Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shocking

The Manley panel is set to release its conclusions. In a surprising turn of events, the panel will effectively endorse the Harper government's approach. Was there every any doubt?:
the independent commission created by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to advise his government on the way forward is not expected to recommend any significant scaling back of Canada's commitment of 2,500 soldiers in the Kandahar region, or any profound change in their current marching orders.

It is expected that the panel's findings, to be released as early as Tuesday, will emphasize the need for Canada to continue contributing to the training of Afghan national army and police personnel.

Many people who have contributed submissions to the panel say they came away with the impression that Mr. Manley and his fellow members are essentially in favour of staying the course in Afghanistan. That is, continuing combat operations while simultaneously training Afghan security forces toward the mutually agreed NATO endgame of withdrawal at a later, undetermined, date.

The media has seemingly forgot the rules here, calling this an "independent" panel, we "eagerly await" the findings. This panel was never independent, what it was a pre-ordained, public relations exercise, that would solicit the desired response. Three of the five members are Tories, the token Liberal well known for his support of the mission. To now characterize this group as "independent", giving the government political cover, is a combination of revision and media incompetence.

I wrote on Oct 18:
The argument that we all need to cool our jets and see what Manley comes up with is interesting, if irrelevant, because I can sit here right now and I already know the outcome. Is there any doubt?

There was no chance that this panel reached any other conclusion, it was over before it started. What the media should focus on- why the government wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money on a propaganda exercise. Harper was shrewd, putting Manley as the face, because it achieved the appearance of neutrality, even though the views were already vetted.

Now we watch, as the final report is released, and people digest the findings, as though a genuine process has concluded its admirable work. Harper has duped the media, who give this panel credibility. Harper has succeeded in his political goal, he can now argue that the "independent" panel has reached his conclusion, he will take his cues from their findings. The panel's real purpose was to neutralize, provide cover, endorse the governments arguments. Mission accomplished, optics trump truth, the media played like a fiddle.

34 comments:

Gayle said...

Do you think this report is going to have a greater effect on public opinion than news that our soldiers are still dying over there?

Dion was smart to go to Afghanistan when he did. He can say he spoke with the same people the panel spoke to, and that his opinion has not changed.

Most Canadians are not fooled by this little PR exercise of Harper's.

Steve V said...

gayle

At the very least, this panel gives Harper a talking point, a view outside of his own, to support the position. It depends how it plays, but judging by the media "hook, line and sinker" routine, I don't think we should dismiss the political implications. It certainly doesn't hurt Harper.

The Grumpy Voter said...

I suspect that most Canadians will support the panel's findings regardless of how politicians choose to portray it's validity. There is a great Canadian tradition called "let's form a committee to study the issue" which has been used by both Conservative and Liberal governments in the past. It buys time and helps to minimize any political damage a volatile issue might cause whoever happens to be the government of the day. I think what those who oppose the panel's potential findings seem to forget is that while Canadians might prefer to be doing less dangerous work in Afghanistan, there is no clear-cut strategy on the part of NATO or the Afghan government on how to bring peace to the region. We went into Afghanistan under a previous government who clearly didn't know what we were getting into and the current government doesn't know how to get us out. What I would like to see both as a voter and as a former Canadian soldier, is the partisanship (from both Liberals and Conservatives) taken out of the debate and a dialogue to begin on what kind of role Canada should play, if at all. If the Liberal party is so utterly certain the Manley panel is wrong, they should act as quickly as possible to defeat the government and to replace them. This, of course, comes with a proviso: the Liberals had better bloody well have a plan. Right now, I don't see one. "Reconstruction" is a nice safe word, but it fails to take into consideration the tactical situation on the ground. Even if Canadian troops are moved to a "safer" locale to focus on reconstruction, there will still be deaths from roadside bombs, there will still be children growing up without their fathers, there will still be families who are torn apart because their loved one was killed. The casualties WILL continue, regardless of what Canada is doing in Afghanistan. The troops know this, they're trained for it. Very simply, the country is not secure. The Taliban still exists. There is general lawlessness throughout the region and because it is insecure, reconstruction efforts will be plagued by casualties.

