Friday, January 19, 2007

A Tale Of Two Wars

Whenever Harper is asked a question about Afghanistan, a common theme emerges. Harper argues that the war in Afghanistan is a just cause, his decisions are based on fundamental principles, that will not be altered by polls. Public opinion will not shape our foreign policy, our commitment is based on a higher ideal. Harper is not afraid to make the tough decisions, risking his own popularity, because the cause is just. Fair enough, right?

Reading Paul Wells scathing article on Harper today, it is interesting to contrast Harper the resolute leader on Afghanistan, with Harper the "blowing in the wind" political opportunist on Iraq. Wells does a fantastic job of laying out the evolution in the Harper rhetoric, which essentially reveals a man that isn't necessarily committed to his ideals, if that support hurts his own personal fortune. In other words, the Harper that claims the moral high ground on Afghanistan shows no resemblance to the Harper that bails out when the going gets tough in Iraq.

I would have more respect for Harper's view, if he remained committed to his initial position on Iraq. The arguments for toppling Saddam were clearly stated, nothing in the aftermath should detract from this initial logic. The question was essentially a simple one, people like Harper, a "good Canadian", sided with the neo-con arguments, while people like Chretien resisted, based on another line of reasoning. Harper's changing opinion is an example of cowardice, quite remarkable given his strong language on Afghanistan. Afterall, isn't it Harper that chastises any Liberal who dares question the nature of the Afghanistan mission?

What the Harper contradictions on Iraq reveal, a man who plays politics with foreign policy, the exact motivation that Harper attempts to scold. Stand by your fundamental principles Prime Minister, don't alter to curry favor with the masses. Your cause is just, Canada must lead, there is nothing that can question our resolve. At the very least, the Harper Iraq timeline tells us that his words are mostly convenient, not based on the moral bedrock he likes to claim.


Scotian said...

Damn, that *was* scathing wasn't it! Wells raises a very important point though about how Harper's own record shows his placing his political fortunes above any of the so called principles he was shouting about in the lead up to and the beginning of the Iraq invasion and for some months afterwards. Indeed, it was not until after the insurgency had gotten a good start and was obviously more than the few "dead enders" Rumsfeld claimed to the world they were that Harper suddenly starts to change his tune. In other words he was all for the invasion when it looked like an easy job (as only those in the WH camp truly believed, even the UK allies knew otherwise as their later disclosed documents have been showing along with the Americans fixing the intelligence to suit the policy of war with Iraq) and once it became obvious this was turning into a grade A clusterfuck then he starts walking back from his positions.

Wells is right, his behaviour on Iraq especially when contrasted with his attitude on Afghanistan is something that is newsworthy and noteworthy and illuminating whether Harper wants it to be or not (and I am certain he would prefer this not be illuminated given what it shows). This is a man that while Leader of the Official Opposition took out an ad in the Wall Street Journal claiming to speak for most Canadians (when that was not supported by the polls at the time nor of the government itself and the clear majority with Parliament itself) in praising the Iraq war, in apologizing for the actions of our government for following the will of the Canadian voters and in general acting like it was his right to do Canada's foreign policy especially regarding issues of war despite his not being the government!!!

Harper has also got to explain why he was so taken in by the obvious problems with the so called intelligence proving the Iraq WMD threat and the link to AQ/terrorism threat. I mean if I and many other simple citizens are able to determine via our internet connections that none of the evidence was remotely solid what can be his excuse??? I mean the nuclear case was from the outset clearly wrong, when Bush/Blair cite that the aluminum tubes could *only* have been for uranium centrifuges despite DOE's (and DOE's experts are the premier nuclear intelligence experts in the American intelligence community which is why their analysis is something that should not be ignored) stating the exact opposite that the tubes would need massive reworking to maybe be usable as such centrifuges. Then there was the Sept 7 2002 Camp David press conference where both Bush and Blair cited a nonexistent IAEA report claiming Saddam was as close as six months to a working nuclear device. Then there was the fictitious Niger/Africa uranium argument which relied on a combination of forged documents (which were seen as questionable prior to invasion) and speculation that Iraq wanted to trade for uranium in a meeting where it was never mentioned. This was argued it could be nothing else by Bushco, except there was the equally if not more so believable explanation of trying to break UN sanctions in place at the time which was at least as believable/viable an explanation and these three elements were the core of the nuclear case. If I and others could find all this out prior to invasion why couldn’t the leader of the Official Opposition, hmmmm?

