Thursday, January 08, 2009

Not Good Enough

I guess this will be my first critical post of Ignatieff, since he took the helm, but I think he blew it with his comments on Gaza today. Nothing Ignatieff said wasn't true, or didn't accurately present some core Liberal tenets regarding Israel. But, on a day where we've seen outrageous actions that seriously challenge international law and basic human rights, I found the lack of balance very disappointing.

What Ignatieff completely missed in stating the case for Israel, it really isn't about Hamas anymore, it's a human tragedy that's completely morphed into something else, well beyond positions, policy or ideology. The fact that Ignatieff, who has championed human rights, an impressive pedigree, can't articulate some nuance here and argue a forceful case for the immediate concern, is simply not good enough. All the comments read like a robotic script, borne of misguided political correctness. In trying to put of the message that Liberals support Israel, Ignatieff ends up sounding as rigid as Harper. And yes, when we finally get a whiff, that the new American administration will return to a more balanced perspective, to hear Ignatieff is even more bothersome.

Part of me completely understands, and really Ignatieff doesn't gain much politically from singing off key, in fact he loses, so... That said, it's one of those important moments, when I want to get the sense of some leadership, rather than safe answers which fail to acknowledge some other truths, that don't quite jive with all the justifications. Saying the rockets must stop before the kids stop bleeding (and let's please dispense with any credible argument that it's "surgical" or "measured" now, the theatre doesn't even entertain the possibility) is pretty much acres away from my little section of the BIG tent. Not a highlight moment, today.


sassy said...

Yes, quite disappointing.

The Mound of Sound said...


I sincerely thank you


Jennifer Smith said...

I think all progressive Liberals (damn - are we a subset now?) need to write to Ignatieff and express our disappointment and dissatisfaction with his position. I'll be composing my letter tomorrow.

Jack said...

Yeah, even though I tend not to go with either side too heavily on this, I'm not very impressed either.

Hamas needs to cut the crap, but Israel seems to relish going overboard...and it pisses me off.

It's just not a black and white issue and I'd prefer that the Liberals stop treating it as such. Black and white is Conservative territory and I didn't give money to them.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that with the exception of the brave ones like Steve V, Jim Curran, Scott Ross, and Jennifer Smith, just about every Liberal who might be privately displeased with the change in stance on Israel from Ignatieff (who thought Israel committed war crimes in Qana but adopts the 100% opposite view now -will the REAL Iggy please stand up?) will likely stay 100% quiet.

A clear message is being sent out: Liberals who don't toe the line can expect to mocked and derided by the likes of Kinsella, Levant, and the National Post (see Kelly McFarland's article here and Kinsella's here).

It's amazingly unfortunate that the party of Lloyd Axworthy who put Canada on the map for human rights leadership has become a party afraid to speak out forcefully on the issue today. But it is what it is I'm sure Axworthy, and Alan Rock and Chretien (not to mention at least a dozen in caucus) are privately shaking their heads, but it will stay that way, IN PRIVATE.

You won't see Rodriguez or others at any rallies this time, but I'm sure this won't go over very well in Quebec, but maybe Ignatieff will go on "Tout le Monde en Parle" again and straighten the whole thing out again like he did last time with the war in Lebanon (I won't hold my breath though).


Don't expect too many non-anon people to back you up on your view Steve.

Anonymous said...

I should add that I am someone who believes that Israel was 100% justified in starting this, just like I believe we were 100% justified in going into Afghanistan.

But if Canadian soldiers fired on a UN school (even if Taliban soldiers were hiding out inside) and a UN truck delivering supplies and the International Red Cross and Amnesty International were acusing us of war crimes (by not letting them get to injured civilians), I would expect the Liberals would speak up loudly about that, so why should we adopt a different standard than we would for OUR own country?

