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Ten points: When democracy loses all meaning

You know, I was busy with last night’s gig (and a big shout out to my buddy BCL, who came by to take in the show) and feeling sorry for myself for my Man Cold©, so I didn’t get a chance to fully reflect on the following:

1.  The Prime Minister said last Fall that our combat mission in Afghanistan would end, and would be “a civilian humanitarian development mission after 2011.”

2.  The Liberal Party’s leader said this Spring that his party also favoured “a different role focusing on a humanitarian commitment” after 2011.

3. “Humanitarian.” They both used that word.

4.  After the Liberal leader abruptly changed his mind about all this “humanitarian” stuff, so did the Prime Minister.  Both of them now favour extending the war, and yet more combat roles for at least 1,000 troops.

5.  There’ll be no debate about any of this in Parliament, which is, you know, the Supreme Legislature of the People.  No one seems to give a shit about that.

6.  To drive in the final nail in democracy’s proverbial coffin, the Prime Minister emasculates his Minister of Defence, and sends out his press secretary to tell the rest of us that we’ll be at war for a few more years.  On political info-tainment shows.

7.  Got all that?  Whiplash-inducing reversals on all sides, open contempt for the legislature, cabinet ministers neutered in public, unelected hacks wielding the power of the executive.  Oh, and, more war.

8. More war.  Just like that, in the week where we are all supposed to be remembering why war is a bad thing.

9.  And political people actually wonder why both the Liberals and the Conservatives are dropping below 30 per cent in the polls, and why the NDP is moving up.  And they wonder why people are growing more and more cynical about democracy, and democratic institutions, and are angrily lashing out at politicians.

10.  Wonder no more.

84 Responses to “Ten points: When democracy loses all meaning”

  1. Sean says:

    …can’t agree more…

  2. Tim says:

    Liberal voters need to hold the Liberal Party’s feet to the fire on this issue in the next election. Or vote NDP. Absolutely disgraceful. Nonsense like this prevented Michael Ignatieff from becoming leader on the first go round. And now Bob Rae is riding shotgun. I’d like to say “Unbelievable!” but sadly it isn’t.

  3. Anthony says:

    Don’t hold back, Warren. Tell us how you really feel.

    • Warren says:

      Sorry, is that supposed to be funny? It certainly isn’t original.

      • Cath says:

        not even original Warren. I agree with your sentiments. Both the LPOC and PM have made huge errors, ones that may cost them both.
        My bet is the Peter McKay’s taking his walk in the snow…or whatever climate change is bringing the Maritimes today.

  4. Dave says:

    I remember how irked I was about two decades ago when the Mulroney Government sent our military to attack Iraq without calling parliament. I think that was the summer we had our army at Oka with no need for parliament to say anything, one way or the other.
    I thought that a couple of elections ago that the two large parties got through a deal on an extension in Afghanistan before the election campaign, so that, on the hustings, there was no need for anyone to talk about the ‘mission’ in Afghanistan. If Harper is right about the Libs then it looks like another move to go ahead and keep our military involved over there without the messiness of having to argue with any naysayers among the Canadian public.
    I guess it is easier for both the parties that hope to govern. They know that they will get foreign pressures. In this case, NATO needs a reason for being, and really needs at least a draw in Afghanistan. So if the parties can do a deal without debate either in the House of Commons, or, especially, with the Canadian public, then , when in government, they have only hte foreign pressures to deal with.NPMW

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I plan on enthusiastically supporting this extension of the mission as soon as I drop dead. Folly of the highest order — at least as it relates to training the Inept-istan Army…NATO allies be damned.

    Can you spell highly forseeable and obviously avoidable quagmire?

    • Warren says:

      It’s their Personal Viet Nam.

      • terence says:

        You are wrong.

        The Russians are now on side with the Americans. The Pakistanis have finally tired of the Taliban and want to make sure they don’t let the Iranians run the show in Afghanistan.
        Things are changing. The Saudis are ready to pour a lot of money into the Country for the same reason Pakistan is moving away from the Taliban.

        Canada needs to be there.

        • Gord Tulk says:

          Essentially correct. Obama has pushed the exit date to 2014 so as to take it off the 2012 election calendar (dean and fiengold might try to run on an anti-war platform but they are yesterday’s news)

          Canada is joining in the waiting game. Once 2012 passes and Obama is replaced, (with Daniels or pawlenty?) the US will do two things – Double down with a new surge, And remove the retreat date and declare that the US will be there until Afstan is free and secure. Canada will link up to the renewed initiative.

          It is also likely that the Russians and Germans and perhaps the french will become involved (more than they already are) The Euro countries are finally coming round to the understanding that Pakistan and Iran need to be isolated and prevented from radicalizing their neighbours.

  6. James Bow says:

    I really wonder what will happen if we have an election and the two leading parties each get less than 30% of the vote.

    That’s a historic low for confederation. The Liberals and the Conservatives together (if you count together the Reform and PC vote through the 90s) usually poll around 70%. They’ve been dropping in the past few years, but they’ve NEVER polled below 60%. What sort of parliament results when 4 out of 10 voters pick parties other than the top two?

