ISIS: read this

This Matthews guy is smart.

One expert in genocide and war said the government motion neatly manoeuvred Trudeau into repudiating his own party’s foreign policy legacy.

“I think now from a political perspective this is a bigger wedge issue because Liberals were the ones who helped bring about responsibility to protect (R2P), that said we must do more to protect human security. They are now basically turning their backs on that notion,” said Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies with Concordia University.

The mission has already exposed a split in the Liberal caucus. Veteran Liberal MP Irwin Cotler abstained from the first vote on the mission back in October — a decision Trudeau said at the time he respected…

For Matthews, that’s part of the larger problem. He said that the opposition parties are being too narrow-minded when they frame the mission from a combat perspective alone, neglecting to acknowledge Canada’s international legal obligation to prevent genocide.

“The Vatican has come out saying there’s genocide against Christians. The UN came out last week and said that ISIS is trying to commit genocide against the Yazidis. U.S. air power has prevented ISIS from committing that genocide but the Liberals who helped bring about R2P aren’t even mentioning it, and the NDP won’t even mention that a genocide is taking place,” said Matthews.

“Harper is kind of right in that there is a humanitarian imperative here, and not just ‘Harper’s war’.”

The war against ISIS: write your own talking points (updated)

As expected, the Harper government is moving to extend and even expand our participation in the international force targeting ISIS.

The Conservatives – with the possible exception of Michael Chongwill be unanimous in their support for that motion.

The NDP – with no exceptions that I’m aware of – will be unanimous in their opposition.

So what of the Liberal Party? Everyone agrees they are now in a bit of a dilemma. Justin Trudeau strenuously opposed the mission, and even seemed to mock it – but then subsequent polls showed overwhelming support for our participation, and concurrent decline in Liberal support. Trudeau then went on to support C-51.

In light of that, how would you craft talking points for Trudeau for tomorrow today? When he emerges from his weekly caucus meeting office, he will be facing a gargantuan scrum, with reporters demanding to know which way he will vote. It will be interesting.

Below is my stab at some talking points, pro and con.

Continue to oppose the mission:

  • We support our men and women in uniform.  We support efforts to combat terrorism.
  • What we do not support, however, is a military effort that lacks definition, lacks transparency, and is wholly different from what the government said it would be.
  • The Conservative government said we would not have a combat role.  That is what the Prime Minister said, repeatedly.  But it is clear to everyone that we are engaged in combat – and we have already lost one of our men in uniform, just a few days ago.
  • No one seems to know exactly how how Sgt. Andrew Doiron died.  At whose hands? In what circumstances? Why?
  • The loss of Sgt. Doiron is a loss for us all.  He is a Canadian hero, now gone.  We in the Liberal Party believe that we owe all of those heroes – all of those women and men in uniform – a clear sense of their mission.  Its rules of engagement.  Its strategic objective.  Its end date.
  • Canadians are owed that, too.  And, until we get it, we will stand with our troops – but not with this government.

Support the mission

  • Our party – unlike the NDP – is not afraid of a fight.  We do not oppose combat in each and every instance.
  • The Liberal Party of Canada sent Canadian forces into battle to fight fascism in World War II.  To stop genocide, in Bosnia.  To contain terror, in Afghanistan.  It was Liberal governments who made those difficult decisions.
  • Equally, the legacy of past Liberal governments is peacekeeping.  Prime Minister Pearson won a Nobel Prize for Canada’s peacekeeping efforts. We are proud of that legacy.
  • With that legacy uppermost in our minds, the Liberal caucus this morning agreed to support the international effort against ISIS.  We will be voting to extend Canada’s role there.
  • We do so for one reason, above all others: the situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq has gotten dramatically worse in recent months. ISIS has revealed itself to be a well-funded, well-organized genocidal cult – a malignant force unlike any that we have seen in our lifetimes. They are not going away.
  • We opposed the war in Iraq in 2003 because that American-led effort lacked evidence of weapons of mass destruction.  It lacked United Nations support.  In recent weeks, however, the United Nations has clearly documented horrors carried out by ISIS – including the murder and enslavement of children.
  • In light of the UN’s findings – in light of the radically-changed circumstances – we will now support this international effort, with conditions. We want to know the rules of engagement, our strategic objective, and – of course – the end date. If those conditions are satisfied, we will support this motion.