Why should we be ridiculed or called anti-semitic for doing so? I believe the mission was JUST but that it has been bungled by some freaked out (perhaps understandably) soldiers. Just like Abu Graib in Iraq and bombed wedding and schools in Afghanistan have harmed our efforts there. But just because the mission has not gone anywhere near as well as expected (at least in terms of civilian and humanatarian toll) doesn't mean we HAVE to turn a blind eye to the mistakes that have been made by Israeli soldiers. Pointing out these mistakes doesn't even mean we are directly blaming the Israeli government.

BUT We should stand up against human rights abuses whereever they occur and hold those who perpetrated them accountable. We are doing that ourselves with a soldier of our in Afghanistan and the US did with Abu Graihb. I hope the same will happen here.

War is not easy and we always expect casualities, but we have to be willing to accept that no country is infallible and deadly mistakes happen and should be addressed.

That was way too long of a rant but I wanted to clarify some things from the last comment to be clear...

Anonymous said...

As a FINAL point I'm not saying Israeli solidiers have done anything on the scale of Abu Grhaib (bc they haven't even close) or that Canadian soldier on trial accused of shooting an unarmed Taliban insurgent, just that when mistakes by our soldiers happened they were held accountable. I hope there will be a full investigation and people will be willing to admit mistakes were made (even if they did seem partially justified) and hold those responsible fully accountable.

i've said more than enough now...

Anonymous said...

Morton's Musings has posted the whole exchange on his blog. Is your criticism based on a reading of everything Michael said, or just what was excerpted by CP?

If your criticism is based on the whole thing, or if you maintain your view after reading the whole thing, fair enough. I just want to make sure everyone hears everything Michael said without the filter of the media.

Anonymous said...

This one quote by Ignatieff convinced me, that he is still the same unreformed imperialist who thinks it is ok to torture people in pursuit of lesser evilism:

"Israel has been attacked from Gaza, not just last year, but for almost 10 years. They evacuated from Gaza so there is no occupation in Gaza."

its no different than Peter Kent's hateful, blame-the-victim on the Israeli tank attack against a UN school yesterday:

"Hamas bears a terrible responsibility for this and for the wider deepening humanitarian tragedy."

I really would like to know why these weak politicians are so fearful of the Israeli lobby, so much so that they have lost any shred of moral decency that they would not even acknowledge the death of hundreds of innocent children. Shame.

Beijing York said...

I can't disagree with your assessment kheimbuch. I had little faith in Ignatieff as the chosen leader but this crisis has certainly shown his true colours. What a shame.

penlan said...

Before reading your post, Steve, I had just read MoS's & posted this in the comments which I will just paste here rather than re-write.

"I, too, have a heavy heart & great disappointment in Ignatieff. I've said it before & I'll say it again:
Ignatieff & Harper are looking inter-changeable to me - especially in Foreign Affairs.

It's too much when instead of speaking to truth he (MI) speaks as a politician not wanting to lose certain "ethnic" votes. Harper too. That's what I think it's all about.

Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself. No doubt whatsoever about that. BUT the carnage being wrought on the citizens, the Palestinians, is brutal in the extreme. These people are unable to leave the war zone as they are locked in on all sides by the Israeli's as well as Egypt now, too, at the request of Israel.

In time we will find out more of the truth of what has been done, & will be done, in Gaza. There are already reports on unnecessary actions/bombings/killings done by the IDF & not allowing access, for days at a time, for the ICRC to aid victims.

I do NOT support Hamas & their actions either. But the over-kill, literally, by the IDF is mind-numbing. Western nations could step up to the plate & demand that this mess stop, but they all sit on their morals & defend Israel's actions. I am speaking from a humanitarian viewpoint here. I do not want to see anyone slaughtered anywhere in the world - including Gaza & Israel."

RuralSandi said...

Hmmmm, I'm wondering. Obama said he'll have plenty to say about the situation once he takes his oath. Samantha Powers is a very close friend of Ignatieff (both human rights arena). She and her husband are part of Obama's team.

US has not been backing the UN at this point., I'm curious if US policy will change on this once Obama is in and how this will affect Canada.

catherine said...