I can do chapter and verse on this, and if I, a disabled Canadian citizen can do this from my living room with my computer and simple logic/reasoning skills what exactly was his excuse?!? He clearly recognizes the mistake these days which is why he backs away from it as he does. His supporters clearly understand the political harm this did and can continue to do if brought back up to Harper which is why they constantly try to change the subject or claim it is old news and therefore irrelevant despite Well's most cogent argument to the contrary. The only viable explanation for Harper's conduct regarding Iraq was that his ideology and his willingness to take whatever the American government of George W Bush said as gospel (somehow I doubt he would have been willing to give say a Clinton presented set of evidence the same unquestioning acceptance, can't image why I might think that...*sarcastic tone*) and make major decisions of war without actually doing an independent examination of the presented evidence first.

That is what makes him dangerous, his ability to morph and remorph to suit the political winds of the moment from his true hard core ideology yet once when he feels he is in a position to drive that ideological agenda forward in any way he does so. Remember the political climate back during the buildup to the Iraq war. 9/11/01 was just a year old, terrorism and the idea of standing united was strong in NA against such barbarians. It was political popular to support Bush and the Americans in this noble fight. It could easily be argued that to not stand with such a popular and powerful President was to risk Canada's long term relationship (not a position I would agree with even then and did not but at least a viable/credible one).

So Harper could afford to be seen as such and would be extremely popular with his Bush war on terrorism true believers/followers/voters/ element of his base to boot. It also indicated his clear self identification with the American movement conservative beliefs/ideals which GWB was the clear standard bearer of at that time. It is far from the only evidence of Harper's love/devotion of placing American conservative ideals ahead of Canadian ones as his many speeches of the last 15 years illustrated and his 2003 policy paper on the need for Conservatives in Canada to engage in the same kind of culture war the GOP have run in the USA over the last quarter century. Given how the culture war is seen by most Canadians as ugly, malicious and anything but Canadian in spirit this speaks volumes for Harper's true convictions whatever he says for the public's benefit these days now that he has some power.

Steve V said...

Scotian, well said!

"That is what makes him dangerous, his ability to morph and remorph to suit the political winds of the moment from his true hard core ideology"

I keep hearing the argument that Harper has evolved, whenever someone cites his more alarming quotes from the past. I think that is a convenient way for moderate conservatives to reconcile the obvious tension with Harper's radical viewpoints. It's all about packaging, when Harper wasn't so careful, his free flowing commentary tells us all we need to know.

Anonymous said...

The only ideal Harper is intereested in is a "majority" - POWER, and the polls dictate his policies to try to obtain that result.

wilson said...

''The only ideal Harper is intereested in is a "majority" - POWER, and the polls dictate his policies to try to obtain that result.''

So that is why he took a bold stand on Afghanistan, Quebec is against him.
And that's why he kept a promise on SSM motion, Quebec is against him.
And PMSH took a stand for Isreal, and how does Quebec respond? (hint...Duceppe and Codierre protesting)
PMSH lost 1/2 of his support in Quebec for doing what he thinks is the right thing, even knowing Quebec would be against him.
Hardly a man driven by desire for a majority and driven by polls.

MSM is hammering on the message 'Harper wants a majority', I see they have convinced you, even when the facts show a different story.

Karen said...