Steve V said...

grumpy

"It buys time and helps to minimize any political damage a volatile issue might cause whoever happens to be the government of the day."

You might be right there, we'll see how it plays out.

Tootrusting said...

Stevie wanted the issue out of the way because he thought (hoped)an election was coming before now.

Now he will have to face the issue again, and from a weaker position.

It should be interesting!

RuralSandi said...

So, it's cost taxpayers mega money to have a report like this? I know the cost for Manley is $1,400 per day - I don't know what it cost for the others on the panel.

Wonder what the total cost to taxpayers for Harper stalling to make a decision? Harper is sure one expensive PM - GST ad - $650,000, $31 million in polling and still climbing, Over $31 million in the purchase of "new" gas guzzling SUV's (double the vehicles than prior governments), $_______for the Manley report and, or course, the "Primper" - still waiting for reports on the cost of this. Also, Wajid Khan's trips, image maker for Gary Lunn for his comments at the committee hearing on the isotope situation, etc., etc.

Can we afford this PM?

wilson said...

Canadian soldiers have not had an offensive role in Afghanistan since Medusa, Sept 2006.

As Grumpy says, we continue to suffer losses;
defending our position,
road side bombs and accidents
all in the name of reconstruction and training of Afghans.

So isn't staying the course exactly what Libs have been demanding?

IMO, that was Dion's frustration, and why he pointed at Pakistan suggesting a more aggressive approach.

He found all Lib demands are being met, including diplomacy,
and our brave soldiers are still getting killed.

The Manley report should clear that up for Canadians as well.

Dame said...

Will I shock many of you if I say We have No Rights to be In Afganistan with arms and Try to make over the Country in our little mold .
.It is armed intervention and occupation ... period.

Let Them have their Country and let them live the way they want..
Time is the only thing what will change them. And it will .
We went there "kicking asses "ala Hillier .... now we don't know how to get out without looking stupid and red faced .
Admit the first Thing it was wrong to start with and withdraw .that would be a MANLY thing admit the wrongs and fix it.

marta

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm pretty sure Wilson is wrong about Canadian offensive ops ending with Medusa. If memory serves there was a big ANA/Canadian/US effort in Kandahar just a couple of months back.
I think Manley has been a dupe to buy time for Sharper. Now we'll have a look at the report. Then we'll have a debate and then - why, by then, it will be far too late for us to leave in 2009. He's probably bought SHarper a 6 month delay at least. His job is done, who cares what he says?
Here's one way to assess Manley's report. See what it says about troop strength. If he addresses it at all, he'll have to call for heavy reinforcement. If he ignores it, his whole study has been an exercise in political chicanery.

Steve V said...

"Canadian soldiers have not had an offensive role in Afghanistan since Medusa, Sept 2006."

Wilson, where do you come up with stuff? Seriously. Canada has been part of several "offensive" operations since then.

Tomm said...

Marta,

How big do you want the Canadian government to build this wall?

Steve,

I like your attempt to pre-spin the Liberal spin before the report hits the pavement.

Grumpy is dead on. Taking the partisanship out of the decison making was absolutely necessary. All the leaders had played the partisan card much too heavily in this file. Including Harper.

Secondly, until somebody comes up with a better plan, the one being followed right now, looks to be as good as anything else.

Tomm

lance said...

wilson, Blatch wrote in the G&M today:

"The last Canadian soldiers to die in purely offensive combat operations - that is, when they were aggressively trying to take ground - were Private Will Cushley, Warrant Officers Frank Mellish and Rick Nolan and Sergeant Shane Stachnik, killed on Sept. 3, 2006, as part of Operation Medusa in the Panjwai district."

Not that there hadn't been offensive operations, just that they aren't as dangerous.

Cheers,
lance

Anonymous said...

We are only in the Middle East because of the Bush doctrine. Attack muslims,impose 'democracy', defend Israel and free the movement west of that oil!