There have been some reports that Obama may open up lines of communication with Hamas. If so, that would be a significant shift. Right now, Ignatieff's statements about Hamas are a statement of the reality in Canada - they are listed as a terrorist organization and any dealings with them is illegal. That could change.

Anonymous said...

No one on this board has yet to say how Israel goes about getting rid of the thousands of rockets and tunnels and weapons that Hamas is still in control of? Its almost like you guys live in a make believe world. Pick one, because, there are only two options, Hamas and Iran and Hezbollah and Syria have all seen to it. Either you allow Israel to go in and remove the weapons and rockets, or, allow Hamas to continue to fire into Israel. The 3rd option of a total cease fire can never happen until Iran decides that a Palestinian's life is actually worth something. There's a reason the NDP normally get about 15% of voter support, and its because they have the ability to shade what should be a black and white issue with a vision of the world that does not yet was a shame to see th LPC in that same NDP mindset. Iggy's got alot of work to do.

catherine said...

On reading the reports, I see they are suggesting Obama will open up clandestine communications with Hamas and speculating that it may never be openly confirmed. For example, he may use the CIA for this. In that case, it is not clear what effect this would have on Canada's position. Most of the real work is done in secret and real progress could be achieved that way, bu it doesn't give one much of an idea of what Obama will be saying in public.

Anonymous said...

Why can't progressive LIberals see that they are a rump in their own party? I really do feel for you folks but get frustrated because even though I find myself often agreeing with your positions and values the fact that you keep supporting a party that only gives your positions and values lip service means that we keep getting either gravely disappointing liberal governments or scary conservative governments.

I find it baffling because many of you would feel more at home in the NDP (based on the posts and comments I have read) but continue to prop up the LPC, a party that doesn't deserve your loyalty IMHO.

I was deeply disappointed by the Bob Rae govt and its handling of a couple of key policies (e.g. LGBT rights, auto insurance) so I know that feeling and you have my sincere sympathies.

Steve V said...


I've read the whole exchange and it doesn't change my view, particularly when Ignatieff himself acknowledges "no military" solution. If that's true, which it is, then how do support a military exercise, which can't achieve its goal, but in the process kills scores of innocents.

What has frankly drove me over the deep end, the Liberal Party doesn't seem to want to touch the outrageous responses with "a ten foot pole". I understand well all the underlying reasons for supporting Israel, and I think Hamas is a terrorist scourge, but that becomes less relevant with each passing day, because what is happening now is a complete and utter tragedy. People can comfort themselves all they want with justifications, but I wonder their view if they actually had to walk in hell for a few days, I suspect the detached philosophical assertions would evaporate. I'm watching what's happening on the ground, and some of it is indefensible.

Joyce said...

Israel's tactics are unacceptable, plain and simple. We need to speak the truth to allies and adversaries alike.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1h23 very interesting comment.
I recall not long ago seeing the likes of Pablo Rodriguez, Denis Coderre and so-called rising star Brigitte Legault in parades with Hezbollah supporters flags in tow, attending Press Conferences with Hezbollah sympathizers.
I pray that Iggy has enough common sense to keep these individuals behind the Wizard's curtain.

RuralSandi said...

If you read Layton's statement on this - they're all talking pretty much the same and I think they're waiting for Obama.

Bush won't do anything to stop it, that's for sure - and the US seems to be the only country they'll listen to.

Anonymous said...

It's amazingly unfortunate that the party of Lloyd Axworthy who put Canada on the map for human rights leadership has become a party afraid to speak out forcefully on the issue today.
That's because sycophant are behind the scenes now and the Canadian populace rather stupidly listening to soundbytes.

It's the "dumbing" down effect...

Anonymous said...

Bush will not stop it Rural Sandi and Obama will not either because, it means that the US would set itself up for attacks on its soil.
You cant tell one country to sit back and take it when you wouldnt put up with it...well maybe some in this country would, but thats another story. And thanks for the input Joyce...please give alternative advice for Israel and the world....hunger and poverty are bad things too...but no one has an answer for it. billg

Anonymous said...

billg - that was a bunch of crap if I ever heard it - listing to neo-con sound bites again....sigh.

