"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Ben Franklin
The world has endured another terrorist attack. Terrorists gunned down cartoonists and satirists at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo on January 7th.
In Canada, Cpl Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent were killed late last year by self-proclaimed Muslim avengers.
The War on Terrorism has been raging since planes knocked down the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001.
Canadians have long felt insulated from the rush to hysteria and paranoia that has gripped many of our allies but now we're right in the thick of it.
I was a member of the Conservative movement for many years because I believed that national security should be a top priority for any government. I left the Conservative movement and am now running for the NDP because I still believe national security should be a top priority for any government.
Stephen Harper is already gearing up for a full-blown campaign of fear in the coming election. He'll position himself as the strongest leader to protect us from the terrorists hiding in every closet and under ever roadside rock in the country.
Regardless, Harper has made it clear he intends to bring in new security laws that will greatly enhance the powers of the state over Canadian citizens. He has already dragged us into the Iraq quagmire after we wisely stayed out of it in 2003.
Before Canadians buy into this hogwash, there's just one question we must ask ourselves; is the approach we've taken in the War on Terror working?
Is the neo-conservative approach to national security making us safer?
Terrorism is a threat we must confront. Are we confronting it effectively, rationally and in a manner that doesn't change who we are as a free people?
Here are a few facts to chew on:
Afghanistan is now a cesspool of violence ran by warlords where the Taliban is gaining strength by the day. The country's heroin exports have hit record highs.
Iraq is an absolute disaster where ISIS was able to conquer 50 per cent of that ramshackle, bombed-out, broken nation in less than a month.
The Global Terrorism Index reports that terrorist attacks increased by 44 per cent while terrorist-related deaths increased by 61 per cent in 2013 alone.
This doesn't even begin to discuss the ongoing catastrophes in Libya where ISIS is headquartered. Since we took sides in the Libyan civil war, there is still no working government. It uses that broken country as a training ground for its fighters and funnels money through Libya to fund its combat operations.
This is not unlike Syria where we also took sides in that civil war and 200,000 Syrians have died in the last three years. Stephen Harper himself said the hideous Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people in summer of 2013 but now we're helping Assad bomb his own country.
Then there's Egypt where an entire nation is teetering on the brink of war after the 'Arab Spring' relapsed into an 'Arab Winter' and the military has taken control.
There are many others on the blood soaked list of Middle East massacres, aided and abetted by neo-conservative foreign policy in the West.
Does this sound like success to you?
This is what our leaders in the West have achieved since 2001 in their quest to stomp out terrorism. Two countries are now completely broken by full blown invasion, others through bombardment and different forms of Western interference. Those nations are now being run by thugs and murderers while global terrorism is booming.
This is what happens when you demolish entire nations. They become easy pickings for maladjusted killers like ISIS to walk in and conquer a demoralized population with no effort.
Here's another question to consider; if we double down on the same failed policies that created this mess in the first place will that fix the problem?
Insanity has been famously defined as doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. I can't think of a more fitting word to describe neo-conservative foreign policy than 'insane'.
Our brothers and sisters in Britain and America have been led to the abattoir by pitiful leadership. The citizens of those two great nations can be forgiven because their entire political leadership bought into the neo-conservative approach of invading foreign countries, smashing them to pieces all while curtailing civil liberties at home to fight terrorism.
In Britain, the Labour Party under Tony Blair became George W. Bush's biggest mouthpiece for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has continued this ignoble policy and expanded it.
FOX news conspiracies aside, Barack Obama has continued and escalated the same foreign policy initiated by President Bush before him. His withdrawal from Iraq followed the timelines drawn up by American Generals under his predecessor.
When voters have no options because everyone is saying the same thing, they are not held entirely culpable for the misguided policies foisted upon them by their governments.
Canadians will not have the same excuse. Our children will judge us for how we handle ourselves in the face of terrorist belligerence today because we DO have an alternative.
As Stephen Harper is dragging us into failed and futile foreign conflicts while curtailing the rights and freedoms thousands of Canadian soldiers bled and died to defend, Tom Mulcair has been a sane, stolid and courageous voice calling for a new approach to the terrorist menace.
His speech in Parliament opposing Canada's participation in the endless Iraq debacle was spot on.
