A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
There is in this country a mistaken belief that the Liberals were the first to attempt to turn Canada into a Corpocracy.
And that notion has been ingrained into our psyche.
But it is wrong. In fact it was Brian Mulroney who first moved the corporate boardrooms into the Parliament Buildings, and gave Lobbyists more power than our elected officials. It was also Mulroney who created the infrastructure for the sponsorship scandal.
Another new development in that fall of 1984 was the emergence of powerful lobbyists. Until the Mulroney government came to office, lobbying was a discreet profession in the city, practised by a few well-connected Ottawa hands ....
When Mulroney came to Ottawa, he was followed by a flock of cronies who were brazen in their determination to cash in on the friendship. They opened "consulting" or "government relations" offices, bragged openly about their access to the Boss, and devised billing systems based on retainers and — a new wrinkle — contingency fees, or percentages of the action should their efforts be successful. Some, the minnows in the Ottawa pond, opened modest one-man bucket shops in shabby office buildings; others, the barracudas, confident of raking in significant revenues, leased suites in the most expensive towers in Ottawa and filled them with teak tables, leather chairs, expensive art, and eager-beaver support staff. (1)
Conrad Black and Brian Mulroney had been friends for a number of years. Mulroney was president of the Canadian Iron and Ore Company, when the Black family were major shareholders, and he was the one who first introduced Black to Power Corporation's Paul Desmarais. (2)
Mulroney once said of Black: "Conrad has a magnificent capacity for conceptualization. If I look out a window, I'll see a tree. He might see a paper mill. He can put together the pieces of any corporate puzzle." (3)
But when Mulroney was asked to mediate a deal with Hanna Mining, he warned Black that he was seen as a "paper purchaser, not a builder or job creator". (4)
Robert Anderson the president of Hanna Mining, who wanted to stop Black from taking over Hanna, was Mulroney's boss. Brian Mulroney was, by his own description, "the jam in the sandwich.' Mulroney's position was made even more delicate as the battle moved out of the boardrooms into the courts. (5)
Black rewarded Mulroney, by backing him during his failed 1976 leadership bid, and the Mulroneys remained members of Black's social circle. That circle also included Murray and Barbara Frum(6), parents of David Frum, who remains a Black supporter.
Peter White and Brian Mulroney
Peter White was a classmate of Brian Mulroney's at Laval (7), and in 1972, he was running a small newspaper in Quebec's Eastern Townships along with his partner, Conrad Black. White introduced Black to Mulroney soon after he began to get involved in politics. (8)
White worked on Mulroney's leadership campaign, drawing in an important element of support, the Tory Youth, especially a group of neoconservative youth from the University of Toronto, led by Anthony Panayi (Tony Clement):
The campus radicals were also instrumental in the defeat of federal Conservative leader Joe Clark by corporate lawyer Brian Mulroney. "In 1981 to '83 there was a guerrilla campaign against the leadership of Joe Clark orchestrated by Brian Mulroney and the people who backed Mulroney ... In Ontario, the PC campus and youth associations were all hotbeds of anti-Clark activity and we were all on the anti-Clark side." The success of the right young Tories in helping force a leadership convention and in electing Mulroney over Clark strengthened their confidence. (9)
And the Young Tories were smitten with Peter White:
Peter White had identified young Tories as strategically significant and concluded that Mulroney had to win them in order to succeed. While staying discreetly out of the campaign limelight, White started to forge relationships with youth leaders, who were impressed that someone of White's stature — a business associate of Conrad Black — was interested them. Clark, meanwhile, had nobody of comparable business lining up youth support. Nearly one-third of all delegates were youth, so the potential was enormous. (10)
White would leave Mulroney in disgust, and return to work with Conrad Black, and the relationship between Black and Mulroney would also turn sour. In 1982 when Black was under investigation in Cleveland for shady dealings, be blamed in part, his former friend:
Unlike in America, Black personally knew those involved in the investigations in Toronto, and understood the regulators' frailties. `I'll talk to the Attorney General,' he announced. Just hours after the dinner he was sitting in the office of Roy McMurtry, Ontario's Attorney General. The politician met Black without any officials, even those directing the investigation. In his quiet, mellifluous manner, Black cast blame on a range of people, including even the future Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, at that time a rising politician in Ottawa and a director of Hanna. 'The powder trail from this trumped-up charade of an investigation leads straight to Brian's door,' Black told the Attorney General. 'He was far enough along in the chain that generated the Norcen investigation that his fingerprints wouldn't be on the knife. (11)
And Mulroney would say of Black: "Conrad's problem, is that he's never had his arse sucked by a woman." (12)
Mulroney always did have a way with words.
1. On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years, By Stevie Cameron, Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1994, ISBN: 0-921912-73-0, Pg. 21-22
2. The Establishment Man: A Portrait of Power, By Peter C. Newman, McClelland and Stewart, 1982, ISBN: 0-7710-6786-0, Pg. 224
3. Newman, 1982, Pg. 218
4. Newman, 1982, Pg. 250
5. Brian Mulroney: The Boy from Baie-Comeau, By Rae Murphy, Nick Auf der Maur, Robert Chodos, Goodread Biography, 1985, ISBN: 13-978-0887-801372, Pg. 129
6. Newman, 1982, Pg. 267
7. Cameron, 1994, Pg. 18
8. Mulroney: The Making of a Prime Minister, By L. Lan MacDonald, McClelland and Stewart, 1985, ISBN: 0-7710-5469, Pg. 82
9. Promised Land: Inside the Mike Harris Revolution, By John Ibbitson, 1997, ISBN: 0136738648, Pg. 33
10. Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition, By John Sawatsky, McFarlane, Walter & Ross, 1991, ISBN: 0-921912-06-4, Pg. 472 11. Conrad & Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge, By Tom Bower, Harper Press, 2006, ISBN: 10-000-723234-9, Pg. 66
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"The Reform Party is anti-everything. There's a really deep, deep-seated racism there. I still don't know what to make of Reform. I know that for the moment it's growing, but these are one-trick ponies. They're not standing on a whole lot of solid ground - it's all negative." - Brian Mulroney (1)
The recent Tamil Refugee situation was another test for this government. Had they shed their racist views or were they the same old Reform Party?
Are we again going to hear that gays and "ethnics" could be fired or "moved to the back of the shop," if the employer thought that would help business. Or that "a larger number of blacks and Asians are entering Canada; for the first generation, their birth rate is higher and you don't have to be an expert to understand what could happen. Canada as we know it could disappear." (2)
Or maybe that Canada is likely to "regret" taking in large numbers of third world immigrants because they prove "harder to integrate." "Policies which maintain the traditional [European] composition of immigrants, on the other hand, avoid the risk of having to face the longer run costs." (2)
Stephen Harper himself called multiculturalism "aweak nation policy" (3).
On June 25, 2009, he designated Pier 21 as a National Museum of Immigration.
"No country in the world has benefited more than Canada from free and open immigration," Harper declared. "In every region and across all professions, new Canadians make major contributions to our culture, economy and way of life. It takes a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure a better future for your family. Anybody who makes the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian." (4)
But then a year later, when his words were put to the test:
The harrowing voyage of the MV Sun Sea, in which 492 Tamil refugees endured months of squalor in dangerous waters to escape "mass murders, disappearances and extortion" following 25 years of brutal civil war in Sri Lanka, mirrors the experience of so many migrants who passed through Pier 21.