Blues Clair said...

A very disappointing response from Ignatieff, not really unexpected though. A shame.

Wait for Obama and Hillary "totally obliterate them" Clinton? This tragic conflict will be over by then.

Antonio said...

wheee rumor dispelling time

Denis Coderre and Brigitte Legault were at the rally.

Pablo Rodriguez was not.

I was there along with the rest of the Quebec Young Liberals to show support for one of our exec members, who lost a friend in the conflict.

The march was a march for peace. 2 hezbollah flags in a crown of 10 000 does not make it a hezbollah march.

One of the flags was carried by famous separatist Pierre Falardeau's little crony. Does that make all separatists in the parade Hezbollah sympathizers?

It's crazy Zionist propaganda. When Israelis want peace, they can kill civilians at will. Whn Canadians march for peace, they are terrorist sympathizers?

get real

In_The_Centre said...

Israel's tactics are unacceptable, plain and simple.

I agree, but its also equally unacceptable that Hamas stores weapons and munitions in schools and mosques, and then purposely attack the IDF from those facilities in order to knowingly elicit, what they know is going to be a heavy handed response, for propaganda purposes.

The IDF went too far and Hamas could care less. That is my position.

Both sides were expecting, and preparing for this, in the lead up to the end of the truce in December.

I’m also somewhat disappointed with Ignatieff's response, (but am completely impressed so far by his economic talk). That tour is coming out to Vancouver and you can bet he will hear similar comments to those made by good independent minded liberals like Steve V.


Steve V said...

"The IDF went too far and Hamas could care less. That is my position."

Exactly. And, all I would like to see is some recognition of "too far", as opposed to parroting a particular lobby within the Liberal family.

Anonymous said...

Without judging the merits of this article, the region is in big trouble if that is the majority view of the Israeli population.

Anonymous said...

Steve V said...

Apart from the one-sided perspective, we get this nugget at the end of the piece:

"That seems unlikely now that they are under attack, and the natural reaction is to rally around the green flag of Hamas."

So, the goal is to hurt Hamas, but even the apologists acknowledge that such operations only drive more Palestinians towards Hamas. That sentence is a complete and utter acknowledgement of failure, and yet it's the same routine everytime. The nature of the action negates success, it's that simple and even the defenders seem to have a sense, so why again??

Anonymous said...

Denis Coderre and Brigitte Legault were at the rally.
Brigitte Legault - what a flop she was.
Even her private fundraiser with Paul Martin sucked...
In the election she was outclassed and outsmarted even before it started...
I'm glad she lost... It was ironic getting emails from her various private accounts, if she can't get that right image her trying to run something....

Anonymous said...

Steve V wrote:

I wonder their view if they actually had to walk in hell for a few days

Why wonder? Ignatieff said he has walked in that hell:

I don't want to minimize -- let me be clear -- don't want to minimize the human suffering in Gaza. I have been to Gaza. I have been to refugee camps personally.

Face it: Ignatieff's critics were right. The man supports empire lite and torture lite. And now he is leader of the Liberal Party.

He has personally seen the suffering in Gaza, just like he saw the suffering of the Kurds in Iraq. In the case of the Kurds, this emotional experience triggered his support for the Iraq war (so he says).

But his "walking the ground" in Gaza triggered no such emotional commitment to their innate human rights. Why is this?

Could it be that some people have more human rights than others (depending on what side of the empire they're on)? This is what Ignatieff has always been saying, if you cared to look.

You "progressive" Liberals are getting a much-needed wakeup call. I don't envy you.

Anonymous said...

Steve, anon 2:14 am here. Thanks for clarifying for me where you stand after reviewing the whole exchange. As always, your comments are measured and clearly the product of careful consideration, which is unfortunately in short supply on both sides of this issue. I've been reading your blog since mid-2006 and think it's head and shoulders above the rest on Liblogs, even if I sometimes disagree with you. Keep up the great work.

Steve V said...

Thanks for the kind words. Always agreeing is boring anyways ;)