Thursday, August 03, 2006

Four idiots.

There's some choice quotes here which successfully undercut what lingering respect I had for PM Stevie's intelligence. On Israel as compared to Hezbollah:
"What we refuse to do is to be drawn into a moral equivalence between a pyromaniac and a fireman," Harper stated in a telephone interview with The CJN [Canadian Jewish News]. Israel is well within its rights to defend itself from Hezbollah, a terrorist organization bent on using violence to destroy Israel. If a terrorist organization crossed Canadian borders, kidnapped our soldiers and hurled missiles at our population centres, Canada would do the same as Israel, "fight back," the prime minister said.
While it'd be nice if sweet little innocent Israel was always "putting out fires" started by the mean ol' Hezbollah, in reality, things aren't nearly that clean.
Since the Israelis withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 - after 18 years of oppression over the natives - the still land-mined border has been porous. Far more for the well-equipped Israelis than to Hezbollah. Israel routinely violated Lebanon's airspace and coastal waters, terrorized the area with abductions and damage, retained control over Lebanese territory called Shebaa Farms, and generally got away with it without international news coverage. Since 2000, Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah fighters would ritually eye each other over the border and sometimes engage in skirmishes. Still, Hezbollah and Israel wisely negotiated some prisoner exchanges. Israel had 100 times more prisoners to exchange than did Hezbollah. So on July 12, Hezbollah went for another prisoner exchange by capturing two Israeli soldiers in a firefight, and thought the result would be another such exchange. Big mistake. Even Hezbollah under-estimated the need for each new Israeli Prime Minister to demonstrate his capability for massive mayhem.
The tone of my source article here is blatantly partisan; but, controlling for tone, what's said is disturbing. Hezbollah and Israel have been trading attacks back and forth for years; suddenly, for whatever reason, Hezbollah's latest attack was met with crippling force from Israel. So, who's supposed to be the pyromaniac in the real story, and who the fireman? Stevie won't say, because Stevie refuses to look at reality.
In his statements to The CJN, Harper said, I don’t think the Liberal Party has a coherent position on this."
I find it interesting that he doesn't say the Liberals are wrong, just that their position isn't "coherent". I also note that he doesn't say why the position isn't coherent, only that it isn't.
He said Canada should not treat a democratic state like Israel the same as terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas (Hamas instigated the current crisis when it seized soldier Gilad Shalit on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza.)
The parenthetical insertion, I'm guessing, is the reporter's; unsurprisingly, given the source, it is blatantly pro-Israeli. Problematically for Stevie's view, no one (sane) is suggesting that Israel and Hezbollah or Hamas be treated the same. What's being suggested is that Israel and Lebanon be treated the same: namely, all their citizens have a right to live in their own countries in peace, without bombs raining down on their heads. Additionally, while Dubya-styled paranoid fantasies about terrorists under the bed may make Stevie smile, they really don't stand up to scrutiny. A group like al-Qaeda has no political presence. Hezbollah and Hamas both do -- they run candidates in elections and have members in Parliament. As I'm sure I've said several times already, the better parallel is to Sinn Fein/the IRA. Hezbollah and Hamas are broad political and cultural movements, with paramilitary wings. The paramilitary wings can certainly be classified as terrorists, but it's simply idiotic to tar the political side with the same brush -- indeed, these organizations should be encouraged to develop their political arms and demobilize their paramilitary, rather than being marginalized and (thus) forced into extremist violence.

Of course, this isn't true in Harper-land:

It is unreasonable to engage in dialogue with Hamas and Hezbollah as if they were democratic states. "Hamas and Hezbollah resort to violence not as a tactic, but as a matter of principle," Harper said.
Does Stevie care about the Qana atrocity?
Asked if he stood by his comments that Israel’s response to the Hezbollah attack was "measured," the prime minister said that statement was made early in the crisis, which has turned into "a full-blown conflict." Speaking before the attack on Qana, in which at least 54 civilians were killed, he said Israel has the right to respond to Hezbollah attacks and defend itself.
Although he was apparently interviewed before Qana, he's basically backed himself into a corner. He's allowed Israel pretty much any "response" it wants, as long as they can find some Hezbollah attack to claim they are responding to.

Of course, Harper isn't the only idiot in this article.