Yes, there is definitely a pattern here. I loved Well's article and frankly I was surprised that he wrote it. To his credit, I think Well's thought he was getting the man he saw throughout the last election and at the beginning of this year. Fully convicted, steadfast, blah, blah.

Personally, I never saw Harper that way.

This issue, the environment, today's announcement re' money to the Palestinians, MacKay's flip, all show he is on the wrong side of things, until it may cost him votes.

I do continue to think he is ideologically motivated, however until he has a majority, he's willing to cave.

Anon is right. The man is after power and a majority and is willing to do anything to attain it.

The real issue though, is just how wrong his convictions have been proven to be. Iraq is a stark example.

Well's mentions that he has gotten off lightly. Let us hope that the media are a little less awed by the dark horse this time around and actually press him for honest answers. When he spins, call him on it. When he say's something designed to appeal to current polls, have his historical statements on hand and confront him.

I'm comfortable with the same treatment toward Dion, as he has been consistent.

Steve V said...

"MSM is hammering on the message 'Harper wants a majority', I see they have convinced you, even when the facts show a different story."

That is true, and you know the source? The Conservative braintrust openly discusses tactics to secure a majority. The level of transparency is unprecedented, they make no bones about intention. I am convinced, because your party freely admits it.

The Quebec stuff is funny. Ask Saskatchewan if they think Harper is basing policy on vote potential??

Anonymous said...

"MSM is hammering on the message 'Harper wants a majority', I see they have convinced you, even when the facts show a different story."

You mean he doesn't want a majority?

Fiddle de dee.

Everywhere in the country except Alberta Conservative support is slipping out of range of even another minority. You don't think that's driving policy considerations?

What I'm waiting for is about 2 or 3 more similar polls down the road when someone on the opposition benches realizes that Harper will say yes to just about anything to avoid being defeated and we end up getting a national child care program after all.

Anonymous said...

Harper wants a majority. He does it by finding a wedge issue that divides the opposition and allows the CPC to come out ahead. And he is willing to "go nasty" to do so. Whether he does it by attacking illegal immigrants and refugees, giving substantial tax cuts, and gutting Canada's Health Care system, Harper's intentions are definitely towards the right of the political spectrum. Just like his idol John Howard in Australia. Harper has not done so yet, and he does not even need a majority to steer to the hard right. All he needs is some focus group to confirm his instincts that there are some hard right votes he can exploit against the opposition left.

Scotian said...

Much as I would like to be able to disagree with the assessment of Mushroom I cannot. Indeed it is a good example of an element of why I am so oppose to Harper's Conservatism. The tactics they have imported from the hardline GOP experts like Frank Luntz Friends of the Family, and Ralph Reed over the past several years are predicated on exactly those tools as listed by Mushroom. This is not an objection based in anti-Americanism it is anti-GOP movement conservatism which has no real comparable elements in Canadian federal political history.

We have seen how those tools have divided Americans into the polarized nation they have been for the past decade now. This is something most Canadians regardless of political stripe tend to think is a bad way of doing business and a horrible result for all. Yet our current PM is a devotee of these tools despite having the example of its effects in America to look at and that while it can get you power for a time the damage it does in its wake to country and to party is not worth it whatsoever. For a country with our political history and dynamics this stuff is really toxic to fatal levels fairly quickly. We have already evolved enough divisions despite our best efforts as it is between regions, we *do not* need to be making artificial ones as well such as with the culture war approach.

Anonymous said...


Harper said a lot of things in 2003. So did each of you. So did Paul Martin. So did Belinda Stronach and so did Stephane Dion.

Don't let your partisan filters stop you from looking at things from the appropriate distance.

Wilson61 is right. Harper has convictions and he is sticking by them regardless of he "poll"itical consequences.

Mushgroom is right too. Harper will absolutely wedge the oppostion parties. He will fluff the NDP up, or put a knife into their side, he will force the LPC to jump into bed with the Bloq and he will make each party decide whether to "whip" their members or let them vote their conscience.