However, unlike Pier 21, there were no counsellors waiting to hear the Sri Lankan's stories; no team of volunteers eager to swiftly process and fairly evaluate the prospective new residents. Instead, the men, women and children aboard the MV Sun Sea arrived to allegations, leveled by the Harper government, of ties to terrorism and human trafficking; accused by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews of being a "test boat" for an apparent mass immigration conspiracy.
As for the Prime Minister, compare the above remarks made at Pier 21 just fourteen months ago, to this statement he gave following the arrival of the MV Sun Sea: "Canadians are pretty concerned when a whole boat of people comes - not through any normal application process, not through any normal arrival channel -- and just simply lands." (4)
This sounds like the National Citizens Coalition's "Boat People" campaign. Tap into a nation's fears and insecurities, so that we accept inhumane acts.
"This is how this man governs: let's find something to be frightened of," Ignatieff told an audience of several hundred people today (August 22) at the West Vancouver Community Centre. The federal Opposition leader cited the example of Tamil refugee claimants, who travelled in a rickety boat across the Pacific Ocean and arrived in B.C. earlier this month. Ignatieff claimed that federal Conservative politicians tried to make people "afraid of people you don't even know".
He added that officials with the Immigration and Refugee Board should have been left to do the proper screening without interference. "Politicians should shut up and let these people do their job," Ignatieff declared to loud applause. He pointed out that his own father was a refugee who fled Communism in Russia. "We must always be a haven in a heartless world," Ignatieff said. (5)
"We must always be a haven in a heartless world." I like that. It defines the kind of country Canada used to be.
1. The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister, By Peter C. Newman, Clandebye Ltd., 2005, ISBN: 10-0-679-31351-6, Pg.244
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"They haven't changed since they hanged Riel" Marjory LeBreton on Manitoba after the 1993 election results (1)
According to her bio, the 70-year-old Marjory LeBreton has worked for four leaders of the now defunct, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada - John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney.
That's true, though she should mention that she never liked Joe Clark, and liked his wife even less (2), but I suppose that's water under the bridge.
She was appointed senator by Brian Mulroney in 1993, but before that she was responsible for many patronage appointments, especially to the senate. This job was formerly handled by Peter White, who went back to work for Conrad Black.
Marjory LeBreton took over the unofficial patronage portfolio after Peter White's departure:Leading up to the leadership, people used to say, in the party, "You know, Brian Mulroney would be a great leader, but boy, I am worried about his friends." You would hear that, and I used to say, "Don't be so silly, everybody has liabilities Joe Clark has got a fair sprinkling of them, I don't mind telling you.
LeBreton dealt with dozens of demands and requests, particularly when Senate seats became available. Seven prominent Tories explicitly asked for appointments: I had John Reynolds on the phone lobbying for a Senate seat for himself, and giving me this pitch that it should be someone that could go on the talk shows. I said, "Gee, John, I haven't noticed you being out there."
Gerry St. Germain wrote a letter to the prime minister talking about the sacrifices he's made. I actually felt sorry when I read it. It said something to the effect that he would want to serve in the Senate and then he ended the letter by saying, "If you decide to choose someone else, please know that you will have my absolute loyalty." Jim Doak, who was seventy-four, was actually going to sign a letter saying that he would only stay there for a year, just to be called a senator. Doak was originally the president of the party in Manitoba under Diefenbaker.
Duncan Jessiman was another of the old party bagmen stalwarts, but he had supported the prime minister financially when he ran for leadership. He was seventy years old, and he sent the Prime Minister a kind of "you owe me" letter, and you know the prime minister people have helped him out. He [didn't make him a senator but] put Dunc in the best appointment he could give at the time, which was on the board of Air Canada, and of course we privatized Air Canada and they didn't keep him on the board, but they gave him a lifetime pass.
We had Kate Schellenberg [later Kate Manvell] in BC. She was married to Ted Schellenberg, who was the MP from Nanaimo. She wrote a long letter to the prime minister just before Christmas. As the prime minister was reading it, he said, "There must be some reason she's writing." The last paragraph was, "I'd like to be named to that vacant Senate seat from BC." We made her a citizenship court judge. Pat Carney asked for the Senate seat too, but claims she didn't. (3)
LeBreton is now Leader of the Government in the Canadian Senate, an appointment given her by Stephen Harper as payment for help with his 2006 campaign. I wonder how many letters and requests she fielded for Harper's patronage senate appointments.
Corruption Knew no Bounds
Erik Nielsen*, shown to the right, was the first Deputy Prime Minister under Mulroney, who eventually quit because of the rampant corruption in the Party.
Not that he was immune to making patronage appointments, and in fact developed a system where all party faithfuls had a say:
The way Nielsen envisaged it, the first stream would fill the top jobs at Crown corporations such as Air Canada, Export Development Corporation, the Atomic Energy Control Board and the CBC, as well as slots in bodies like the Parole Board and the Immigration Appeal Board, which required members with genuine expertise.
The party faithful who had raised money and volunteers in campaigns across the country would constitute the second stream, a pool from which candidates would be drawn to fill positions in arts agencies, marketing boards, and citizenship courts. Nielsen expected Tories to be appointed to the major boards as well, but he believed the chairmanships and presidencies should be set aside for people who had more than political credentials. There was a distinction, he insisted, between what was pure patronage and what had to be a selection of highly qualified persons to run government enterprises. (4)
With 3,000 patronage appointments to fill, Nielson established provincial advisory committees, who would bring forward likely candidates for various jobs, and these recommendations then went to a national advisory committee. He had patronage down to a science, but it soon became clear that the final decisions were in the hands of only one person, who more often than not completely disregarded any suggestions by the provincial groups.
Loaded as they were with old Mulroney associates, the provincial committees were being ignored and their recommendation, bypassed within three months of their inauguration. The national committee? It was a joke, "a mere facade," snorts Nielsen ... So I stopped chairing. I just simply stopped going to the meetings. My presence there was totally ineffective and superfluous." The committee's executive committee faded away and the process was taken over by Marjory LeBreton. (4)
A Champagne Taste on a Beer Income
The Mulroneys led an extravagant lifestyle, mostly on what would appear to be tax dollars and influence pedaling:
"He always lived up to the hilt" said one of his oldest friends. Like Mila, Mulroney enjoyed living and working in luxurious surroundings decorated with fine furniture and good paintings ... And he too liked expensive clothes. In the mid-1980s he would buy several $2,000 suits at one time from Bijan in Manhattan, one of the most expensive stores in New York, and of course he has long indulged a weakness for Gucci loafers at about $500 a pair.
One individual who has known Mulroney well since his days at Iron Ore is Conrad Black. In his 1993 autobiography 'A Life in Progress', Black patronizingly described the Mulroney he knew in the 1970s. Even though Mulroney had become successful wrote Black with the confidence of someone to the manner born, "he still felt himself quite keenly to be the underprivileged lad from Baie-Comeau, son of the foreman in the Chicago Tribune's news print mill who identified more with the French than the English,and more with the lower economic echelons than than with the scions of wealthy Westmount . . . He had the attitude to money of someone who didn't have any himself but had seen other scatter lavishly - he appreciated it more in the spending than in the accumulation, the latter a process he tended to oversimplify. And politically he had the attitude to money of someone who came to maturity in last years of Duplessis when the tangible fruits of a long incumbency were being extravagantly dispersed. He had the heart of a working man but the tastes of the rich." (5)
What my mom would call having a champagne taste on a beer income.
Before leaving public office, Brian Mulroney had got himself into a financial mess and was indebted to the Progressive Conservative party to the tune of more than $ 200,000.00 Many of these expenditures had been approved by Marjory LeBreton.
I guess in some ways it might destroy the hero worship of Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist groups, though I'm sure many will deny that the findings are true.