    And I think you’re assessment is dead on. The Conservatives and the Liberals are both campaigning and/or governing very cynically, and it’s turned a lot of voters off. Never mind the NDP’s near 20% level of support, look at the Green total: over 10% when, three elections ago they’d have never pulled more than 2%? You can bet that at least half of that support isn’t because 8% of voting Canadians have suddenly developed a new environmental consciousness. Rather, they’ve moved to a well spoken alternative that exists outside of the three-way dance.

    • Ted says:

      Worse than that, James.

      The last three elections have seen the government with the lowest level of support from eligible voters in our entire history: Harper – 2008 with 21% of eligible voters, Harper 2006 with 22% and Martin 2004 with 23%.

      (But I would look at the Green Party polling and even the NDP polling as a parked vote that will not turn into a real vote. The Green and the NDP have been up that high before elections before but it all evaporates on election day.)

  7. PL says:

    Hi Warren,

    Thanks for the post. As a Canadian soldier, I have my obvious biases with regards to the conflict in question, yet at the same time, I have some sympathies with your post. A few thoughts, some in disagreement, and some in agreement:
    a) Afghanistan and “Viet Nam” – how about you guys travel FIRST to Afghanistan and see myself and my comrades interact and act?!? I’ve lost 3 good friends in this war that you call a Vietnam…and each of those 3 felt very strongly about this mission, unlike the many American draftees that perished. Furthermore, that myself and my friends form a VOLUNTEER army! Big difference! As an aside, as a past IR major, I must say that I believe the war in Vietnam was lost on American soil, just as this conflict in Afghanistan has had its greatest weaknesses and difficulties on Canadian soil – in the the streets AND in the halls of the decision-makers!
    b) your understanding of the “conflict extension” – NOWHERE have I seen that this extension of 1000 CF members is an extension of a combat role – in fact, even as of yesterday I must say that many of my peers (infantry soldiers) HOPE for a combat tour to Afghanistan (knowing that all present opportunities have now passed given the end of our combat role in 2011). What I must say is that, from an infantry perspective, it would be offensive to call any extension of our involvement in Afghanistan a combat role. Training troops BEHIND the wire isn’t particularly dangerous OR combative, and is very similar to the job that Canadians have done around the world since the Suez Crisis! This is NOT WAR! It is combat training, to be sure, but HARDLY the incredibly difficult, tear-jerking and fear-inducing experiences that many soldiers have experienced in the combat of the last 4 years…your civilian understanding derides an professional/appropriately intellectual comment on that matter.
    c) this extension is, in my opinion, a mistake. Too many Canadians, like yourself, see any involvement of any CF member in Afghanistan (be they Navy, Army, or Air Force) to be a tremendous mistake. As I said earlier about wars being won and lost at home – I believe that, though Afghanistan is not, nor will become, the failure that Vietnam was. The tremendous gains in allowing personal freedoms which our coalition has achieved – or the smiles on the little girls’ faces of the 90% of the country that desire our presence – shall speak alone. However, I believe that I, as a Canadian soldier, am not there to be a tool of International Relations according to how I SEE FIT. Rather, I believe that I am a tool to be used as the Canadian PEOPLE see fit…and I believe that the people, for wisdom or folly, do not see any further military (combat or NON-combat) role in Afghanistan to be worthwhile.
    d) Finally, I must say that this decision not to vote on Afghanistan/debate the issue in the House of Commons is a terrible one. As a Canadian, I am not impressed by the lack of debate on what is, clearly, an important matter for Canadians!

    A Canadian Infantry Master Corporal
    ps, I find it ironic that this post was made the day after Remembrance Day.

    • Ted H. says:

      I appreciate very much this post from a Canadian soldier. If and when the national debate that should take place on this issue does take place, those who have experience of the front lines deserve to be part of it.

    • Thanks to our soldiers who are in Afghanistan. However, the war is lost because most Canadians, like myself, do not know why Canada is fighting in Afghanistan. Are we searching for Osama bin Laden? If we are, then we might be in the wrong country. Are we trying to open up schools for little girls? Are we trying to stop any imperial expansion of China or Iran. If we are just trying to bring freedom to some people, then there are other countries that deserve our soldiers. How about North Korea or Zimbabwe? Are we in Afghanistan just to protect an area for some proposed oil pipeline from the central Asian “Stans?” Are we just helping the United States?

      Why is Canada in Afghanistan?

      • PL says:

        If you paid attention to what the people in military have said about reasoning for the conflict – or bothered to talk to some of the infantry soldiers who’ve been over there, you would discover that my peers are participating in Afghanistan not to look for OBL (as much), or to prevent “imperial expansion” (I don’t think I’ve even heard that point raised before), but we deploy in order to open schools, foster conversation, bring a new sense of the world to the Afghan people. Some of these people don’t even realize that the Russians have left! It’s a country that deserves the opportunity for free expansion and development, just like those other countries do! I support international engagement of 3rd world countries! However, you’re arguing via a slippery slope that just because we’re trying to improve 1 country, we should (or why are we not) improving all the other worthy (or worthier) nations! But we need to begin someplace, and personally, I feel that given our historic involvement in A, after 9/11, we might as well try and do good SOMEPLACE!

