Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Liberals back the war on terror

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Speaking the Commons last week, Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh noted that Canadians are divided over Canada’s mission to Afghanistan. “They are clearly divided right down the middle,” he said. “They are looking for leadership from this chamber and from the minister, from the Prime Minister, and from all of us.”

An irresponsible opposition would try to exploit this division by reflexively opposing the government. The Liberals, to their credit, have resisted the temptation. Under the leadership of former defence minister Bill Graham, they maintain that the Canadian Armed Forces are making a vital contribution to Canada’s national security by combating the Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan.

Thus, Dosanjh lauded the brave Canadian soldiers who have been killed or grievously wounded in combat in recent weeks. He said: “Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, have received the awful news that they dread most. Canadians have looked to us, their elected representatives, for reassurance that the mission is worth the loss.”

Dosanj gave that assurance. Standing by the decision of the previous Liberal government to initiate a stepped-up combat role for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan, he avowed: “We believed then and we believe now that destroying root and branch the agents and infrastructure of supply and training that made Afghanistan into a safe haven for international terrorism is in Canada's vital national interest.”

“Moreover,” Dosanjh added, “we believe that stabilizing, reconstructing and democratizing failing or failed states such as Afghanistan is the primary organizing principle for Canada's future foreign military operations.”

For the Liberals, that’s quite a turnaround. Under the feckless leadership of Jean Chretien, the Liberal government of Canada refused to support the United States-led coalition that is dedicated to reconstructing, stabilizing and democratizing the failed state of Iraq.

As for the New Democrats, they remain stuck in a puerile anti-American mode. They have yet to grasp that Canada has a vital role to play in the war against Islamist terrorism.

In last week’s debate, New Democrat leader Jack Layton reiterated the outdated NDP party line that “Canada’s role in the world and our reputation around the world rests on our reputation as a peacekeeping nation.” He charged the United States Bush administration with pursuing a foreign policy based upon fear engendered by the September 11 attack. That attack that killed nearly 3,000 people, including 24 Canadians. Layton admonished: “Canada must not succumb to the indulgence of fear over hope.”

In response, Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor asked Layton point blank if he “basically supports our effort in Afghanistan or not.” Layton did not provide a straight answer. He resorted instead to a cheap, diversionary debating trick, accusing O’Connor of implying that people who question the Afghan mission are deficient in “support for our service personnel who are risking their lives.”

Like Layton, New Democrat defence critic Dawn Black also stopped just short of explicitly repudiating Canada’s Afghan mission. Nonetheless, she tipped her hand by asking: “How does one build peace and diplomacy on the one hand when one is in a war fighting, or in counter-insurgency mode? We know that many of the people in the peace movement in Canada and ordinary Canadians share these concerns.”

Black should have paid closer attention to the earlier speech by Dosanjh. He recalled that in committing an army task force of about 1,000 personnel to the terrorist-infected Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan, he and his liberal colleagues in the previous government were aware that they were conferring no easy task on the Canadian armed forces. Dosanjh said: “We knew the enemy was determined and that casualties were a virtual certainty.”

He added: “We also knew that the mission marked a shift from the traditional Canadian role of peacekeeping. However, traditional peacekeeping in the post-cold war and the post-9/11 world has changed to include humanitarian, security and reconstruction dimensions. Reconstruction,” he emphasized, “is not possible without security.”

Dosanjh did not indulge in fear over hope. He told the plain truth – a truth so obvious that even a New Democrat should be able to grasp it: There can be no hope of building peace in the Middle East, or safeguarding Canadians at home, until the Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere are defeated and destroyed.

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