Steve V said...

Tomm

The premise is flawed, Harper didn't take partisanship out of the equation, he picked a stacked panel. If this panel was non-partisan, why then was their no "dove" on board? You are buying into the spin, this was never non-partisan and a quick scan of the panelists offers all you need to know.

wilson said...

Mound said:
''I'm pretty sure Wilson is wrong about Canadian offensive ops ending with Medusa...''

show me your backup, here's mine, and
from some one who has '' been in Kandahar, well outside the safety of Kandahar Air Field, four times in less than two years...''

I encourage you to read the entire article:

Afghanistan: painful displays of ignorance and arrogance

By CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD
cblatchford@globeandmail.com

January 19, 2008

...On combat: All those, including the CADPAT kid, Mr. Dion, babbling on about whether or not to end Canada's "combat role" in Afghanistan should give their tiny heads a shake.

Canadian soldiers are not routinely involved in combat any longer, nor have they been for more than a year.

The last Canadian soldiers to die in purely offensive combat operations - that is, when they were aggressively trying to take ground - were Private Will Cushley, Warrant Officers Frank Mellish and Rick Nolan and Sergeant Shane Stachnik, killed on Sept. 3, 2006, as part of Operation Medusa in the Panjwai district...
Of the fatalities since that date - 46 since Sept. 3, 2006 - the bulk were killed by IEDs, roadside bombs and suicide attacks, with a handful of others (Sergeant Craig Paul Gillam, Corporal Robert Mitchell, Sergeant Darcy Tedford, Private Blake Williamson and, most recently, Corporal Nathan Hornburg) dying in insurgent-instigated attacks and the remainder in accidents of various kinds, from chopper crash to vehicle rollover, friendly fire and shootings.

http://199.246.67.249/servlet/ArticleNews/PEstory/LAC/20080119/BLATCHFORD19/Comment/comment/commentColumnistsHeadline/3/3/8/

wilson said...

''If this panel was non-partisan, why then was their no "dove" on board?''

Manley is a true Liberal (or at least what Liberals used to be), how can the panel be 'partisan' when Libs and cons are represented?

The Grumpy Voter said...

Playing partisan with this issue dishonors our troops. It doesn't matter whether you're a Liberal or Conservative. Our troops who are putting their lives on the line deserve far better from those who are driving this debate, bloggers included. Sometimes I am ashamed to call myself a Canadian... this is one of those occasions.

Scott Tribe said...

Because, WIlson, Manley's views on Afghanistan were well known to all that he supported continuing the mission - it doesn't matter if he is a Liberal or not: he's a pro-Afghanistan person, and that's all Harper cared about: to make it appear non-partisan when it really was just a pro-government position on Afghanistan panel.

I wrote back months ago if Harper really wanted to make this objective instead of using it for his own ends, he would have appointed Stephen Lewis or Ed Broadbent or even a progressive lefty Liberal like one of the Axworthy brothers to the panel. The fact that he appointed 3 Tories, a right-wing Liberal who supported the mission, and Pamela Wallin, who was on record as wanting Canada to support the US missile defence program shows the farce this Commission was and is.

Steve V said...

What Scott said :)

I find it really quite fascinating that Wilson is arguing that combat is essentially over. Why don't you run that by Hillier, or the troops you claim to support, and ask them if they agree?

What about Operation Achilles in May, involving 500 Canadian soldiers? Operation Silicon in April, involving 400 Canadians? What about last October, when Canadian soldiers surrounded Arghandab, killing 50 insurgents?......

Keep reading Wilson :)


grumpy

"Playing partisan with this issue dishonors our troops."

Then I'm sure you share my disgust in watching the Conservatives try to score cheap political points in the House, when the opposition asks honest questions.

The Grumpy Voter said...