        • So we’re sending thousands of soldiers over to Afghanistan so that little girls can go to school? As for fostering conversation, I think a round-table on the BBC World’s “Doha Debates” could be more fruitful than sending soldiers to Afghanistan. We are sending soldiers in order to enlighten the population of Afghanistan–to get them out of their primitive mindset.

          I do mention stopping Chinese imperialism because Afghanistan and Pakistan are on China’s backdoor route to the Indian Ocean. From there, the Chinese have another route to Africa in order to expand their economic and social empire.

          Canada is not in Afghanistan for the little girls of that country. We are there to assist the United States in order to expand the American empire (and to stop other empires from encroaching the South and West Asian regions of the world).

      • ck says:

        Why is Canada in Afghanistan?

        It’s really quite simple. War is big business; pure and simple. Why do you suppose the US is always at war with some country? I mean, how long was it after the cold war ended that Desert Storm began?

        Now, particularly during recession times, it’s also a huge jobs program, if not the biggest; both military and non-military employment.

        http://www.truth-out.org/robert-reich-americas-biggest-jobs-program-is-us-military62313 More than likely the same thing in Canada.

        With big business with deep pockets, no doubt, comes some very powerful lobbyists.

        Don’t be fooled, it’s not about helping girls and women, it’s most definitley not about catching Osama Bin Laden and his bushwhacking thugs. Everyone knows the war is not winnable. The precedents have taught us this. Hell, even the once mighty Soviets knew to pack up and leave in the 80s and cut their losses.

        I’m also sure that those lithium deposits we’ve heard about has a lot to do with the extension as well.

    • Brian says:

      PL, my brother is on active duty, and I’m from a family of several generations of British and Canadian combat veterans.

      I actually support an *increased* combat role in Afghanistan, and certainly think a training role is a fair compromise. But I don’t support setting either policy on the basis of offhand remarks by a minority Prime Minister made from the safety of a press conference in a foreign country. I think that’s insulting to both Canadians, and Canadian servicemen and women; if you’re not willing to stake political capital on a mission when soldiers are willing to stake their lives in the same mission, that’s pretty sad.

      • PL says:

        I agree…I would prefer a solid stand

      • I think what Warren is articulating quite clearly are two important things:

        a) The Parliament of Canada, our elected representatives don’t get to debate this.

        b) Because MP’s don’t get to debate this, because a decision is being made without a debate, it sort of makes you wonder why we even have a government at all.

        I don’t think I read anything in Warren’s post where he didn’t say we’ve done good work while in Afghanistan. I believe all soldiers deserve to have this thing debated before the people of Canada. They deserve that much, God knows, when they get wounded, they’re going to get sweet @@#$ all from Veterans Affairs!

        Finally, it’s important to remember that Harper is doing this … because he can. There is no effective opposition and therefore he doesn’t see any political downside of making an arbitrary decision.

        It’s pretty insulting. Then again, it’s pretty sad that Canadians bend over and take it from this guy but that’s a story for another day.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Master Corporal,

      May I take the tremendous liberty of speaking for all who populate this page: thank you to you and your comerades for the outstanding service you have performed in Afghanistan and across other missions. Make no mistake — all Canadians are both grateful and proud of your service. Your sacrifices are worthy of our respect and Canadians along with their government can never fully repay our service personnel for what they have done for us. We need to do better towards CF, RCMP and other members than we’ve done so far in the way of peacetime support. Empty words and promises are not now and have never been enough.

  8. michael hale says:

    I love and respect a lot of people who count themselves part of the Liberal family and up until about a year and half ago, I was right there. Then I left the party. Still love and respect the people, but just felt the party had moved too far from what Liberal actually means to associate myself with the party.

    Months later, I’ve been questioning that decision. Mostly, I just missed some of those people who are Liberals and missed being on the same team. And then this happens.

    Turns out the party is even further from Liberal than I thought it was.

    • Ted says:

      I don’t understand how the party that brought us into into WWII, the Korean War, the Balkan War and this Afghanistan War is any less Liberal because it wants to train Afghanistanis on how to protect themselves.

      Training soldiers has always been a part of our peacekeeping role since Pearson brought it.

      I get the criticism of the leadership and communication and lack of clarity on this issue, but this comment is way over the top and shows a a total lack of historical knowledge about the country and the party.

      Peacekeeping and training local soldiers to do their own protection is and has been pretty much a core Liberal foreign policy since Suez.

  9. allegra fortissima says:

    No, I don’t wonder no more when reading this article:


  10. Namesake says:

    Well, for the record, Harper said a _bit_ more to the media this morning: that he _is_ open to a debate in the House of Commons on this, soon, if the other parties have something to add.

