Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our Soldiers Are Not Pleased That Harper and MacKay are Trying to Hide Behind Them

The above video is part 3 of the documentary Rethink Afghanistan. The discussion is the very real cost of the war, and this is something that is rarely talked about here. Our parliamentary budget officer has stated that it could be as high as 20 billion dollars, and it would be naive of us to believe that it hasn't had a huge impact on our economy.

The US also faced a housing bubble, as mentioned above, created through sub-prime mortgage lending. When that mortgage industry collapsed, the bubble burst.

In Canada, something else that Mrs. Peacock's Kindergarten class aren't speaking about; we are also in the midst of a housing bubble. And, thanks to Jim Flaherty, the Canadian taxpayer is now the largest sub-prime mortgage lender in the world.

The high cost of this war and the very real threat of a housing collapse, should have us all more than a little worried. But until we start demanding answers from this government, they are just going to continue to do what they are doing. Lie.

The video also mentions war profiteering, and if you look at the companies that are getting Canadian military contracts, and the amount of money involved, it's mind boggling. And yet none of this seems to be going to help the Afghan people, as we've been told.

We need a full public inquiry, not only on the torture allegations, but on the entire "mission". What exactly have we accomplished? What have we spent? Have the lives of the Afghan people improved? From everything I see, the opposite appears to be true.

Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, weighs in on the subject, and discusses how much the soldiers hate that Harper and Mackay are trying to use them for partisan politics. They are not stupid, and they know exactly what's going on here.

But they also still have a job to do, and this is not making it any easier. They want an honest debate, not smears and cover ups. We need to listen to them, because ultimately they will pay the price for this. And it could be the ultimate price if they are viewed in Afghanistan as people who are complicit in torture. They deserve better. We deserve better.

Wedged in: soldiers as props?
December 4, 2009
By Louise Elliott

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's comments aboard HMCS Quebec in Trinidad and Tobago last weekend raised some eyebrows.

"In a time when some in the political arena do not hesitate before throwing the most serious allegations at our men and women in uniform based on the flimsiest of evidence, remember that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are proud of you and stand behind you. And I am proud of you, and I stand beside you."

Wrapping oneself in the flag is one thing, but wrapping oneself in a military uniform in order to stifle debate is another.

But what, exactly, is the impact of the government's strategy to deflect controversy by suppressing questions about the Afghan detainee controversy and Richard Colvin's testimony?

"It's anti-democratic.

It's an insult to Canadian intelligence
. I don't think it does the Canadian Forces any favours in the long term because they don't know on what foot to dance," says retired Colonel Michel Drapeau. "That's not the type of support [the military] wants because they too are democrats. They recognize there are positions in Canada for and against [the war in] Afghanistan."

Painting the military in a partisan light has its dangers, both politically and otherwise, Drapeau argues.

First and foremost, there's the stifling of intelligent debate. As Drapeau says, "It's almost as if we were kids in their terrible twos. We're just told to go to our rooms and be quiet and do as we're told."

And then there's the question of political utility.

Wayne Slater is an American journalist who co-authored two books about the wedge politics employed by former president George Bush and his strategist, Karl Rove.

Slater contends that using the military as a wedge issue only works in the short term to mobilize your base and perhaps sway a few other voters to win an election. But it's also a political house of cards.

"You only create a bare majority for your side. Now that means you win the political war, but the moment you begin to lose support for your side, since the margin is so narrow, you quickly lose. That's what we've seen in the Bush-Rove years. Complete collapse."

Such a divided electorate is much harder to govern on just about any issue, Slater argues, something U.S. President Barack Obama knows all too well.

But political risks aside, perhaps the most damaging effects of such political rhetoric are felt by the troops themselves.

The government's attack on Colvin has sent a renewed chill through the ranks not only of the bureaucracy but of the military, says Rob Huebert, a political scientist at the University of Calgary. The consequences for them, he says, could be dire.

"Part of the problem the military always faces is they are continually told to keep their mouth shut," he says. "The idea we could be engaged in a war and not have any problems, make any mistakes, come on! Everybody is human. Mistakes in war happen. And the way you learn from them is you talk about them and correct them so you make sure you don't make them again."

But perhaps the current government's rhetorical assault is part of a bigger, and more longstanding Canadian problem: we have been chronically reluctant to debate our military involvements.

As Huebert notes, previous Liberal governments used silence as a tactic.

For example, Prime Minister Jean Chretien shut down the Somalia inquiry. And Canadian soldiers in the former Yugoslavia were told to keep quiet about a firefight that uncomfortably stretched the notion of peacekeeping.

The great irony, Huebert argues, is that the Conservatives have done more than previous governments to put the military on the map and get people talking about it. And that very strategy may now work against them.

"They've unleashed this process that in fact may come to consume them when in fact they have to start talking about things that aren't necessarily positive," he says. " Because how do you stop that? How do you put the genie back in the bottle?"

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