Friday, July 21, 2006

Still more on Lebanon.

This doesn't look like it's ending any time soon, and it's pretty much all anyone is talking about. So, here's some more on the Israeli/Lebanon horror.

Finally, the evacuation of Lebanese-Canadians is starting to run as it should have from the beginning. Lines are shorter and more controlled, people are waiting in comfortable accommodations instead of under the burning sun with no water, and ships are getting more people out. There's still a long way to go, though (at the current rates, given estimates of how many there are to get out, it would take almost a month to evacuate everyone -- and that's assuming everyone can even get to the ships), and I have sincere concerns about how long it took the government to get their act together on this. Granted they faced difficulties. But how hard would it have been for Harper to pick up the phone and start calling European governments and asking if they could take Canadians while he scrounged for resources in the region? How hard would it have been for him to give instructions to his people on the ground, and to not insist on micromanaging the whole evacuation? In short, how much of the difficulty is the nature of the situation, and how much is really his own damn fault?

Not that it matters, ultimately. He won't take responsibility for it, even when one of the evacuees calls him on it to his face:
These were points she said she made to Mr. Harper when he came to the back of the plane during the trip home from Cyprus. "He just asked me to send him an e-mail."
Which he can then foist off on a secretary and conveniently ignore. Does the man not get that he is responsible for all citizens? (Quote from here, a Globe and Mail article on evacuees arriving in Ottawa).

Delicious little comment in this article on evacuees arriving in Ottawa on Stevie's own jet:
"One of his people ... said to me 'This is a Liberal-appointed ambassador,'" she told reporters. "Well I am sorry. If this is an excuse, and it is a silly excuse I think, well remove him now, and appoint someone who is more qualified." Louis de Lorimier is a career diplomat who, previous to becoming Ambassador to Lebanon, served in Abidjan, Seoul and Paris. He also worked as a ministerial liaison in the office of Joe Clark when he was Secretary of State for External Affairs.
So, essentially, the debacle may be dumped in the lap of a career diplomat, who has served under both Conservative and Liberal administrations. So unlike Bush-style partisanship. Really.

Rick Salutin (remember him) manages to not be a complete idiot in this article. This is wrong:
It is obscene for our government to expend effort rescuing Canadians from a war zone while refusing to call for a ceasefire and working to achieve it. The same conditions threaten Lebanese civilians as menace ours. They are as human and as innocent as our own citizens, and we owe them a moral duty. If evacuation is urgently needed, then so is a ceasefire.
And it is wrong because the government owes a special duty to Canadians, and only a general duty to the Lebanese. The correct course of action is to get Canadians out, then work towards a ceasefire. People you have a special relationship to come first. The rest, however, seems quite sensible.

The imbeciles are coming out of the woodwork. Here we find a letter to the Toronto Star's editor with this little gem:
They went to Beirut to visit her husband's family at a time when the U.S. and Canada were warning its citizens not to travel there. Suddenly, having put themselves in harm's way, Tcholakian discovers her Canadian roots and demands immediate service from the Canadian government (not the Armenian government, nor the U.S. government). Her mother is blaming the government and Stephen Harper for her daughter's dilemma. It seems that if anything goes wrong with any Canadian citizen, the government and, by extension, the Prime Minister are responsible.
It's more than a little arrogant to pretend that "fearing for one's life" is adequately subsumed under the concept "something going wrong". It works, but you have to strip the former of a hell of a lot of content to make it work -- such as the whole "good chance of getting killed" thing. One wonders what this writer thinks the value of Canadian citizenship is if the Canadian government, including its Prime Minister (I have no idea what "by extension" is supposed to mean in this letter), won't step in to help citizens in trouble. For example, if I'm in Japan and get seriously hurt, I can appeal to the local consulate for aid. At the very least, they'll help me negotiate my way through the hospitals. The same seems to apply here.

Also, I'm starting to see a meme appear with regards to the "travel advisories" on Lebanon. Advisories are just that, though -- advisories. Suggestions that the region isn't as safe as it could be. Courses of action one should pursue before travelling there. But they are not forbiddings: they do not prohibit one's travel. (Indeed, if one were prohibited from travelling to Lebanon, I wonder why the consulate is even still open. Who are they providing services to, exactly?) Unless the advisories contained an explicit proviso to the effect that the Canadian government would abdicate its responsibilities to its citizens -- one of the most basic of which, of course, is protecting their lives -- appealing to the advisories won't discharge the government's responsibility one iota.

Finally, what else is one supposed to do, exactly? Short of joining Hezbollah (at least long enough to get some weapons) and trying to fight through the Israeli lines, I mean.

Here's another example of an imbecile. This Star article details some of the conditions on the ships travelling from Lebanon. They ain't nice. Certainly better than being blown up; but, as I have remarked to people in the past, "better" is a comparative, not an absolute. That is, you can always find some situation to contrast with the one at hand such that the latter can be "better": losing one leg is better than losing two; losing two legs is better than losing two plus an arm; losing two legs and an arm is better than being limbless; being limbless is better than being limbless and blind; and so on and so forth. So, the entitled attitude of one of the ship's engineers is really repugnant:
Ian Wilson, one of the vessel's engineers, took issue with the complaints heard yesterday and insisted the boat had done its job — carrying civilians to safety. "A thank you would be nice," he said.
He should be thanked for doing the most barely adequate thing he could (i.e., carrying people out from a warzone in what seems like little more than a waterborne cattle car)? Mr. Wilson should be grateful he wasn't punched in the mouth for his arrogance. Moreover, the idea that saving people from near-certain death deserves gratitude is in itself morally suspect. To be fair, Wilson didonly say it would be "nice" to be thanked -- if we read that literally, then he was only expressing a mild wish for something nice to happen to him. Which is fine. But, very often the "it would be nice to get x" locution (and equivalents) are used as a covert way to make a moral demand. And the idea that he is owed thanks is absurd. First, he and his company have been paid for the service -- such as it was -- they provided. Second, expecting thanks for doing what you are obligated to do is a gross misunderstanding of the nature of obligation. You do what you have to do because you have to do it, not because people will be nice to you afterwards. Doing it for the latter reason undercuts the claim of obligation -- behaviour done for the sake of reward is hardly moral. (Again: certainly it is nice to be thanked for doing what one should; but, if one is not thanked, then one has no right to demand it.)