    But clearly, it would only be a ‘pro forma’ debate, inasmuch as he’s ruled that this is purely an Executive decision as far as he’s concerned (convinced as he is that he’s actually our President), since this is “simply” a training mission, so it doesn’t need, and won’t be getting, Parliamentary approval.

    Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/11/12/harper-vote-afghanistan.html

    But the irony is, when Harper’s being iron-fisted like this domestically in the ways WK describes/deplores, it’s all in service of: being a lapdog to the USA internationally.

    In Looney Tunes terms, he’s Chester the Terrier to the US prez’s Spike the Bulldog (and gets just as much respect: “Ahh…. shaddup.”) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spike_the_Bulldog_and_Chester_the_Terrier

    That’s what’s happening:
    – here in the (‘it’s not a’) mission extension; and,
    – in the latest (failed) G20 (shh… the impending trade war will all be China’s fault, not the US’s), and in the decision to host the first one (in a vainglorious attempt to try to _look_ like a bulldog on the world stage); and,
    – in the decision to buy the F-35s in particular (even tho’ that’s not the plane we need, to subsidize the Americans, who decided that _they_ need it, but it’ll only be affordable to them if their allies buy them, too); and,
    – perhaps especially in his, to him, horribly shameful (the counterpart to making him swallow it) decision to secretly agree to repatriate Omar Khadr after all.

  11. [...] Kinsella has a good post titled TEN POINTS: WHEN DEMOCRACY LOSES ALL MEANING that you should check out.  I was going to reply in his comments but after drafting up a [...]

  12. Darren K says:

    I use to call my local Conservative MP – James Moore in BC when ever another Canadian life was lost in the Afghan War. I never did get to talk to him, he never returned a single call. I eventually got the impression – yes, I am a slow learner – that he didn’t care. It certainly didn’t make a difference. So, when I read this week about the total reversal, and that now the LPOC didn’t seem to want to object, it didn’t surprise me that much. It disappointed me, that was for sure, but no surprise.

    Democracy died a long time ago in this world.

  13. jade says:

    Sometimes I think you’re pretty smart. Other times, occassionally, just the opposite or worse. Today you are on the mark in more ways than one.

  14. nic coivert says:

    This is a touchy one, but I don’t see how we could do otherwise, corporate imperialism trumps all here, especially with the arms of the western military’s up to their armpits, and what with an oil pipeline going going gone in and untapped mineral reserves plus all that opium, everyone wants a piece. This is realpolitik. I wish it were a better world. Afghanistan was never about altruism anyway, but altruism sold it.

  15. robert says:

    I understand your points as it applies to Ignatieff (he’s gotta go!) but on Harper? Cmon’, The day Harper said he was pulling out in 2011 I called BS. If I can see through the opaque pronouncements of ll Duce II how is it that the entire Liberal machine missed it, including the press? This was no surprise and Harper should have been held to account from day one of the pronouncement. All he did then was spout out to take the heat off.

  16. CQ says:

    What?s the alternative? Cut and run? Abandon our Nato and American allies (sorry, must never mention Amercian Troops) in Afghanistan? Wait for the UN?s Portugal and Germany to tell us our role?
    As to point #8: War is not a bad thing by default. It might be lousy, and it might be hell. I?m not so sure if I am still glad that there wasn?t a needed military call when I was a younger man ? never even heard of a recruiter at my Toronto area grade 9-13 high school or community college.
    I suspect my parents would rather that I had died in a military mission than simply limped along as a meaningless ineffectual failure in life.

    • Em says:


      You have dire choices …and unusual parents CQ! Limping along as opposed to goose-stepping, maybe?

      • CQ says:

        Not really.
        Things become clearer with 20+ years as an adult. I paid my way thru Ontario schooling and career ed., I worked in non-govt offices, made some fancy spreadsheets etc. Privately and smugly thought of myself ‘as better’. Never once earned a pot to piss in as the saying goes. Plus, throughout all these past couple of decades, I don’t think I’ve met what – as I readily knew of back when – a genuine ‘stand up guy’ (or gal) from my generation or younger, here in Toronto yet. I think a LOT of older Southern Ontarians, like my average folks, see it – just no one voices’ it. There’s just so much Namby Pamby talk bouncing around here.

  17. MississaugaPeter says:

    It’s sad that the first Liberal MP to speak out on this will be officially massacred, when they should be idolized.

    All you Justin backers, where is your idol?

    • James Curran says:

      Sure Pete. Where’s Gerard on this?

      • MississaugaPeter says:

        Honouring Canada’s Nobel Peace Prize Prime Minister …


        … and taking his role as Environment Critic very seriously. In Japan 2 weeks ago and Alberta last week, working on a coherent Liberal Environmental Program.

        • James Curran says:

          I see. And Justin was sitting around watching Coronation Street or something. The point is the leader and his co-leader are out to lunch on this one. Why youre blaming Justin is beyond me. Why Kennedy and Justin aren’t going public with indignation and disgust is beyond me too. As I told you years ago, the fight within the Liberal party is generational. And the youth haven’t won yet.