Personally, I see them sticking with their original position – however wrong-headed that was.  I found the “support the mission” talking points were a lot more difficult to compose.  Ipso facto, they’re trapped.

Now you take a stab, dear reader.  Both sides – not just the one you support!

UPDATE: And…sigh. No one can accuse him of simply following public opinion, I guess. And, at least no one is being called a traitor for taking the opposite view (yet).

Your morning moral relativism

If you’re like me, you form judgments based upon a number of variables. You look at the evidence, and you choose.

So, you look at the evidence unearthed by the United Nations, which has reported that ISIS is “selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive,” quote unquote.

And if that’s not enough to justify taking action against ISIS in the Middle East, or making it harder to promote terror in Canada – and it should be, for any moral person – then how about this?

If you oppose extending the mission against a genocidal cult, and criminalizing the promotion of terror aimed at minorities (just as we have rightly criminalized the promotion of hatred, for decades) – well, good luck with that.  You can hang with the gun nuts, and I’ll stick with the Pope.


Meerkat and Periscope will change politics

Mark my words.

My band did a Toronto show on Thursday night. We played live, and we were seen by a respectable number of people as far away as Australia. I’m told we were among the first bands to ever use this new video live streaming thing in that way. 

My prediction: it will change politics, too. As campaigns become more and more expensive to cover – and as news organizations have fewer and fewer resources – you will see campaign events showing up on Meerkat and Periscope, live and start to finish, for all to see from the comfort of their handheld devices.

Political parties will attempt to control these live feeds, of course. And the media will complain about that, of course. 

But average citizens – and voters – will be able to see events, unedited and unvarnished, just as if they were there.

Whenever something comes along to facilitate participation in the democratic process, I’m happy. The question remains, however, about whether Periscope and Meerkat will make those who toil within the democratic process look worse than they already do.

Political foot-in-mouth disease: when is it an accident, and when is it deliberate?

Michael Harris in iPolitics:

The odd thing about about this re-run of the Right of the Living Dead in the CPC is that it represents something that Stephen Harper himself used to view with mortification and alarm. His original inspiration for muzzling MPs came from his days with Preston Manning.

Back then, a year’s worth of work before a party convention — not to mention the event itself — could be blown apart by one unhinged Reformer ranting at the media about an Asian Invasion or Young Earth Creationism. Who can forget when Warren Kinsella produced a purple Barney the Dinosaur doll on Canada AM, proclaiming he was the only member of his species who had ever shared the planet with humans?

Now it’s not really funny anymore. Harper has simply made the calculation thatif the way to give a chameleon a nervous breakdown is to put him down on plaid, the way to win an election in our disappearing democracy is to offer Canadians only two flavours — vanilla or chocolate.

That means hitting the hot buttons, over and over.

Now, I know Michael is not exactly neutral on the subject of Mr. Harper, but his column – which I caught in Google alert thing – raises an interesting question: are the the myriad recent backbench bimbo eruptions – by Messrs. Williamson, Miller, Kenney, et al. – actual, bona fide, mistakes? Or are they deliberate, and none-too-subtle attempts to throw a bone to the knuckle-draggers in the Reformatory grassroots?

Personally, I don’t see a grand conspiracy in any of this. Why would Harper have gone to all the trouble of casting out the Reform-Alliance-Conservative troglodytes (e.g., Myron Thompson, Bob Ringma, Dave Chatters, et al.), and dispensing with assorted Blue Book craziness (e.g., opposing reproductive choice, equal marriage and Mounties with turbans), only to abruptly turn hard right on the eve of what is to be a hard-fought election campaign in urban Canada?

Makes no sense to me. Oftentimes in politics, then, the simplest explanation is the best one: Harper has had a cluster of backbench bimbo eruptions, and I am told he is none too happy about it. (And God help, FYI, the next backbencher to say something intolerant.)

What thinkest thou, O Wise Reader? A bunch of rookie flubs, or a clever strategy? Comment away!

SFH comes alive!

From left: Davey Snot, Royal Niblet, Steve Deceive and Winkie Smith. Bjorn von Flapjack III? Who cares. We hate him, now.

I love Stevie’s Townshend-esque flourish. Classic.

Oh, and we made history! We broadcast our show live over Meerkat, and got watched as far away as Australia. Cool.