And, another one. Of course, this one is in Cabinet: let's fisk Mr. Peter MacKay. (Incidentally, shouldn't he be actually trying to rectify the situation instead of writing letters to newspapers? Just asking.)
The Globe and Mail's front-page story suggesting that the Prime Minister's Office - or his Director of Communications - in any way hampered the efforts of the evacuation of Canadians in Lebanon is absolutely and patently false.
Good to know. Here is where a sincere person would offer proof of this claim.
What is particularly unfortunate about your story is that such a statement could make it to the front page of your paper, supported by only unnamed "federal sources" and no effort whatsoever to contact the Prime Minister's Office to verify the accuracy of the claim.
Note that MacKay's strategy is not to offer proof that his statement is true, but smear the basis for the Globe's claims. Also note the suggestion that the Globe and Mail should confirm things with the PMO. Not "ask the PMO what their side is", but "verify the accuracy" of statements by finding out what the PMO thinks. In other words, the Globe and Mail should be a good little newspaper and run press releases, rather than doing its own reporting.
If you have a source that made such a false statement, I want to assure you via this letter that it is completely and absolutely untrue. I would also hope that, the next time the Globe and Mail suggests that the Prime Minister's Office was complicit in putting Canadians in harm's way, you would demonstrate the journalistic integrity to name your source and allow this office to comment on the record for the story.
I love it. "Name the source" -- why, so you can fire them for "leaking"? MacKay just doesn't get the concept of a "whistleblower". As for "commenting on the record", isn't that why they're running his letter? Or is this some different record than the one he'd like to comment on?
The Prime Minister - and his office - has done everything possible to expedite evacuation efforts and has been receiving hourly updates on the status of operations.
See, it's not that Stevie doesn't know how bad things are. He just doesn't care.
The Prime Minister's Office has supported Government officials to leverage every contact and every resource to expedite the evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon.
This is a lovely barrage of verbiage that means exactly this: we're trying. Which is the usual cry of the failure. If you fail to do what you should, you have to have the courage to admit it. You can't try to excuse yourself by saying "well, I tried". "Trying" isn't some sort of minimal doing, the performance of which is always beyond fault. Trying is failing.
The Prime Minister's Office has encouraged Government officials to be as forthcoming and timely with information as possible, while respecting the security protocols required for evacuation planning. The Prime Minister is fully committed to the evacuation of all who choose to leave Lebanon and to ensuring their immediate security and safety.
Note the use of the word "choose" here. I'll take wagers at this point on whether the tens of thousands who can't even get to the ports will be accused of "choosing" to remain in Lebanon.
Given the severity of the current situation and operations in the Middle East, I would strongly encourage you as the Editor in Chief of the Globe and Mail to not allow uninformed and false sniping from the shadows of anonymity.
Again, MacKay hasn't actually proven the statements are "uninformed and false". He's just said they are, and done so on the basis of the "anonymity" of the source. Unfortunately for MacKay, that a source is anonymous doesn't make them wrong. Indeed, the anonymity of the source makes it, in some sense, easier to assess whether they are being truthful -- there's no distraction from the eminence (or lack thereof) of the one speaking.
I strongly believe that such serious allegations require sources that are prepared to go on the record - and stand by their statements in the light of day.
That's nice, but I fail to see why MacKay's personal beliefs on this score are relevant. Particularly given that most "federal sources" are lower down on the chain of command, and peculiarly vulnerable to the vindictive impulses of highly-placed persons like MacKay. As said, it really seems like he wants to know who said this just so he can fire them.
It is profoundly disturbing and disappointing that an institution such as the Globe and Mail would allow such a story to be printed without either naming its source or allowing the Prime Minister's Office to comment.
I wonder: if it had been the National Post rather than the Globe and Mail, would MacKay even be writing this letter? It's an interesting point to mull over.
The very serious allegations you printed are completely untrue and without merit. I sincerely hope in the future that the Globe and Mail takes its responsibilities to Canadians - and the truth - far more seriously than you have today.
This is a very clumsy attempt at diverting attention from the point. The Globe and Mail has some minimal responsibilities to Canadians and the truth; the Canadian government has very strong responsibilities to Canadians, responsibilities which are being wholly inadequately discharged in Lebanon at the current time. Perhaps the Minister for Foreign Affairs could turn off his little laptop, get out of his cushy office, and go and do his job, instead of bitching about reporters trying to do theirs?

Oh, and, there's a kicker at the end of the letter:
In the interests of correcting your false and misleading story today, I am making this letter public via other members of Canada's media.
In other words, the man who considers it unfair for the Globe and Mail to run a story without giving the PMO a chance to respond considers it perfectly fair for him to release a letter critical of that story to friendly members of the media -- without giving the Globe and Mail a chance to respond. This is a pretty slimy example of a bully tactic -- and using the mantle of the Canadian federal government to do it, no less.

Of course, let's not forget King Imbecile himself: our good friend, Dubya. If this is to be believed, Dubya is deliberately letting Israel slaughter civilians and destroy infrastructure in Lebanon.

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