>>Then I'm sure you share my disgust in watching the Conservatives try to score cheap political points in the House, when the opposition asks honest questions.<<

My disgust lies in the fact that both Tories and Liberals share the blame for Canada's role in Afghanistan. My disgust is in the fact that both Tories and Liberals continue partisan sniping at each other to score cheap political points that matter to them and only them. Voters, believe it or not, see through this crap. If we're to have an election this year, I only see two smelly piles of dung that have a ghost of a chance of forming a government. I'm forced (along with voters) to plug my nose, take a deep disgusting whiff of both parties, and choose the one that smells the least offensive.

Steve V said...

"I only see two smelly piles of dung that have a ghost of a chance of forming a government."

LOL, we should use that to help get out the vote.

Tomm said...

Steve,

Putting a "dove" on the panel is simply pointless. You want people that are walking into the debate open to a range of options.

Stephen Lewis would have to be gagged and bound to keep him quiet if the decision wasn't withdraw troops and sprinkle pixie dust around the Taliban encampments.

That being said, you don't want people that are just into "nukin' dem jihadists" either. Everybody on the panel should be open to hear everything being said.

However, the panel HAD to be created. Layton, Dion, and Duceppe were salivating over the 70% of people that polls were saying want our troops to come home, and were all looking for votes and making partisan points in the media.

Gordon O'Connor could have been the best Minister of Defense we ever had, but we will never know because the opposition knew dead Canadian soldiers meant 4 days of headlines (the day they died, the day they go on the transport, the day on the highway, and the day of the funeral). The opposition also knew that a slow thinking, retired soldier turned lobbiest was just too juicy a target.

It was just too ripe a situation and they couldn't help themselves.

Tomm

Steve V said...

"You want people that are walking into the debate open to a range of options."

Yes, yes you do, which is why this panel is a joke. Please give me one quote from any of the panelists, that suggested a position different from Harper's? This panel wasn't representative of Canadian opinion, and it really just re-inforced one option, Harper's. This panel was constructed to carry Harper's water, how anyone can dispute that, given the makeup and what Harper said when it was formed, is frankly beyond me :)

Tomm said...

Steve,

You are criticizing the make up of the panel by complaining about the panel.

There is more than one question here.

1. Should the discussion review have been done outside the partisan rhetoric of the House? I think so, and I also think you think so. Please give me your answer.

2. That being said, we need a panel that will provide a reasonable review of the circumstances. Clearly a dogmatic dove would not. Remember, the panel needs to be non-partisan, or un-encumbered by partisan positioning, so, who would you pick? Harper picked people who had shown some sense of range in viewpoint and had a former Liberal Cabinet Minister chair it. I think you should be giving him accolades on his choice of people.

If not, give me some names.

Tomm

Steve V said...

1 Yes!

2 Look at the credentials of this panel, outside of Manley absolutely no expertise on these issues. One member worked on pipelines, chairman of Canwest, biggest asset a background in trade and investment. Another member worked for Ontario power and is the vice president of TransCanada Pipelines. Another member is president of Bombardier, also worked for Bell Canada and foreign banks. I mean, your argument about a reasonable group of people, detached from the political realm is a noble one, but are these people qualified? This is the blue-ribbon group that Harper assembles? Come on, these are old cronies, not experts who have the background or knowledge to penetrate at all. It's a joke, and that seems like a no brainer from here.

Tomm said...

Steve,

I can't argue with your opinions of the panel members.

In your opinion, who would have made a good panel?

I think he tried to build something that would provide a reasoned voice.

I also think he was desperate to get this out of the minority house. After the LPC elected somebody other than Ignatieff, Harper immediately knew that the continuing support for the NATO mission was going to end up on the rocks. He had a position as PM he wanted to forward but had no voice to do so. He finally decided on his blue ribbon group.

Even if you think he stacked the chairs, you should admire the leadership it took.

(We can talk about Linda Keen some other time).

Tomm

Steve V said...

"In your opinion, who would have made a good panel?"

People with some experience and expertise in the field might have helped. Nobody can defend the credentials of most of these people, again, a joke.

"Even if you think he stacked the chairs, you should admire the leadership it took."