This is all part of getting elected and staying elected. No surprise here. It is what the LPC did for 13 years and the PC's for the previous 9.

The only surprise is that we find Harper is playing the minority parliament like his own game of chess.

...and he's winning.

If LPC back roomers want this to end, then tell your guys to crash this parliament. Go talk with the Bloq and the NDP and end this thing. Ever since April it has been up to the LPC how long this parliament lasts. Every day longer it goes on, Harper passes another law and makes it harder for the LPC to bring back the "good old days". Every day makes it harder for the LPC to pretend they aren't the ones "propping up" this government.


Anonymous said...

Ah good ol' Tomm. Glad you didn't mention the summer-long 'Clint Eastwood' imitation your favourite Con-droid tried to pull at the drop of a hat, pretending to inflate his chest over every issue and daring the opposition, the main party being in the midst of a leadership race, to defeat his gov't.
Now that their underwear is showing, he's continually trying to convince the sceptical public that he's warm and fuzzy, Suzuki's best bud, hangin' with the peeps and talkin with the press. What a metamorphus! I give him credit for being shrewd, for making good use of those focus groups he's hiding up his butt. However, not even he can direct the wind and change the tide. Canadian voters will decide, even if he continually 'doth protest too much' about looking to run the first 4-year long minority gov't.
But lets hear you and Wilson tell us where you stand on the Iraq war. Come on, say it, we won't slap you down...

Anonymous said...

With regards to Scotian's comments, Harper also knows that there are limits to GWB's neo-con agenda. Any links to Iraq or even support for the carpet bombing of Iran are political suicide for him. He will not say anything on these issues.

About John Howard, he is successful because the past decade has been disastrous for the Australian Labour Party. The feud between Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, and Mark Latham have made the ALP unelectable. Howard has used wedge issues to divide them, by forcing the party interests of Australian Labour to manifest itself.

However, the Grits are in opposition now. Unfortunately, being in opposition means that party interests will need to be manifested in the open. It is finding a right package. Sometimes, it just take a few elections. Ask a diehard CPC supporter and he/she will agree that Stephen Harper's leadership is better than the dark days of Preston Manning, Joe Clark, Stockwell Day, and Grant Hill in the 1990s.

ottlib said...

No Tomm he is losing.

The Accountability Act was held up almost six months and when it was finally passed it was barely recognizable from the original bill. He received very little credit even for that because of his patronage appointments and the election financing irregularities during the last Conservative convention.

He was forced into the Quebec Nation motion, which resulted in no credit for him in Quebec and alot of hostility from the rest of the country.

His handling of the SSM motion did him no good. His claim that he kept a promise fell on deaf ears amongst the supporters of SSM and enraged its opponents.

He has abandoned his tough-on-crime policies. That can be the only explanation for removing Mr. Toews from Justice. The new Justice Minister is only there as a caretaker until the next election.

The Clean Air Act was dead on arrival. He needs to depend on Jack Layton to give it even a chance of passing.

He cancelled a whole raft of Liberal environmental programmes only to be forced to bring them back. That fact has not been lost on anybody this week.

He engineered two floor crossings by Liberals and both were disasterous. What should have been bad news stories for the Liberals became bad news stories for the Conservatives.

The softwood deal was a public relations disaster along with being a bad deal. Regardless of all of the talk regarding that deal the one thing Canadians will remember and understand is the fact that Mr. Harper allowed the Americans to keep $1 billion that belongs to Canadian producers.

He had a couple of successes, such as the GST cut and the child care tax credit but they were no brainers. I could have guided those two through Parliament.

All in all, it has not been a great year for Mr. Harper.

Anonymous said...


You are right. All of those angles were viewed as such by the media.

Perhaps Harper is losing. However I think his best chance is to continue this little chess game and see how badly Dion can wreck his present advantage.

If it ends, we can all bask in what was Canada's "Prague Spring".

If it doesn't end then the revolution of our new country with a new backbone and a new libertarian vision, continues.