What is more important about this story, however, is the fact that Hitler is still given so much importance in world history. Because if we continue to believe that he alone engineered the Holocaust, or even instigated the Holocaust, there is a mistaken belief that now that he is gone, that evil has gone with him.
Political scientist and one time girlfriend of Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, covered the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann for the New Yorker, and surprised everyone, including herself, when she did not find an "exception to humanity". She wrote to her husband that Eichmann was "not even sinister". Instead she called him banal, "unimaginative, ordinary and unthinking".
Hannah Arendt's conclusions about Adolf Eichmann's banality crystallized into enduring controversy. Others may have hoped to see Bluebeard in the dock, she wrote, but for her, the horror lay in the fact that "there were so many like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic ... [but] terribly and terrifyingly normal." She was one of the first to refute the "monster theory" of less-than-human Nazis (however, if banal meant "common," there was much to argue with: among the defendants at Nuremberg were eight jurists and a university professor). (1)
Arendt was not the first to refer to the Nazis as banal or common. In fact the name Nazi was coined by journalist Konrad Heiden in the 1920's. He would often march with the "fascist brown shirts" to get his story and dubbed them 'Nazis', a Bavarian term meaning "country bumpkin" (2). He did not see evil then either, but a group of uneducated street thugs.
What eventually gave them legitimacy was the enormous amount of money and power that backed them up. The Nazis were free marketeers who supported top down commercialism. They were also in support of the monarchy and believed in the supremacy of the German race. Not just the white race as a whole, but the Germanic races, as defined by Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
And they would eventually tap into the pan-German sentiment, or nationalism, to gain support for their wars. But the man Adolf Hitler had very little to do with any of it. He was a narcissist who believed in his own greatness, and fed off the illusion.
An illusion originally created by the German Workers Party to draw in the occultist and monied Thule Society, who had been running seances to conjure up the Antichrist, to help Germany out of the dark post-war years. And the Antichrist of their vision was that described by Vladimir Solovyov, and found as the forward to some copies of the fraudulent Elders of Zion. Members of the party were drawn to Hitler when he showed up at one of their rallies, sporting the most unusual mustache. From Solovyov's image: "He is an absolute genius, and he may wear a small mustache." (3)
When Adolf Hitler joined the German Army, he wore a large mustache. But later, when the German troops were provided with respirator masks, in response to the use of mustard gas by the British, he was told to shave it, so that the mask could be worn properly. (4) Instead he trimmed it back, and that trimmed mustache became his trademark.
Thule member and playwright Dietrich Eckart, directed Hitler's character, and drew out his seductive power of speech. Thule member Rudolf Hess helped him to write Mein Kampf, and a former university professor of Hess's Karl Ernst Haushofer, is credited with the development of Hitler's expansionist strategies. "While Hess and Hitler were imprisoned after the Munich Putsch in 1923, Haushofer spent six hours visiting the two, bringing along a copy of Friedrich Ratzel's Political Geography and Clausewitz's On War." (5) The Thule Society would also be responsible for the Nazi flag, the Swastika, 'Sieg Heil', the Nazi salute and their anthem.
And in 1930, when members of the Fascist Brown Shirts (Nazis) finally had a strong showing in Parliament or the Reichstag, they were not interested in working with the other parties, but instead made a mockery of the entire process.
In mass formation, with military tread, eyes front, the 107 new Fascist Deputies entered the Reichstag. When it last met they numbered twelve. Flushed with their great election victory they marched in coatless, each swelling out his Fascist "brown shirt," each flaunting the Fascist swastika on his left arm, each in khaki flare-pants, swank black leather boots—all proud that they had flagrantly, successfully broken the Prussian State ordinance forbidding "public appearance in political costume." Saluting the Reichstag and each other, the Browns roared: "Hail, Hitler! Wake up Germany! Down with the Young Plan." (6)
This prompted a response by the Communist Party and there "... were times when everyone seemed to be yelling .... "Is there anybody older than I in this house?" shrilled 82-year-old Deputy Karl Herold above the tumult."
At women's names the Brown Shirts crowed. "Kikeriki! Kikeriki! Kikeriki!" —German equivalent to Cockadoodle-doo! (Fascists both German and Italian, hold that women are respect worthy as hens, jeer worthy when by entering politics they try t0 be roosters.) On the first day of the Reichstag session absolutely nothing was done except to call and jeer the roll. (6)
And when Hitler came to power in 1933, any notion of democracy was gone, as Nazism and the German state became one.
Despite the illusion of Hitler as being the supreme power of Germany during those years, the truth is that the industrialists and the bourgeoisie, directed the actions of the Nazi Party, from the Holocaust to the World War. And a lot of people became filthy rich because of both.
It is already common knowledge that the Bush family made their fortune when Prescott Bush financed the Nazis, but there were many others in the Corporate world who gained, including IBM who wrote the program for annihilation.
IBM’s machines were used at all stages of the persecution of the Jews. They collected the necessary information to identify the Nazis’ victims, first to enforce the bar on Jews working in certain academic, professional and government jobs and later to carry out mass evictions from their homes and into the ghettoes. IBM technology was used to organise the railways, so that millions of Nazi’ victims could be transported to the concentration camps, where they were immediately led into the gas chambers .... IBM was involved in virtually every aspect of the Third Reich’s operations. (7)
After taking over the punch card technology from Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft, in 1922, IBM monopolized the industry, and "... when Hitler came to power, [Thomas] Watson had transformed the formerly ailing German company into IBM’s flag ship—producing more than three times above its quota."
Watson was not a fascist, but a ruthless profiteer. The strong German state under an authoritarian leader offered great potential for moneymaking, and that was what Watson identified with. In fact, as the chairman of IBM, one of the most prestigious companies in the USA, Watson was a well-respected businessman, a supporter of Roosevelt and special advisor to the president. Watson was elected chairman of the Foreign Department that also made him chairman of the American section of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
This, in essence, made Watson America’s official businessman to the rest of the world. He became installed as president of the entire ICC in 1937 and arranged the organisation’s next conference in Berlin. Right from the start, IBM developed business solutions for the Third Reich. (7)
But not only corporations benefited from their alliance with the Nazis. Many of the German middle class also prospered. According to Gotz Aly, when discussing the initiatives of Stuart E. Eizenstat, to recover damages from the Swiss and German governments on behalf of victims of persecution during World War II.
Eizenstat was, of course, entirely right to demand compensation for the stolen gold and confiscated bank accounts of those murdered in the Holocaust, as well as for the slave labor performed by survivors. Nonetheless, his highly public negotiations gave rise to a distorted picture of history. The fact that the names of large Swiss and German banks—together with those of world-famous companies like Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen, Allianz Insurance, Krupp, the Bertelsmann publishing group, and BMW—were constantly in the news gave the impression that prominent German capitalists, occasionally in alliance with major Swiss banks, were the main culprits behind the terrible crimes of Nazi Germany.
There is no question that many leading German industrialists and financiers were complicit in Hitler's regime. But it would be wrong to conclude that primary responsibility for the Holocaust or other Nazi crimes lay with the elite of the German bourgeoisie. Eizenstat's efforts, as well as those of the Jewish Claims Conference, indirectly, if unintentionally, encouraged such a conclusion. And indeed many Germans had a stake in seeing the public's attention focused on the captains of industry and finance, since it shifted the burden of blame for Nazi barbarism to a handful of individuals. (8)
There was also an epidemic of widespread satisfaction:
Precisely because so many Germans did in fact benefit from Nazi Germany's campaigns of plunder, only marginal resistance arose. Content as most Germans were, there was little chance for a domestic movement that would have halted Nazi crimes. This new perspective on the Nazi regime as a kind of racist-totalitarian welfare state allows us to understand the connection between the Nazi policies of racial genocide and the countless, seemingly benign family anecdotes about how a generation of German citizens "got through" World War II ... "We were well off during the war ... Food deliveries always went smoothly." (8)
And being constantly told that they were only doing better because the government was eradicating the country of Jews, who they believed had been the source of all their problems, why would they protest?
