Anonymous said...

This was a brilliant, obviously very thought out piece. You said in an email to me that "you will be proud of your progeny"... you were right!
Good job... beautifully illustrated... by the best illustrator on the Net.
Keep up the good work!

Frank Partisan said...

It again was a powerful, well written post.

Harper was clearly exposed as delusional.

Anonymous said...

In Gaza you have an ideal democratic system, where they listen to what people have to say, so you should leave Canada right away and go to Gaza.