As the NDP leader has been calling on Canadians to remain strong and steadfast in the face of these hostilities, Justin Trudeau has been making penis jokes about our CF-18s, joking about hockey while Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and musing aloud about the misunderstandings of the Boston Marathon bombers.
The Liberal Party of Canada is going to learn a hard lesson about the dangers of putting a man at the helm of an organization who is more interested in being cool than in being a leader.
Canadians have a choice in the coming election. We are without excuses to our children.
We can keep heading down the current path of less freedom and more terrorism. We can burn through billions of dollars chasing windmills throughout the Middle East which will only further destabilize that already volatile region.
This is Stephen Harper's vision.
It's a coward's vision that will appeal to weaklings -- the paranoid and the easily frightened in Canada. It panders to those who run and hide during a fight. It will satisfy those who would rather feel safe than actually be safe. And it will win over the spineless wimps amongst us who would gladly trade away their blood-bought gift of liberty for the illusion of security.
I will have none of it. Tom Mulcair will have none of it either.
When Anders Breivik killed 77 Norwegians and wounded nearly 400 others, the gallant people of Norway put him in jail and refused to contort their society around the worst amongst them. They carried on.
When Charlie Hebdo was attacked, the French flooded into the streets in an inspiring show of solidarity with their free speech martyrs. They didn't run and hind. They refused to be intimidated. They stood up.
We must do the same.
So, what is to be done?
The Middle East is such a mess that there are no simple solutions but that doesn't mean there's nothing we can do.
Here are a few ideas and guiding principles for going forward. Take them or leave them.
1) Freedom of speech, thought, religion, expression and assembly are sacrosanct. Tolerate zero infringements by the state regardless of the justifications it offers.
2) The War on Terrorism is a war of shadows not battlefields. It will be won through intelligence gathering, infiltration and use of our special forces. It will not be won through invading and occupying other countries then bombing them into the Stone Age. Case in point -- the West invaded Iraq and Afghanistan only to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
3) We will not conquer asymmetrical forces using traditional military tactics. Vietnam should have taught us this lesson. Iraq and Afghanistan ought to have reinforced this lesson. There are limits to what hard power (invasion, bombardment, etc.) can achieve when fighting non-state actors like ISIS or Al-Qaida.
4) If we truly love our soldiers half as much as we claim to on Twitter and Facebook, start pressuring our politicians to adequately fund and staff Veterans Affairs. Reopening the VA offices would be a good start. Ending the $1.1 billion claw back that's been happening since 2006 would be another. Our soldiers will be far more willing to fight for us if they know we've got their back. The underfunding of Veterans Affairs for the last 20 years is a national disgrace.
5) We must isolate terrorists within their own communities. Our goal is not to get people like Osama bin Laden to like us. Terrorist leaders need to be tracked down and arrested or killed (see point 2 on this list). The question is how do we keep the vast majority of any given society from joining the ranks of ISIS, Al Qaida or Hezbollah? There are many things that can be done to win over hearts and minds but dropping iron fragmentation bombs in densely populated regions is not one of them.
6) We must deny groups like ISIS a propaganda victory. Rather than us riding in like crusaders every few years, let's lean on our allies in the region to ante up. We sent six CF-18s half way around the world to bomb Iraq when Saudi Arabia is right next door with 700 planes ready for combat. Turkey is a member of NATO and a regional superpower that borders the north of Iraq. Let's pressure them to take up the fight. Let's encourage the Peshmerga forces in the North or Iraq who are already fighting ISIS and let's work to strengthen the feeble government in Baghdad so it can finally assert sovereignty over all of Iraq's territory. Leaning on Islamic countries to fight against ISIS and Al-Qaida will make it harder for those groups to set themselves up as the Muslim warriors fighting the Western infidels -- an image they relish and play to great advantage.
7) Set reasonable goals! No politician can fully expunge terrorism from the world. No law passed can fully protect citizens from every conceivable threat posed by madmen living in our midst. We must take a rational, realistic approach that lessens the threat as much as possible while preserving our way of life as free citizens.
8) Carry on! Live, laugh and love to the fullest. We've been hit before and we will suffer tragedy again in the future. You can choose to cower or you can choose to stand. I'm going to stand. I hope you'll stand with me.
Canada is at the crossroads. What kind of nation do we want?
The choice is yours.
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