          • MississaugaPeter says:

            Unfortunately, Justin, could make a principled attack at the status quo and survive, Gerard, if he was against the present stance, like all other MPs, could not.

            Thus, even though the far majority of Liberal MPs even voted against the present extension, they must sit with their mouths shut.

            The dauphin, on the other hand, can make a stance. If he is watching Coronation Street or not, I have no idea.

            WK can make a stance. So can you. And Justin, who even has middle aged men fawning over him, can make a stance.

            James, I don’t know why you brought up Gerard. He is like every other sitting MP who needs to get their nomination papers signed. He is not the dauphin. Even if he wanted to, and I am not suggesting that is the case, he could not make a public stance. Justin, the dauphin can, and if he had the backbone of his father, he would. If he did, he might have another middle aced man supporting him.

  18. I think that politics is best left out of military matters, at least as much as possible. If the military wants something, and the majority of the house, and Canadian people support it, then the petty bickering of the House should be avoided.

  19. Greg says:

    War missions should always be debated and voted on by parliment. This is the latest sad chapter in our nation going to war with no input from the people via their representatives. Other sad examples include:

    Mulrooney sends military to war in the first Gulf War, no vote
    Chretien send the Airforce to bomb the Serbs, no vote
    Chretien sends the Army to Afghanistan the first time, no vote
    Martin sends the troops south in the far more volatile southern part of the country, no vote.

    It keeps going on and on and on.

  20. Back in 2006 I started warning about Harper’s drive down the road — U.S. style — toward an unelected and/or unaccountable executive branch.

    You’ll remember that Harper did a secret deal with former Liberal cabinet minister David Emerson to do party switch the day after the election, and also appointed the unelected Fortier to cabinet despite having promised to Quebeckers during that election never to do so. Net result: Harper established a new precedent and reinforced an old but bad one. Not only that but in the process he devalued the very meaning of the vote directly for hundreds of thousands of electors and indirectly for everyone.

    Ever since election 06 we’ve witnessed Harper engage in attacks on our electoral democracy and on the purpose of parliament. For the most part the opposition has been ineffective in fighting him off during any of these skirmishes, and here we now have the defence fraternizing with the enemy itself to the detriment of us all.

    Shame on them all.

  21. Art Williams says:

    If it was important to Iggy and the Liberal Party they could use an Opposition Day to bring this matter to the house. They could even use it as a basis for a non-confidence motion. Sadly, I fear they won’t.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Art Williams,

      Tough decision, eh! Let’s see, do we go for a principled stand against training the Afghan Army, a failed excuse for a military force (which is implicitly recognized by Karzai and the Saudis as they “negotiate” (read surrender) to the Taliban” or do we continue on the current political trajectory — that of a protracted reach for power by the inevitably “successful” strategic tactic of delay.

  22. J Michaels says:

    You hit the bull’s eye.

  23. S. Peterson says:

    Proportional representation please. No other way out of this quagmire. And at all costs get rid of the dictator in the making. I will hold my nose and vote liberal to do that. The liberals may be quite dumb sometimes but their instincts are 1000 times better than those of the cons.

  24. Mattt Enss says:

    Warren, can you offer any insight into why the Liberals are going along with this? That’s what confuses me. It seems like they would be better off in the next election fighting against keeping troops in Afghanistan.

    • Warren says:

      I don’t have any connection with them whatsoever, sorry. I was appalled by the way the upper echelons of OLO treated some people who are near and dear, so I resigned any affiliation with them in a letter I sent to Ignatieff.

      This latest mess is worse than bad political strategy. It suggests they don’t really believe in anything. And it is the rule, sadly, not the exception.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:


        You may have heard of this guy — a longtime Liberal by the name of Kinsella. Anyway, that guy has the strange idea that an opposition is meant to vigorously oppose a sitting government. I don’t quite get that. Watching the Liberal machine in action has left me with the impression that the options have narrowed considerably: there’s always agreement by default, consent by opting for radio silence and who can forget principled pronouncements followed by political inertia…

        I once thought we knew better than that. I now know we don’t.

      • Sean says:

        Isn’t there a biennial convention coming up this spring? Might be a good time to have a proper leadership convention…

  25. Michael Reintjes says:

    Warren wrote.. “and yet more combat roles for at least 1,000 troops”

    Where did you hear this part of your statement?

    • Namesake says:

      Well, this has kinda just been left hangin’ here, so allow me:

      The (up to) ’1,000 troops’ was widely leak-nounced on Monday, with the caveat that it was to include up to 750 military trainers and at least 200 support staff.


      Granted, it was also announced then & emphasized by Soudas & Hawn & various other gov’t spokespersons over the ensuing days that they are all to be deployed outside of Kandahar, and that this is intended to be a training mission ONLY.

      However, as most analysts & informed observers immediately pointed out, in that context, there is no absolute distinction between combat and training roles (only one of degrees): both because all the actual training there to date (and in the future, if it’s to be worthwhile) includes mentoring / accompanying the trainees into battle, and because anyone going in & out of “the wire” is at risk of being killed by roadside bombs, and indeed, even INSIDE the wire they’re at risk of being felled by incoming missiles.