Israeli ambassador Alan Baker suggested the government’s position on the conflict was "consistent with Canada’s function as a serious country fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and standing with a state fighting terrorism. Canada’s position is consistent with the position of the international community, which has been repeatedly calling for the dismantling and disarming of Hezbollah in south Lebanon. [It is] completely consistent with Canada’s values of supporting the right of a sovereign state to act in self-defence against a terrorist organization that is part of the world Islamic jihadist attempt to destroy the state of Israel."
I don't know where to start with this one. Okay, first, we have a conspiracy theory about "world Islamic jihadist attempt to destroy the state of Israel". There may well be a number of so-called jihadist groups who would like to bulldoze Israel. But a "world" attempt? Another one jumping at terrorists under the bed. Second, the idea that Canada has a "function as a serious country fighting terrorism". I thought that Canada's function, as with any country, was to provide for its citizens first and foremost. Apparently, I was in error -- mea culpa, mea culpa. (I do like the little swipe at countries that are sitting this particular conflict out -- they aren't "serious". I never know that having moral reservations about bombing civilians indiscriminately constituted being frivolous.)Third, that the international community wants Hezbollah dismantled and disarmed. Ambassador Baker needs to stop reading US government propaganda and realize that there's a very short list of countries that even consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization -- indeed, according to Wikipedia, there's only three: the US, Canada and Israel.
[Federal Liberal Interim Leader Bill] Graham’s position, Baker continued, "is a continuation of the non-committal and un-useful position that was held by previous Canadian government, which neither helped advance peace or prevented terrorism."
I seriously question how targetting every Lebanese civilian within firing range helps advance peace and prevent terrorism.
Canada’s position is being noted in world capitals, the ambassador stated, adding the government is remaining firm despite criticism from former Canadian diplomats who argue "Canada take a balanced approach, which basically means sit on the bench and allow terrorists to bomb Israel."
I wonder who has advocated that, exactly. If I recall correctly, the countries that are expressing serious reservations about this conflict are calling for a mutual ceasefire. Which would mean Hezbollah has to stop shooting, too. (Perhaps understanding difficult concepts like "mutual" isn't a requirement for becoming the Israeli ambassador to Canada?)

Moving on, we find words from Mr. Shimon Fogel, the "CEO of the Canada-Israel Committee, the Jewish community's lobbying arm on Israel". It's next to impossible to figure out who this guy really is or what his organization is actually about, but I note that their board of directors includes Linda Frum and Ezra Levant. The former is a known neocon apologist who has written for the National Post (and whose brother, David, wrote speeches for Dubya), and the latter is the publisher of the Western Standard -- whose virulently racist readership I've commented on here. I'm not confident that the CIC is really worth taking seriously, given their involvement.Harper’s response to Hezbollah’s unprovoked aggression displayed "clarity"and contributed to the international debate about the crisis, Fogel continued. Harper "is a very unequivocal kind of guy. He takes a position and he articulates it clearly and moves forward. You may or may not like it, but you know where he stands. The Liberals tend to foster, by design, a certain degree of what they call constructive ambiguity, a reluctance to be pinned down on a specific position." Unfortunately for Fogel's effusive praise, clarity on what is unclear is not an epistemic virtue -- it's a vice, one of willful blindness to complexity and an unwillingess to accept that reality may be more nuanced and difficult than one might prefer. (Sound like any Presidents we know?)

Harper believes "there is a right and a wrong and he wants Canada on the right,"Fogel said.
How unfortunate that his ambitions have been thwarted.
Among the broader population, Fogel said Harper’s stand reflects on his leadership abilities. "He is seen as a leader, not flip-flopping, vacillating or sitting in the corner."
Polls really don't bear out these claims about Harper's wonderful leadership -- given current results, it seems that most Canadians believe Stevie to be a bit of a blockhead (and an off-putting one at that). (And, isn't "flip-flopping" at this point neocon code?) Moreover, there's nothing leader-like about taking a needlessly strong position and sticking to it, despite evidence that one is horribly, horribly wrong.

Our final guest in this article is, unfortunately, a professor of political science at U of T, one Aurel Braun. He should really know better (but, then again, it's political science not political philosophy, so maybe it's understandable):

Aurel Braun, professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said Harper has clearly put Canada behind a fellow democracy facing international terrorism. "It is a stand on principle," he said, and "the best kind of political consideration is behind it. You’re looking out for the best interests of the country."
Prof. Braun did not explain two things. First, what principle Harper is standing on. Israel can kill who it likes? Lebanese people don't deserve to live? Canada likes civilian bombings? Second, what "best interests" this serves. I, for one, have no intention of travelling to any Middle East country in the foreseeable future and admitting that I'm a Canadian. (Fortunately, as a dual citizen, I have another passport I can deploy.) I'm really not a big fan of making myself a potential target for passing lunatics -- or even the average, understandably aggravated, citizen.
Braun said Graham seems to be seeking "some mythical middle ground between terrorism and the fight against terrorism."
I'm not sure why Braun thinks the middle ground is "mythical". This seems to be argument by ridicule rather than by reason. More importantly, though, he's off on a tangent. The issue isn't terrorism: it's Lebanese civilian slaughter at the hands of the Israeli military. Bill Graham seems to think that's a bad thing. Aurel Braun seems to think it's okay, as long as the Israelis say their fighting the terrorist boogeyman.

I despair.

(Worth noting, by the way, that Braun is actually an expert in Russian and East European Studies, and has no particular academic qualification on the Middle East. Since he's no expert, he needs arguments; and he has offered none.)

No comments: