Friday, October 24, 2014

No. Just No.

As I had expected, the first steps in the Harper Government's overreaching reaction to this week's events in Ottawa are starting to surface.  

Introducing Harper's Thought Police:

Sources suggest the government is likely to bring in new hate speech legislation that would make it illegal to claim terrorist acts are justified online. 
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Thursday that Canada’s law and policing powers need to be strengthened in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest. He said work is already under way to provide law enforcement agencies with “additional tools” and that work will now be expedited. 
The dilemma faced by law enforcement agencies was highlighted by the case this week of Martin Couture-Rouleau.
Wait a second here.  First of all, the notion of "terrorism" is remarkably vague.  As has been pointed out before, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".

Just consider this for a moment.  A law like this is highly subjective in its enforcement.  Speak out against the actions of an oppressive government, and you could be "condoning terrorism", or if you speak on behalf of an oppressed people, suddenly that becomes a "crime" for which you can be arrested and detained.

I want to bring to your attention section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this country:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(bfreedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
So, think about this, the Harper Government wants to arbitrarily constrain this right to speak out on various topics.  The notion of what constitutes "terrorism" is subject to the momentary views of the government.  In this government's case, I imagine that speaking out on behalf of the Palestinian peoples would be considered "terrorism", as would criticizing the invasion of Iraq.

Unless these measure have incredibly precise definitions associated with them, it is not going to be much of a leap for these laws to make an entire class of political prisoners in this country - people who just happen to view things differently from the official views of our politicians.

Yes, I said that - political prisoners - for that is what this government is creating.  For those of us who remember the Cold War era, in Russia, such people were called "dissidents" and imprisoned; and China has quite a collection of "ideological prisoners" as well.  Such honourable company to be keeping as a nation.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Closer You Look ...

The closer one looks at the ISIS thing, the more it starts looking like a sectarian war in the Middle East.  Yesterday in the Globe and Mail, Robert Fowler very nicely articulated the problem with short term solutions to the mess in Iraq, and today I spotted a really interesting read describing some of the reasons behind the apparent lack of response from several Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia.

As is typical of these situations in the region, it is starting to become apparent that for all of its bloodiness, ISIS is simply another sectarian feud spilling out into the open.  Saudi Arabia is divided at the top because some people see ISIS as a challenge to Iran's Shiite beliefs and aggression and therefore a "good thing".

Suddenly, western powers are in the awkward place of having to somehow justify going after ISIS in Syria when they have all turned their backs on the Assad regime there.  (which is nominally secular(ish))

Yes, the beheadings are grisly and vile acts.  Yes, we know that radicals are now recruiting from around the world - using tactics and techniques which are neither particularly new or innovative - they are more or less the standard tactics of recruitment used by extremist religious leaders for decades if not centuries.

Is ISIS really any different than the Taliban in Afghanistan in the late 90s?  Or al Qaeda during the early 2000s?  Not particularly.  They are enacting more or less a variation on the usual quasi-tribal violence that has wracked the region for decades and longer.

While Harper is all hot to trot to drag Canada into a moral war to stop ISIS, he and his followers are missing the fundamental point.  This is a sectarian war in a region where we have no political capital left.  The western powers, all of them, have had too much to do with supporting heinous regimes over the last hundred years; and a set of borders which have little to do with the political and social realities of the region.

In 2000 years of assorted interventions in these countries, there is but one lesson for foreign powers:  Direct intervention is doomed to fail.  The Roman occupation of the Arab lands was a gong show from the start, and every intervention since has ultimately failed at the cost of much treasure and more innocent lives.  To claim that intervening against ISIS is going to turn out any differently is to ignore not only the lessons of the past, but worse to repeat its mistakes.

It is this writer's opinion that while the western powers can intervene legitimately in the realms of politics and humanitarian aid, the powers of the region must work through whatever sectarian differences they may have and develop their borders and governments accordingly.  We may not like what we see happening, but our political capital has been spent there for a long time, at least back to the withdrawal of the colonial powers if not longer.

For those who feel there is a "moral imperative" to intervene, there are interventions which will make a difference, but none of them involve bombs, guns or tanks.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

So, We're Going To War...

It comes as no surprise that Harper is all hot and bothered about jumping into the quagmire that is the Middle East.  He wanted to commit Canada to invading Iraq back when Shrub and his gang of morons were gearing up to invade in 2003.

Canadians should be more than a little skeptical of the motives involved here.  Harper has been itching for an open war for some time, and whether it is in the Middle East or Ukraine doesn't really matter to him.  The goal is a shooting war.  Something he can use for maximum photo-op glamorization of himself.

With his party tanking in the polls at home, he's looking for an adversary that he can demonize and make as scary as possible.  Conservative governments seem to feed on fear, and Harper is no exception to this.  An adversary like ISIS is ideal from a propaganda point of view.  They are obviously well armed, very well funded and violent.  Harper can, and no doubt will, create all kinds of false bogeymen related to ISIS.  Expect to hear lots of "terrorist plot foiled" headlines in the coming months.  ISIS is the new al Qaeda.

Harper's personal popularity has been tanking as the public finally takes note of a legislative agenda that is at odds with the day to day values of Canadians, a series of corruption scandals involving star senate appointees, and continued efforts to discredit the entirety of our institutions of government so that he can justify consolidating more and more power in his own hands.

There is much speculation about when the next election will be held.  Harper's "fixed election dates law" says Oct 19, 2015; but there are many other scenarios.  Harper could call a snap election this winter, hoping that his core voters will come out and vote while others stay at home warming themselves in front of the fire.

Or he could hang on into 2016 when this parliament expires under the constitution.  At that point in time, he could try appealing to the house for an extension.  In which case, expect the propaganda around ISIS and terrorism in general to ramp up dramatically over the next months as Harper tries to whip things into a frenzy of fear.

The last probability is for Harper to step aside in the Spring of next year, and have the CPC go through a leadership race during the summer months, and ride that into a fall election, with a "renewed" CPC headed up by the likes of Jason Kenney.

Either way, I suspect strongly that Harper's desire to jump into war in the Middle East has more to do with the upcoming election.  If he has to put Canada's military men and women in harm's way, that doesn't bother him one little bit.  It's just one more photo-op.