      Greg Weston addresses some of these issues today, and not only questions whether it’s even true that 750 Canadian trainers are even needed, but also quoted no less an authority than Gen. Rick Hillier that,

      “You can come up with all kinds of schemes to hide away in a camp and train people for the Afghan army or police, but they lack credibility. If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army or police in southern Afghanistan, you are going to be in combat.”

      http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/11/11/greg-weston-troop-extension.html ; Hillier interview quote from:

      And as the Prog blogger ‘pogge’s pointed out, just yesterday a NATO supply truck was attacked en route to the supposedly safe capital of Kabul where we’ll likely be based next.



      • Michael Reintjes says:

        Interesting and informative reply…..but as someone with some knowledgge of the current mission, it is a little dishonest to outright claim the new deployment is a “combat”role. Having had friends and family in both Kandahar and Kabul I,m told that the situations are vastly different.I will say you are quite right to point out that any training or mentoring roles that Cdn forces take part in anywhere in the world are dangerous.
        I would say that we have certainly done our part and its probably time that some others should step up.I have no issues with Canada staying involved in mentoring roles in the Kabul arae and it sounds like most of parliament agree.

  26. Sam Davies says:

    Personally, I don’t actually have a problem with this, despite not being a fan of the war, nor being a fan of Harper.

    I believe that when it comes to matters of war, the executive branch MUST have the power to make such calls. If it is the wrong call, our parliamentary system has a way of dealing with this via elections. There are also several internal mechanisms where this issue can be debated and discussed from within. I do not believe you can erode these powers/mechanisms simply because you disagree.

    If anything, this event just further demonstrates how weak and artificial the unity is amongst Liberals.
    Many of you constantly attack Harper on the grounds that he will not compromise and work with other parties, yet when he does, you attack the other side for working with him and not against him. Rest assured that this type of mentality very much contributes to the dysfunctional nature of parliament. While I may have mixed feelings about keeping Canada involved in training, the fact is, the Liberals had been pushing this position for quite some time.

    • Namesake says:

      except that what happened hardly constitutes “working with the other parties,” does it.

      Did Harper convene a meeting b/w all the Opp. party leaders to brief them and try to build a consensus?

      No. He had one his most ineffectual ministers, Lawrence Cannon, call the _Deputy_ Leader of _one_ of the Opp. parties late on a Friday, to say something to the effect of, “Um, the boss says we’re going to stay on in Afghanistan to do training, after all,” with no details or opportunity for any type of input or joint decision making.

      If that’s meant to be a cursory attempt at consensus building, it’s both insulting and cowardly, to everyone concerned.

      • Sam Davies says:

        re: “working with other parties”

        As mentioned – I’m not a fan of how he does things. You’re preaching to the choir.

        The reality of the situation is that MORE and MORE Canadians are just plain sick and tired of the non-stop bickering in politics. The reality with Harper is that he will no doubt pull more things like this – its how he rolls. You are familiar with “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”? He gets away with it because from day #1, Harper has been equated to the armageddon and the antichrist, but the doom and gloom that was predicted has not come true (at least, not in the over blown dramatic way it mongered). Over reaction to small quaint things has essentially desensitized people.

        If anything – all of this seems to point towards the unsustainability of Big Tent Liberalism. The party has always had problems with various factions, but I do not believe they have environment within which they can keep everyone together. Leadership is a part of the problem, but I think it is foolish to believe that somewhere out there is some sort of messiah like leader who will be able to take everyone to the promised land. The liberal party needs to reinvent itself in order to become a more significant force, but this isn’t really possible when there is still so much division.

        I also believe that guys like Warren need to face up to role they have played (albeit unintentional) in contributing towards the erosion of our political system. People are just sick of the barking dogs howling all the time. I first started visiting this blog when Warren was working under Iggy, and I was not impressed. There was zero balance in anything that he was saying – everything was about a call to war. Over at the Maclean’s blog, we joked about how peaceful things would be if both Ezra and Warren were dropped off on an island somewhere. Quite a shame, because this partisan attack dog stance marginalized the validity of various points.

        Anyone can yell – it takes strength and character to roll with the punches and take a flogging like a man.
        I honestly believe that if the Liberals really want their fortunes to change, they need to be more willing to bite their lips, especially when Harper treats them poorly. Crying about the big bad wolf just doesn’t work…

        • Namesake says:

          “Bend over and take it like a man” / Battered Wife Syndrome is your prescription for changing the Liberal’s fortune?!

          Thanks, doc, but some of us will be seeking second & 3rd opinions, esp. since this one seems to be coming from a ‘Concern Troll.’

          • Sam Davies says:

            So – the best your intelligence could muster in terms of a rebuttal is to mockingly call me a doctor, and then a troll?

            Have you considered running as an MP?