So You Don't Think it Could Happen Again, Huh?
When I compare Stephen Harper to Adolf Hitler, it is not because of the Holocaust, but because they are both "images" of a political leader. Hitler made few decisions, but was presented to the German people as a Messiah. They adored him. Or I should say they adored who they thought he was.
Had they known the real Adolf Hitler at the time, they might not have been so smitten. He was a bully, and while called a dog lover, actually beat his dogs mercilessly. He was not a vegetarian as suggested, but loved sausages and cavier. He was not a strong leader but was actually a coward. His best friend during his Vienna days said that when he was in their room, raising his voice over some political matter, the landlord would bang on the wall and Adolf would cower into a corner.
After the Beer Hall Putsch, he wanted to commit suicide, and the wife of a friend who was hiding him, had to talk him out of it. And he was also a sexual deviant. But so long as they could keep his ego fed, he would behave.
And I don't think I need to go into 'Mr. Photo-op", and the illusion of strong leader, who actually hides whenever his government is receiving bad press, allowing others to take the fall.
But more importantly, we have to look at who is now being blamed for all of our ills. Not the Jewish people, but the Muslims.
Islamic investors want to build a community centre for Manhattan Muslims in a derelict coat factory two blocks from the site of the World Trade Centre. This community centre is intended to be a bit like a YMCA – containing an auditorium, a gym, a swimming pool, a basketball court, childcare services, art exhibitions, a bookstore, a culinary school and a food court serving halal dishes, as well as some prayer space. It is to be run by a famed moderate – Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – a Kuwaiti cleric who has written about how to integrate Islam with the West.
It should be nothing more than a local zoning issue, and not a problem. Not a problem, that is, until a few prominent far-right demagogues noticed it and seized upon it. Sarah Palin tweeted about it to her hundreds of thousands of followers and then the usual cavalcade of Teabaggers, opportunist election hopefuls and Fox pundits dogpiled the issue.
Suddenly, the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ is no longer a local zoning issue; it’s a ‘desecration’ of ‘hallowed ground’, a slight to the heroes and victims of 9/11. The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ label makes it sound to the public like the place is being built at the actual Ground Zero – which could maybe be construed as insensitivity. This is not the case: it is to be built hundreds of metres away in a damaged, vacant building on a dilapidated side street.
Fox News went nuts, and polls were everywhere, suggesting that Obama was a Muslim, like it was some kind of disease. He's not. He's a Christian, but should that matter? He did not blow up the World Trade Center, nor would he or the vast majority of Muslims ever condone such a thing. The issue was Western aggression, not religion.
I watched a bit of CNN (before I started screaming and shut it off), and one of their media people asked if, since Tim McVeigh was Catholic, would it be appropriate to build a Catholic church two blocks from the site of the Oklahoma bombing? He was besieged with emails accusing him of being anti-Catholic and anti-Christian.
And even those defending Obama, made it about the religious issue, and defending his Christianity. It should have been a non-issue, but it shows how low the Republicans have sunk.
Gingrich equates the proposed Islamic centre there to a Nazi display next to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. or a Japanese warrior monument at Pearl Harbor. (The analogy would be fine if Osama bin Laden was the one building a mosque at the World Trade Center and not a Manhattan couple, devoted to interfaith work, proposing a Muslim Y.)
“Gingrich is too smart to be that stupid,” says John Esposito, professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., by way of illustrating how anti-Muslim bigotry has become so acceptable that “mainstream politicians, including two potential Republican presidential candidates (Gingrich and Sarah Palin), media commentators, hardline Christian Zionists and a large number of Americans feel that they can say anything about Islam and Muslims with impunity.
We wince at the things said about Jewish people back in the day, and yet barely bat an eye, when we hear the same things said about the Islamic World. They are all 'Taliban' or 'Al Qaeda', despite the fact that the majority are not. They are ordinary people who want the same things that we do for ourselves and our families.
We are no better than the Nazis, if we are not appalled by this. And remember the words of Hannah Arendt, when covering the trial of the Holocaust organizer, Adolf Eichmann. "... the horror lay in the fact that "there were so many like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic ... [but] terribly and terrifyingly normal."
Antisemitism is horrific, but so is this, and when left unchecked, can result in the unimaginable.
1. Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, By Erna Paris, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, ISBN: 0-676-97251-9, Pg. 318
2. Books: Master of the Masses, Time Magazine, February 7, 1944
3. Der Fhehrer, Hitler's Rise to Power, By: Konrad Heiden, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1944, Pg. 100
4. Total Power: A Footnote to History, By: Edmund A. Walsh, Doubleday & Company, 1949, Pg. 14-15
5. The Unknown Private - Personal Memories of Hitler, By: Alexander Moritz Frey
6. GERMANY: Br, Time Magazine, October 27, 1930
7. IBM and the Holocaust, By Edwin Black, Little Brown, 2001, ISBN 0-316-85769-6
8. Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, By Gotz Aly, Metropolitan Books, 2005, ISBN: 10-0-8050-7926-2, Pg. 1-2
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
Stuart Langridge appears on the TV screen, a young and confident soldier. It's 2003, and the tank gunner with Lord Strathcona's Horse, an armoured regiment based in Edmonton, is exuberantly talking about his job for a documentary crew filming an episode of Truth, Duty, Valour, a popular show about the Canadian Forces.
Five years later, the Afghanistan veteran would be dead. His world would crash down around him in a haze of alcohol and drug abuse. In the course of a year, he would attempt suicide six times, before successfully hanging himself in a CFB Edmonton barracks. (1)
But the nightmare for the young man's family was only beginning.
A week after they buried their son, Sheila and Shaun Fynes received a letter from National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. They opened it and were stunned by the first sentence: "I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits." The letter was an invitation from the director of casualty support to complete a survey about how the military treated the family.
Included were questions about the family's experience in CFB Trenton, Ont., the base where the bodies of soldiers, killed in Afghanistan, arrive by aircraft. The Fynes had never been to Trenton.In the months following Cpl. Stuart Langridge's suicide by hanging in an Edmonton army base in March 2008, and his burial in Victoria, the Fynes got little peace. Instead they became trapped in a legal and bureaucratic nightmare they say the Army helped create. (2)
And things went from bad to worse, as the military tried desperately to cover their tracks.
On Jan. 21, Maj. Stewart Parkinson, the officer assigned to help the family, wrote to headquarters that the Fynes were increasingly unhappy with the delay and the couple wanted to have input into the board, as was their right. "You'll understand if after 10 months of being deceived, misled, and intentionally marginalized (at) various points that they have no faith left in the system," wrote Parkinson. "A bottom line for them at this point is some sign of real respect for Cpl. Langridge and a meaningful participation in the BOI."
In early March, the Fynes walked into a hearing in Edmonton, feeling that at last some good would come from their son's death. The purpose of a BOI is not to lay blame but to identify what the military could do to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. "We thought they would come up with recommendations so soldiers who are sick wouldn't fall through the cracks," said Sheila.
That hope disappeared. A parade of witnesses came forth to talk about Stuart's drug and alcohol abuse problems. A military doctor made a point of noting that the soldier did not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A psychiatrist voiced the opinion that Stuart shouldn't have been allowed to attend the funeral of a fallen comrade the day he committed suicide, adding that ceremony likely prompted him to take his own life. The Fynes couldn't believe what they hearing. Their son had never attended the funeral in question — he was already dead at that point. The Fynes also thought it was highly unusual that the civilian doctor who diagnosed Stuart with PTSD and the base psychiatrist who evaluated him previously were not asked to testify. (3)
Now remember, Stephen Harper controlled every aspect of his war, including the messaging. Clearly the notion that soldiers may suffer from depression, would not be something he would want made public. So instead they attacked the victim.
Dawson Bayliss died in his sleep on Nov. 23, 2009, lying alongside his pregnant wife in their Calgary home. "I heard him gasping for air," recalls Naomi Bayliss, eyes moistening. "That's what woke me up. His whole body was convulsing. His fists were balled up and his eyes were rolling back. I tried shaking him but he was totally unresponsive." Naomi lunged for the phone and called 911. Paramedics arrived within minutes. "I'd just given him four breaths and they were there." Despite intense efforts to revive him, Bayliss was pronounced dead at the scene within the hour. (4)
But Dawson did not receive a military funeral or the honours bestowed on a soldier who dies in combat, despite the fact that his death began on those battlefields.
...there is an alternate version of events, another narrative which is very much in dispute; maddeningly elusive and bureaucratically impenetrable, for all that his widow and friends have searched for answers. It goes like this: Pte. Lawrence Matthew (Dawson) Bayliss actually started dying on April 2, 2006, on a dangerous stretch of highway outside Kandahar city, bleeding from a head wound. I was there.
As Liberal MP Dan McTeague put it, before the deaths of five more Canadian soldiers last month: "Pte. Bayliss would appear to be the 134th Canadian to die as a result of combat in Afghanistan." But the official record doesn't say that. (4)
Dawson died in combat with a government that would prefer you become a casualty of war, to "limit the liability", not a causality of this government. But that's what happened. Dawson Bayliss died fighting the system.
And someone else fighting the system, is the recently fired Veterans advocate, Pat Stogran.
The silence has been broken. Veterans are speaking out after years of silently fighting with a system that is not effectively meeting their needs, and they are being heard. The fact that so many Canadians have become engaged in this debate shows that veterans issues matter deeply to them. Today, Canadians are watching and listening intently to what happens next. It is time for government action.
Veterans are intricately woven into the fabric of Canadian society. It is important how they are treated, not only because of our obligation to them, but also because of the associated long-term social and national security implications. If military members are not effectively re-integrated into society after their service, it can have significant impact on our social, health and justice systems. (5)
And as Stogran suggests: "Canadians may not agree on why their sons and daughters are fighting in far-off lands, but there is no lack of fervour when it comes to their support for the troops and their families." You can pin a yellow ribbon or a poppy to your sweater, or plaster your car with 'support the troops' stickers, but unless you are prepared to really stand up for our soldiers, past and present, then you are only blowing smoke.
5. It's time to stand up for them: Canadians may not agree on why our troops fight in far-off lands, but they overwhelmingly support them. So should their government, By Pat Stogran, Citizen Special, August 26, 2010
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
My library has a running book sale to raise money for various library events, and yesterday I picked up a 1987 book compiled and published by Mel Hurtig: If I Were Prime Minister.
Each chapter was written by a prominent Canadian who details what they would do if they led the country.
One of those prominent Canadians in 1987 was George Ignatieff, who is shown in Life Magazine, the one with glasses. I presented a brief history of Michael Ignatieff's family before, but thought these musings of his dad's were worth sharing. They outline a vision that is now, in most areas, the same vision held by his son.
So Who Exactly is George Ignatieff
George Ignatieff, according to his Trinity College profile, was "A Canadian Ambassador of Peace." That's quite a statement, but defines him in a nutshell. When working under John Diefenbaker, he tried to broker a deal with President Kennedy over nuclear warheads. Ignatieff was opposed, but as a diplomat, tried to reach a compromise.
Ignatieff, although a diplomatic realist, was also an indefatigable champion of disarmament, and he sought to provide Diefenbaker with a formula that he could use with Kennedy in articulating the near-incomprehensibility of Canada's official position on warheads. The urbane diplomat proposed that the prime minister say he would accept warheads on two conditions: first, if there were joint control in their use — a joint control of Diefenbaker's particular definition; and second, only if an all-out effort at disarmament were launched first and if, at the end, it was determined that there could be no progress.
That formula would buy Diefenbaker some time and it might well wash politically in Canada, even if it wouldn't in Washington. "Making clear-cut decisions was not part of Diefenbaker's nature," Ignatieff later remarked. (1)
In 1984, he [George Ignatieff] received the Pearson Peace Medal by the United Nations Association in Canada. The Pearson Peace Medal recognizes, in Lester B. Pearson’s name, Canadians who, through voluntary work or other efforts, have contributed to those causes for which Lester Pearson stood: aid to the developing world, mediation between those confronting one another with arms, succor to refugees and others in need, and peaceful change through world law and world organizations.
George Ignatieff enjoyed a distinguished career in international service. He was Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1956 to 1958 and Assistant Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs from 1960 to 1962. In successive appointments between 1963 and 1972, he was Canada’s permanent representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the United Nations, including the Security Council; the Committee on Disarmament; the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the United Nations in Geneva. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Atlantic Council and the Canadian Pugwash Group on Disarmament, and former President of the United Nations Association in Canada.
It's a shame that Canadians don't get to know this, because it helps to define the kind of prime minister Michael Ignatieff will be. Diplomacy and leadership are in his veins. But it explains why the Conservative Party spent ten million dollars on "Just Visiting" ads. They can't let us know just how Canadian Michael Ignatieff really is.
If I were Prime Minister By: George Ignatieff
Following are some excerpts from Michael's father, with his dreams for Canada. He starts out with a goal of nuclear disarmament, his life's passion, then moves onto other areas.
- The duty of a prime minister is to serve the vital interests of the Canadian people. In an age dominated by revolutionary changes wrought by science and technology, including the threat to survival by the risks of nuclear war, top priority must be given to trying to ensure survival. The dangers of nuclear war must be kept in check by active Canadian participation in negotiations for drastic arms limitation and increased international understanding.
- Canada, as the country with the largest space in relation to population, has a major stake in world co-operation and stability. I would give priority to the pursuit of international co-operation and global relationships, and would expand trade relations with all countries—including the Soviet Union, China, Japan, and the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America--rather than concentrating on a bilateral agreement about access to a continental market. I would also give priority to fighting American protectionism*, which is inconsistent with the spread, throughout the world, of revolutionary changes in finance and technology.
- Canada's traditions of multiculturalism enable us to set an example for peaceful coexistence throughout the global village. This gives us an enviable influence in world affairs. Moreover, Canada's contribution to United Nations peacekeeping and peacemaking (which should be indivisible) gives us a unique destiny. We should be approaching the new millennium with confidence, knowing that we can look after our vital interests of security in an interdependent world society, rather than leaning towards dependence on the superpower-oriented world view of the United States.
- Individual security and support services are the other priorities to which 1, as prime minister, would give my attention. We are moving away from the neoconservative reaction, when it was thought that free-market forces would somehow ensure full employment and competitive advantages in world markets. In fact, profits do not necessarily mean prosperity for the majority. The ideology of the "mean and lean" has produced a further gap between the government and the people. My concern would be how to cope with the problem of information—the crucial indicator of power in the information age. The executive, even in such a democratic and traditionally egalitarian society as Canada, seems to be obtaining an unbreakable monopoly on information, despite remedial legislation. Is there much benefit, for instance, in having access to information about the expense account of the prime minister, or his journeying—including such trivia as to whether he was accompanied by a valet and a maid—when our elected representatives are denied essential information about the issue of survival, flowing from Canada's nuclear commitments under NORAD?
- Education offers part of the answer. Education and research would not only contribute to help train the younger generation for the many new services opening up in the information age, but they would also provide the necessary background knowledge so that Canadians could ask the right questions when seeking to become better-informed citizens. In an information society, education and training must have better public funding. We badly need trained minds to cope with the problems of the twenty-first century, especially in using science and technology for the enlargement of human knowledge, for the development of social controls, and for improved standards of living.
- Canada's priorities should be related to the values most Canadians accept—values that include a sense of responsibility for oneself, as well as for one's neighbour. Unemployment in our society is primarily related to the question of human dignity and the individual's freedom of choice. When seeking solutions, it is not enough to place our faith mainly on the value of the market place. Solutions require changes in policy, in responsibility at all levels—federal, provincial, municipal, and community. But this necessary move towards equity and justice is hindered by numerous difficulties: the problem of adjusting the thinking of a large government bureaucracy; the seeming lack of genuine leadership and initiative at the political level; the remaining discrimination against women; disputes between large businesses and small ones; the dislocation of employment by technological changes; disagreements among economic experts; feelings of frustration among the young and the handicapped, and the lack of educational opportunities in an informational society.
- In coping with these inequities, priority should be given to unemployment rather than to fighting deficits or inflation. Women must be given equal pay for equal work, and any woman should have the right to six months' maternity leave. Day-care centres, with properly trained personnel to care for the children, should become part of medicare, as should compulsory medical examination through grade and secondary schools.
- A fund should be created to finance public works at the municipal level, with emphasis on low-cost housing. An industrial strategy needs to be worked out to create permanent jobs for people in local communities, especially with regard to better social services, care, and pensions for the increasing proportion of aged in the Canadian population.
- In co-operation with labour unions, workers should be invited to play a more decisive and responsible role in developing strategies for employment (such as a shorter work week, staggered holidays, and subsidized travel on railroads and other public transport). There should be a more balanced and equitable program of tax reform, including increases in taxes to keep the deficit under control (the principle being that governments should set an example to society by paying their bills). Various tax deductions allowed to businesses should be reviewed, eliminating "tax expenditures" by corporations. Every effort should be made to improve medicare and social security benefits, and there must be pension reform, especially for those most handicapped by technological displacement. Finally, the farmers must be given greater protection from interest-rate hikes and debts, as well as being provided with co-operative insurance schemes and credit guarantees to give them protection against crop destruction.
- Modernizing the economy should be accompanied by a process of gradual conversion from defence-oriented industries (dominated by the defence-sharing agreement with the United States and the various subsidiaries of American defence production) to providing tax incentives to encourage the production for Canada's civilian needs, as well as for export. For too long, high technology has been allowed to flourish in the production of lethal or unusable weaponry, while research and development in the civil sector have suffered from chronic underfunding. If the arms race is allowed to continue uncontrolled, we shall only sacrifice our security further, by trying to cope with twenty-first-century weapons with twentieth-century mindsets.
- Finally, the unity of Canada under a federal system needs more than the patriation of our constitution and legislation on human rights. Canada needs a functioning common market. Instead of having a federal minister responsible for regional development and the cabinet operating a regional "pork barrel" according to its transitory party interests, I would set up in Ottawa a council of ministers, appointed by each provincial government, that would be responsible for making a common market work for Canada. This council would report quarterly to the meeting of premiers and would be staffed by a group of permanent officials, appointed by each province, with the task of promoting on-going federal-provincial economic and social cooperation. As prime minister of Canada, I would then feel more qualified to speak for Canada with a single voice when dealing competitively with the other members of the international community in protecting Canada's vital interests in the common interest. (2)
And I love his last line: "However, if a woman with similar views should care for the job, I would gladly yield to her." What an intelligent and charming man.
We have got to start paying attention. The goal of neoconservatism is to dummy down the population. We've seen it in the U.S., who with the help of Fox News has turned their political system into a nightmare. And Canada is now just one Tea Party away from being a nation of political morons.
Unfortunately, most of our media is more concerned with spin than substance. Stephen Harper doesn't speak to them, and despite the fact that Michael Ignatieff does; they listen to Ignatieff, but only speak through Harper.
Because if they actually reported what Michael Ignatieff said, almost all of his ideas were articulated by his father in 1987 and by himself in the Rights Revolution**. And both men, father and son, believe that "The duty of a prime minister is to serve the vital interests of the Canadian people."
A concept that Stephen Harper has been unable, or unwilling, to grasp.
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
On June 3, 2008; Canada's then Ambassador to Afghanistan, Arif Lalani, was interviewed on a U.S. radio program via telephone.
What the morning talk show host, Renee Montagne, wanted to know was why Canada was suffering a disproportionate number of losses in the war. The highest ratio of all NATO forces.
Whenever you hear that a NATO soldier has been killed in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, it's probably a Canadian soldier. Canada only has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan but they are fighting in one of the most dangerous regions of the country. So while Canadian troops make up only a small fraction of NATO forces, they've suffered the highest number of fatalities proportionately. (1)
Soon after being elected in January of 2006, Stephen Harper made Afghanistan his first official visit anywhere as prime minister. There he gave his now infamous "cut and run" speech, which was simply a scaled down version of one that George Bush had presented at the U.S. Naval Academy* a year before.
"You can't lead from the bleachers. I want Canada to be a leader," Harper told about 1,000 troops at the Kandahar airfield base the day after he arrived on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. "Your work is about more than just defending Canada's national interests. Your work is also about demonstrating an international leadership role for our country."
"There will be some who want to cut and run, but cutting and running is not my way and it's not the Canadian way," he said, to a round of applause. "We don't make a commitment and then run away at the first sign of trouble. We don't and we will not, as long as I'm leading this country." (2)
Up to that time, 10 Canadian soldiers and a diplomat had been killed, and 26 Canadian soldiers had been injured. But that was about to change. To impress George Bush, Stephen Harper sent our men and women into the most dangerous areas of battle. According to Rick Hillier: "It was Stephen Harper's decision to move Canadian troops from Kabul and reposition them in southern Kandahar province, where they are now at much more danger of being killed by roadside bombs." (3)
And speeches were not the only thing Harper borrowed from his mentor. He also made the decision to discontinue flying the flag at half mast as a show of respect to fallen soldiers, and forbid the media from capturing for history, the images of flag draped coffins.
"Look, don't bring the Airbus in, or if you bring the plane in, turn it away from the cameras so that people can't see the bodies coming off, or do it after dark, or do it down behind the hangars, or just bar everybody from it," Hillier quotes the PMO staffers as saying. "They clearly didn't want that picture of the flag-draped coffin on the news."It is Canadian military policy that every Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan will be honoured as a war hero. Harper's disrespect for soldiers was the last straw for Hillier and prompted his early retirement at the age of 53. (4)
Harper expected backlash for this decision, from the media that he had already silenced, but was unprepared for the reaction of Canadians, especially from military families.
Nothing "casual" About Our Losses
Last week Canada revealed itself once again as a truly unique nation. In a world where dead warriors are commonplace and taken for granted, this country stopped, paid attention, lowered the flags and gave full military honours to four soldiers, who died inexplicably and tragically at the hands of our allies. (Lesley Hughes, April 2002)
Hughes was referring to the "friendly fire" deaths of four Canadian soldiers, the first reports of our country's losses in this war. And a nation mourned. Bill Leger, the father of Sgt. Marc Leger, spoke in reference to Stephen Harper's 2006 decision to ban the media from covering the flag draped coffins of fallen soldiers:
"... in 2002 it was a great thing for us to have the media there. It was something that we felt at that time, and still feel the same way, that it was a Canadian thing. It was something that we wanted to show all Canadians what the cost of their liberty is. It's nothing else but that. And it's still heart-warming to see the faces and everything else when people were lined up on the 401, in 2002, all the way from Trenton to Toronto. They wanted to be there. They had to be there. I was told that often, over and over again. And those are the memories that I have, and those are the things that I carry with me all my life." (5)
And Leger's mother was interviewed more recently:
Ask Claire Leger what the past decade has meant to her, and she'll tell you a story of abiding sorrow ... After the tragedy, Leger and her husband Richard planted four small Canadian flags in the garden of their home near Ottawa, in memory of Marc and his comrades, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, 24; Pte. Richard Green, 21 and Pte. Nathan Smith, 26.
Seven years later, the Legers haven't sought ''closure'' from their grief. As the war years have ticked by they've maintained a steady vigil, dutifully marking the death of every Canadian soldier in Afghanistan. ''Every time I have to go put a little flag in our garden, it feels like I'm burying our son all over again,'' she says. ''I send a card to every family that loses a soldier and I often get a card back, with a picture of their son or daughter.''''There's less and less attention paid to those who are killed and it's heartbreaking to me,'' says Leger. ''I wish I could share with other families the support we had when Marc died. We were embraced by Canadians. That's what kept me going - I felt people actually cared.''Leger is a fierce critic of what she considers an unwinnable war, and says Canada's participation has made us ''puppets'' of the Americans. (6)
Stephen Harper then did an about face, finding a way to make himself look good, and with the help of the ad firm Hill and Knowlton, quickly turned the war into a giant photo-op. Canada had not witnessed a propaganda campaign of this magnitude since the last world war. But it was not about "King and Country" this time, it was about Stephen Harper and ... well ... Stephen Harper.
His first defense minister, Gordon O'Connor had been an employee of H&K, lobbying for military contracts. In the United States, the ad firm was well known for using dirty tricks to sell wars:
Hill & Knowlton, then the world's largest PR firm, served as mastermind for the Kuwaiti campaign. Its activities alone would have constituted the largest foreign-funded campaign ever aimed at manipulating American public opinion. By law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act should have exposed this propaganda campaign to the American people, but the Justice Department chose not to enforce it. Nine days after Saddam's army marched into Kuwait, the Emir's government agreed to fund a contract under which Hill & Knowlton would represent "Citizens for a Free Kuwait," a classic PR front group designed to hide the real role of the Kuwaiti government and its collusion with the Bush administration. (7)
Canadians were no longer going to oppose the war. Belligerent nationalism would reign supreme, and they were going to instead cheer from the bleachers. Rah, rah, rah!
And what did they use to whip us into a frenzy?
Hill & Knowlton's yellow ribbon campaign [my emphasis] to whip up support for "our" troops, which followed their orchestration of Nayirah's phony "incubator" testimony, was a public relations masterpiece. The claim that satellite photos revealed that Iraq had troops poised to strike Saudi Arabia was also fabricated by the PR firm. Hill & Knowlton was paid between $12 million (as reported two years later on "60 Minutes") and $20 million (as reported on "20/20") for "services rendered." The group fronting the money? Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a phony "human rights agency" set up and funded entirely by Kuwait's emirocracy to promote its interests in the U.S. (8)
So in Canada, H & K not only had one of their own (O'Connor) as Minister of Defense, deciding which of their clients got what military contracts; they were also able to sell a yellow ribbon campaign that had been mothballed, to a country not known for outward displays of such aggression.
And to make sure that everyone stayed on message, Stephen Harper completely controlled the media, by completely controlling that message.
The Harper government used a pervasive message-control tool to persuade Canadians their foremost purpose in Afghanistan was building schools and fostering democracy rather than waging a war that was turning bloodier by the day.
An investigation by The Canadian Press shows the Conservatives systematically drafted “Message Event Proposals” as part of a quiet campaign to persuade Canadians their country was primarily engaged in development work to rebuild a shattered nation rather than hunting down and killing an emboldened insurgency.The government used MEPs literally to script the words it wanted to hear from the mouths of its top diplomats, aid workers and cabinet ministers in 2007-2008 to divert public attention from the soaring double-digit death toll of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. (9)
And when reports began to surface as early as 2007, that Canadians could be charged with war crimes:
WASHINGTON–Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office used a "6,000-mile screwdriver" to oversee the denial of reports of Afghan detainee abuse when the scandal first erupted in 2007, according to a former senior NATO public affairs official who was then based in Kabul. The former official, speaking on condition his name not be used, told the Toronto Star that Harper's office in Ottawa "scripted and fed" the precise wording NATO officials in Kabul used to repudiate allegations of abuse "at a time when it was privately and generally acknowledged in our office that the chances of good treatment at the hands of Afghan security forces were almost zero."
"It was highly unusual. I was told this was the titanic issue for Prime Minister Harper and that every single statement that went out needed to be cleared by him personally ... [my emphasis]" (10)
In February, the Hill Times reported on the suffering of our men and women who saw service in Afghanistan:
More than 6,000 Canadian Forces members and discharged veterans who are receiving physical or psychiatric disability benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada have either served in Afghanistan or have a disability that has been related to their service in Afghanistan, the department says. The majority of the soldiers receiving benefits are likely suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or war-related psychiatric conditions, according to global figures the department and the Canadian Forces provided The Hill Times. They also do not appear to be included in Afghanistan combat or non-combat casualty figures the Canadian Forces compiled, even though the veterans and serving members who have psychiatric conditions likely have them as a result of serving in the Afghan war. (11)
And when this report came out, Harper's head media cheerleader, Jane Taber, turned it into a hyper-partisan sideshow. I have never been so ashamed.
So given Stephen Harper's callous disregard for human life, and anal control of the media, should we be surprised to learn that he is now attacking our veterans? Should we be surprised to learn that he has fired the man advocating for them? Or should we be surprised to learn that he has forbidden our broken soldiers from telling their stories?
A half dozen Afghan war veterans who wanted to talk about how their injuries affected their lives were told by senior military staff they were not to attend a press conference held earlier this week by Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran. The instructions come as the debate over how injured veterans are being treated reached a highpoint in Ottawa earlier this week, when Stogran held a news conference and criticized Veterans Affairs Canada and the government for not doing enough for the country's injured military personnel. Other veterans, no longer serving in the Canadian Forces, also spoke out at the conference about the failure of government to provide for them. (12)
Are you mad yet? Are you ashamed? Are you Canadian?
This may have been Stephen Harper's War when he changed our direction from Peacekeepers to Peacemakers, but this is now our war, as we go into battle against a government who would allow our veterans to be treated like this.
George Bush (April 2005): "Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere — but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies — that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends... To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)"
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
In August of 1983, Betty Lou Beets reported the disappearance of her husband, Jimmy Don Beets. His fishing boat was found drifting on Lake Athens in Texas, suggesting that he had drowned. A year later, a dwelling belonging to Jimmy Don was destroyed by fire, and the insurance investigators suspected that it was the result of arson, so refused the claim submitted by his widow, Betty Lou.