I admire the political calculation. I also admire the ability to manipulate Manley into carrying Harper's water.

Leadership, not even on the radar. Sorry :)

Scott Tribe said...

Tomm: the panel was rigged to make sure it conformed to Harper's view so that he could use it to press his we must stay in Afghanistan argument and also to use to attack the opposition - and primarily the Liberals - with.

I don't know how anyone but a partisan Conservative-supporting shill wouldn't see how blatantly obvious. In fact, even they can probably see how blatantly obvious it is.. but most of them are as partisan in Harper in trying to use it to attack the opposition with.

Any suggestion by you or other Con supporters that this panel was "balanced" and took into account all factors of Canadian opinion - including the clear majority who want the mission ended on time - can't be taken seriously.

wilson said...

Steve, you have yet to name a 'combat' mission where our soldiers were on the 'offensive'.
These are all defensive missions:

Operation Achilles: support role,
defensive :
'..Their job will be to act as a screening force in the Maywand district on the border between the two provinces, preventing insurgents and others from escaping from Helmand eastward down Highway 1 towards Kandahar City and Pakistan..'

Operation Silicon: defence for reconstruction
'...Around 1,000 British troops (and 400 Cdn) have joined Afghan soldiers in an operation, which began Monday, 30 April 2007, to stabilise the lower Sangin Valley allowing reconstruction and redevelopment work to take place.

Arghandab:defending position
'...Afghan and Canadian forces say they have halted a Taliban offensive aimed at a key district sitting just north of Kandahar city in Afghanistan...'

wilson said...

ps.
Regardless of what the panel recommends, this is a minority government, and the opps can band together and push what ever they want thru.
All the Liberals have to do is stand up and vote.
Something they have not done in a long while.

Tomm said...

Scott,

Your comments are not right. Please show me your hindsight the day the panel was convened. At that time most people saw this panel as a reasonable one. You are just pretending now that it was always a foregone conclusion because Harper chose "chumps" to do his bidding.

That is a very partisan position.

In regards to your comment about "balanced" all you apparently mean is that, like the House, you wanted the panel dominated by people pre-disposed to end the Mission and bring the troops home. That's not a fair position, nor a "balanced" one. We need people that are going to think criticially through the huge problems that the Mission has, to recommend what to do.

Canadian's wouldn't know needs over in Central Asia anymore than we know needs from the Horn of Africa. We need non-partisan people with some vision to help guide decision making.

The Afghani situation is very complex. The average journalist and the average partisan politician are in no position to guide our countries decision making. Choices we make today have both short and long term consequence for millions of people.

Steve V said...

wilson

It is absolutely astounding to watch try and characterize all our activity as "defensive". In so doing, you make the government "combat role" argument look meaningless. Again, why don't you forward your thoughts to Hillier, see if he agrees?

ottlib said...

Tomm:

Hypothetically speaking, let's say a Liberal government appointed a panel that was made up of David Collenette, Art Eggleton, Mr. Axworthy, Ms. Wallin and it was chaired by Tom Flanagan.

Further, let's say it came up with a position that was in line with the position of said Liberal government. Would you then say the panel was balanced?

I wouldn't. One thing I have always found about you Tomm was you had the capacity to see through your own party's partisan BS. You have failed in this regard. That panel is nothing more than political cover for the current government.

Steve:

The majority of the media in this country agrees with the Conservative view on Afganistan so you should not be surprised that the media is calling the panel "independent".

They are not being duped by Stephen Harper they are being complicit in his efforts to extend the combat mission.

Fortunately, the Canadian people are smarter than their government and their media gives them credit for so I would not put too much faith in this panel's findings changing public opinion very much and certainly not for very long.

On another note, if this finding by the panel comes to pass I guess we can right off Mr. Manley from ever leading the Liberal Party. This was his final foray into anything political.

Steve V said...

"I guess we can right off Mr. Manley from ever leading the Liberal Party. This was his final foray into anything political."

The Canadian Joe Lieberman.