          • Namesake says:

            um, no, I also expressed disgust at your rec. that the Opp. should just grin & bear it (instead of, you know, actually Opposing),

            and I didn’t call you a Troll, simpliciter, but a _Concern_ Troll:

            viz., “One who professes to be on the side of XXX [which admittedly wasn't actually stated, but might might reasonably be inferred as 'being a Liberal' from the context, of posting seemingly constructive criticism here on on a Liberal-friendly blog],

            but who deliberately works to destroy XXX ‘from the inside’ by spreading Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, in the guise of concern about the tactics that are being used to achieve XXX. Concern trolls are saboteurs.”

            In this case, since part of your diagnosis of the Lib’s fatal flaw is that its big tent is too big since there are such fundamental divisions within it, and your prescription is that they therefore have to: narrow it,

            I’m simply countering that we’d best take your counsel with a big grain of salt, since, as you yourself point out in one of your many Maclean’s comments, you’re not really much of a Liberal yourself, but a self-described “political whore.”



        • Namesake says:

          Ok, so the “Crying Wolf” charge got me to thinking: has the current Opp. really been so much more histrionic than previous ones? In recent memory, I certainly recall the perpetually angry Harper & Baird crying “fire” on every little thing for years, but is there any more objective measure than my subjective recollection.

          Turns out there is, if, for the sake of argument, we take a paradigmatic indicator like a Call For a (Minister’s) Resignation during Question Period (a ‘CFR’, for short) as a proxy for how Wolf-Alarmist the Oppostion Parties as a whole are, during a given administration.

          A Political Scientist at Memorial U. did a paper on this very topic last year: ‘Calls of the Wild: Resignation Requests in the Canadian House of Commons 1957-2008,’

          The ‘money shot’ is Table 2, on p. 8, which breaks it down by PM, no. of QP weeks, Calls for Resig, during said weeks, and the ave. no. of CFRs per QP week, thus:

          Dief 1957-’63: 103.7 / 6 = .06
          Pearson ’63-68: 119.4 / 48 = .40
          Trudeau ’68-79: 250.4 / 196 = .78
          Clark 1979-80: 6.9 / 7 = 1.0
          Trudeau ’80-84: 107.1 / 76 = .71
          Turner 1984-84: 0 / 0 = 0
          Mulroney ’84-93: 187 / 92 = .49
          Campbell 1993: 0 / 0 = 0
          Chretien ’93-03: 172.9 / 134 / .76
          Martin ’03-’06: 31.9 / 132 = 4.1
          Martin* ’03-06: 31.9 / 69 = 2.2
          Harper ’06-’08: 42.6 / 51 = 1.2

          * There’s a double entry for the Martin years, here, to adust for the outlier of 77 calls for Judy Sgro, alone.

          Thus, as you can see, even tho’ the Opp. has called for Ministers’ resignations over twice as often during the first Harper admin. than they did during the whole of Mulroney’s reign, that was:

          only about half or even less than a third as often as the non-Lib. Opp. did during the Martin years.

          Thus, pace Sam Davies, I submit we are NOT seeing a more hysterical style of opposition post-Harper than we did before. (and since HE got elected by Harping on the previous govt often & loud enough to make its supporters stay home during the election, I see no reason for us to stop doing the same).

          The ave’s for the longer periods (from Table 1) are:

          0.55 calls for resig. per QP week from 1957-1993;
          1.29 calls for resig. per QP week from 1993-2008;

          (and 0.72 for the entire 1957-2008 period)

    • Brian says:

      “If it is the wrong call, our parliamentary system has a way of dealing with this via elections.”

      No, actually, our parliamentary system has a way of dealing with this – via *Parliament.* Under normal circumstances, I might disagree but shrug off the “executive branch runs foreign policy line,” but you might remember that this particular executive branch does not command a majority in the House of Commons.

      Not incidentally, I felt the same way back when the front benches were held by guys in red sweaters instead of blue.

  27. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    This has about as much chance of building consensus as getting behind the statement that Harper is a great PM!

    Rightly so, the NDP and Bloc are a definite NO right out of the gate. That leaves Liberals twisting in the wind and awaiting further clarification other than what was personally conveyed by Cannon. You can flesh this one out until the cows come home but in the final analysis, we either bend to NATO pressure and cave — or we break and walk. I’m already on my second pair of running shoes.

  28. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I’m thinking Harper’s worst nightmare: It’s called a Free Liberal Party Vote in the Commons on Extended Afghan Training. Bring it on, please!

    • Sean says:

      uhhh… that would be the Liberal Party’s / Ignatieff’s worst nightmare… The caucus is guaranteed to be divided, while every other party will be strongly united one way or the other. The vote would definately be for an extension because the Tories only need about ten seats for a majority. Unless you are inferring that this would be the final nail in the coffin for Ignatieff’s disastrous, fiasco ridden leadership. Then, I would strongly agree with you.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:


        With respect, what you suggest falls within the realm of the possible. But personally, I’d rather go down with most hands fighting than to spend one more interminable day as the convenient enabling party to this Conservative government.