The attorney she hired to represent her was E. Ray Andrews, who advised his client that since her late husband was a firefighter, she was probably eligible to receive death benefits and a pension, if they could present evidence that he was deceased. In 1985, the City of Dallas Fire Department, agreed to provide benefits to Beets, but before receiving her first cheque, acting on a tip, the police uncovered the body of Jimmy Don, buried underneath an ornamental windmill in the yard of the trailer they shared.
On June 8, 1985, Betty Lou was charged with the capital murder of Jimmy Don and invoking the "murder for remuneration and the promise of remuneration on the theory that she killed her husband in order to obtain his insurance and pension benefits and his estate" (1), was sentenced to death. This despite the fact that when she killed her husband she wasn't aware of the fact that she would even be entitled to such benefits.
But the jury never got to hear that. And they also were never allowed to hear evidence of a lifetime of abuse, physical and sexual, that Betty Lou had endured, beginning with rape by her father at the age of five. Nor did they hear of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, including evidence of such abuse, or that she had been in a serious car accident that left her with permanent brain damage.
But what was even more compelling, was the fact that her lawyer, E. Ray Andrews, for his fee, had Betty Lou sign over all media and book rights to him, through a relative.
“He said he was going to get rich on all this, and the case was going to be the biggest thing that ever happened to him,” Bob Miller, commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, told Beets' appellate lawyers in a 1991 affidavit. “He said the case was going to turn into a big movie, and he had all the rights to it. It was something that he talked about pretty often.” Miller also said Andrews regularly drank heavily at the post prior to going into court to argue the case.
After becoming district attorney, Andrews was arrested by the FBI in 1994 for soliciting a $300,000 payoff to drop a death penalty case against a businessmen accused of killing his wife. He resigned from the prosecutor's office, gave up his law license, and cried at his sentencing, saying he was a longtime alcoholic, prescription drug abuser and heavy gambler. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in federal prison. (2)
And yet with all of this evidence, then Texas governor, George W. Bush, refused to grant a 30-day reprieve, so that Betty Lou's attorneys could seek a new trial. After declining a last meal, and telling those around her that she was frightened, at 6:18 p.m on February 24, 2000; 62-year-old Betty Lou Beets was put to death at a state prison in Huntsville, Texas.
Should she have gotten off? Of course not. When they unearthed the body of her husband, they discovered another husband buried nearby. But the death penalty should never have been on the table. This was a woman who clearly needed psychiatric help.
During his six years as governor of Texas, George W. Bush presided over 152 executions, more than any other governor in the recent history of the United States. This included the execution of Terry Washington, "a mentally retarded man of thirty-three with the communication skills of a seven-year-old. Washington’s plea for clemency came before Governor Bush on the morning of May 6, 1997. After a thirty-minute briefing ...Bush checked “Deny”—just as he had denied twenty-nine other pleas for clemency in his first twenty-eight months as governor." (3)
Another woman put to death by Bush, was Karla Faye Tucker.
If the jury that sentenced Karla Faye Tucker .. had known of her drug-ridden childhood prostitution, would they have found mitigating circumstances to spare her life? (3)
Her crimes were horrendous, and she should have been given life in prison for them, but did she get a fair trial, that brought down her death sentence?
In his autobiography, Bush claimed that the pending execution of Karla Faye Tucker “felt like a huge piece of concrete…crushing me.” But in an unguarded moment in 1999 while traveling during the presidential campaign, Bush revealed his true feelings to the journalist Tucker Carlson. Bush mentioned Karla Faye Tucker, who had been executed the previous year, and told Carlson that in the weeks immediately before the execution, Bianca Jagger and other protesters had come to Austin to plead for clemency for her. Carlson asked Bush if he had met with any of the petitioners and was surprised when Bush whipped around, stared at him, and snapped, “No, I didn’t meet with any of them.” Carlson, who until that moment had admired Bush, said that Bush’s curt response made him feel as if he had just asked “the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed.”
Bush went on to tell him that he had also refused to meet Larry King when he came to Texas to interview Tucker but had watched the interview on television. King, Bush said, asked Tucker difficult questions, such as “What would you say to Governor Bush?”
What did Tucker answer? Carlson asked. “Please,” Bush whimpered, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “please, don’t kill me.” Carlson was shocked. He couldn’t believe Bush’s callousness ... (3)
So should someone this callous be given this ultimate power? The decision to kill another individual? And before you suggest that these crimes were hanis and Bush did the right thing, you might ask yourself why he did grant clemency to Henry Lee Lucas, a man described as one of the worst serial killers in U.S. history?
There were certainly reasons to review his situation, given that Lucas confessed to crimes he couldn't have committed, but the fact remains that he did kill several people. But at the time, Bush was making a run for the presidency and wanted to appear to be a "compassionate governor."
But as Sister Prejean wonders, why are politicians given the “divine right of kings,” the absolute power over life and death, when they are motivated more by expediency than by conscience? And given the number of convictions overturned when new evidence is presented, should the death penalty be an option?
So What Does This Have to do With Us?
When the Reform Party was first established, part of their original policy was that the death penalty should be re-instated in Canada. Do I need to remind you that Stephen Harper was the key author of that policy book?
Stockwell Day, not only championed the death penalty, but also believed that it should apply to children as young as 12. His justification for this is the Old testament.
So when Canadian Ronald Smith was sentenced to death in Montana for the murder of two men, it came as no surprise that Day announced that he would not step in. Even the right-wing Jonathan Kay opposed his decision:
It goes without saying that Smith is a malignant creature, and deserves no earthly interregnum between incarceration and Hell: By Smith’s own admission, his two murders were motivated by nothing more than a desire to experience the ultimate evil. But it is an inescapable fact that our Parliament long ago rejected the death penalty as immoral. Until this collective national judgment is formally reversed, it is inappropriate for our government to stand mute as a Canadian is subjected to a punishment in the United States that we ourselves would never permit. (4)
And there is a fear that this has now set a precedent, that could ultimately be used to challenge Canada's position on capital punishment.
Stephen Harper has been an admirer of Bush's and the two men share the same ideology. And part of that ideology is the fact that people are not created equal. When president of the National Citizens Coalition, citing the group's successful campaigns, Harper stated that: "Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy." (5)
There are no grey areas. If you are rich it's because God wants you to be rich and if you're poor, it's because you're lazy. Nothing anyone says, will change their minds. They will say what needs to be said for political gain, but they will listen to no one.
As noted in the following video, when discussing the Harper government, they have a "Failure to consult. To have the rest of society contribute to the debate." This is part of a pattern when it comes to Canada's justice system, or pretty much any decision made by the Reformers. Their word is the final word.
We've seen it with the closing of the prison farms. With their intention to spend ten billion dollars on more prisons, when Canada's crime rate is the lowest in our history. With the scrapping of the gun registry, despite protest from the police who use it on a regular basis.
We might be tempted to think of people like Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo, and wonder if they should in fact be put to death, but then we must also consider people like David Milgard, Stephen Truscotte, Paul Morin and Donald Marshall Jr, who were all convicted of crimes they didn't commit.
Do we really want this kind of absolute power put into the hands of someone like Stephen Harper? Do we really want to bring back the death penalty? We have been moving toward a just society, and that should involve tackling the root causes of crime, not seeking more and crueler ways to exact revenge.
You need to ask yourself what kind of Canada you want to live in and what kind of Canada you want to leave to your children. One that is fair and just, or one that is cold and vengeful?
1. Betty Lou BEETS, Petitioner-Appellee,v. Wayne SCOTT, Director Texas Department of Criminal Justice,Institutional Division, Respondent-Appellant. No. 91-4606. United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.