  29. Michael Behiels says:

    This is a very black day for democracy in Canada.

    Even for those who have supported the Afghan mission from the start. But, like many others most of the liberal supporters are of the view that the Liberals badly mismanaged the process because they have lost their way.

    Now Harper’s hawkish Conservatives have demonstrated not once, not twice, but thrice how it is so easy to use the end, prosecuting an unfavourable war, to justify any means.

    The Liberals and Conservatives are trashing our Constitutional democracy, one in which the Constitutions is supreme over the executive, the Parliament and the courts.

    Harper always despised the Constitution Act, 1982 so he is doing his level best to destroy it. The real shocker in all of this is that Ignatieff is helping him along!!!!

    Check out section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

    I said many months ago that the unthinking Liberals and the hawkish Conservatives would resort to anything to ensure that Canada’s Armed Forces would continue to wage war in Afghanistan after2011.

    And, as on two previous occasions the Liberal Leader has been badly outmanoevred by Harper once again on this most crucial of files.

    This back room accommodation of Canada’s autocratic Conservative and naive in the extreme Liberal political elites, with their respective media in tow, in order to trash our Constitutional democracy, is despicable and condescending.

    Harper is now guaranteed to win the next election before the Spring budget because many disillusioned liberals will now either stay home or vote NDP. Irate moderate NDPers will stick with Layton.

    And after their defeat, the Ignatieff liberals will be toast. And none too soon, I might add.

    The death of the Liberal Class in Canada and elsewhere is a very painful thing to watch.

    • terence says:

      The Liberal class is far from dead. I see grass roots revival all over the place. the party is staying close to the tories and waiting for an election. Iggy has put forward some good Liberal planks that will get newsworthy in a campaign.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:


        Please explain something to me. If Michael does not insist on a Commons vote, what effect will that have on the progressive forces in the party — not to mention the centrists who oppose further involvement in Afghanistan?

        To say ready, aye, ready, is to commit political suicide. It entrenches the pro-Afghanistan vote in the hands of Conservatives while alienating the left and much of the center.

        To my mind, not the winning recipe for an “eventual” federal election, is it…good, or even great, Liberal election planks aside.

  30. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Michael Behiels,

    Briefly put, hear, hear!

  31. I realy don’t understand the problem with a training mission. Are you suggesting that they are using the word “training” in a misleading manner?

  32. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    We need an opposition motion. I prefer that it be a Liberal one but hey, I’m not that particular who finally gets the credit. If it takes an NDP or Bloc opposition day to get the job done, so be it. But then again, watch this Prime Minister “reschedule” opposition days to avoid a vote. He may think he can get away with that. Canadians, on the other hand, are likely to provide him with evidence suggesting otherwise.

    Those favouring an extension are breaking their word to the Canadian people. There have to be political consequences — and trust me, there will be.

  33. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    It might be instructive to hear what Turner, Chretien and Martin have to say. Will they all potentially sing from the same song book or will they also reflect the true and legitimate divisions in the party and in Canadian society as a whole?

    We need to get their input as former prime ministers. After all, they can’t undercut the leader — unless, the Liberal position is already final and sealed in concrete.

  34. michael hale says:

    It’s not the war that bothers me. It’s the decision to cut a deal to avoid Parliament. Liberal is neither for or against war. It’s believing that war should be justified on Canadian values and further that Canadians get to participate in and see our political leaders participate in a debate of what exactly those values are.

    Several of these posts have conflated two very different things – the actions of government in extending the mission versus the mission itself. I was commenting on the former.

  35. Namesake says:

    Ok, so that’s something to keep an eye on over the next decade(s) to track what happens next, but let’s not go rewriting history on the fly: that’s not why we went there (the magnitude of those deposits was only established _this_ year), or why we are and probably should be staying in some capacity now.

    Why Canada went in the first place was probably summed up best by Hillier: “We were going _somewhere_ in 2003, just as a way to relieve the pressure of saying no to the Americans on Iraq, and it ended up being Afghanistan.”

    Few demurred, probably because (projecting the royal) ‘we’ felt, “At least that’s where the ones who actually attacked us were operating from; if there has to be a quasi-illegal retaliatory raid, it makes more sense that it be there.”

    (‘Course, we should have refused that, too, in protest of the fact that the Bush admin. refused to agree to the Taliban’s offer to turn bin Laden over if they guaranteed a fair trial, but we didn’t (w. the complicity of the media; I don’t recall that being publicized over here!).)

    But now that we’ve messed up the interim stability they’d achieved by temporarily shifting the Taliban around by our presence there, the Manley panel — and Rae — are probably right,

    “an [International Security Assistance Force] retreat from Afghanistan before that country’s own forces can defend its security would most likely condemn the Afghan people to a new and bloody cycle of civil war and misrule ? and raise new threats to global peace and security.”


    If anything, those lithium deposits will enable the NATO forces to leave sooner rather than later in good conscience, by providing the country a means of funding itself and occupying its populace productively. Though, yes, it will probably take another 20 years.

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