Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Haskett far and away the best choice

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Among the candidates contesting Monday’s byelection in London North Centre, one stands out as far and away the best choice -- former London mayor Dianne Haskett.

Consider some of Haskett’s outstanding qualities. First, she is a person of unimpeachable integrity. During her many years of service as one of London’s leading lawyers and politicians, she has never been tainted with deceit. As a member of Parliament for the Conservative Party of Canada, she can be counted upon to help the Harper government clean up the sorry record of corruption and incompetence bequeathed by the previous Liberal government.

Second, Haskett has extraordinary leadership ability. While serving as mayor of London from 1994 to 2000, she demonstrated a unique capacity for bringing people of diverse backgrounds together in support of common goals. Despite strong divisions within city council on some key issues during her first term as Mayor, she proved her talents as a unifier by winning re-election over a seasoned opponent with a landslide majority of more than two to one.

Third, Haskett has compassion for the needy. Through her years of active support for Mission services of London and in countless other ways, she has demonstrated her dedication to safeguarding and promoting the well being of all the people, most especially the poor, the sick, the lonely and the most vulnerable of our fellow human beings.

Fourth, Haskett is a committed democrat. She supports the determination of the Harper government to appoint principled judges like Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein of the Supreme Court of Canada who has pledged to uphold the law as he finds it rather than legislate from the bench.

Fifth, Haskett favours lower taxes for ordinary Canadians. In particular, she supports the decisions of the Harper government to reduce the GST to six per cent, down from seven per cent, and to extend more than $1 billion in additional annual tax relief to seniors, by increasing the age credit and allowing income-splitting for pensioners.

Correspondingly, Haskett backs the elimination of corporate-tax loopholes such as the tax break for income trusts that give some firms an unfair competitive advantage at the expense of individual taxpayers and consumers.

Sixth, Haskett is the only one among the four leading candidates in the London North Centre byelection who supports the traditional definition of marriage. She also understands that children thrive best under the care and guidance of their own mother and father. As an MP, she will enthusiastically support the expansion and improvement of initiatives like the Harper government’s Universal Child Care Benefit that currently provides $1,200 per year in direct support to parents for every child under six.

Seventh, Haskett is determined to fight crime. Instead of wasting more taxpayers’ money on the useless, $1-billion gun registry introduced by the Liberals, she supports the effective crime-fighting measures introduced by the Harper Conservatives, including mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, tougher sentences for violent repeat offenders, and $1.4 billion to enhance protection against terrorism.

In sum, Haskett is an exceptionally well qualified policy maker. She holds earned degrees from the University of Waterloo, the University of Western Ontario, the London School of Economics and the George Washington Law School.

While recently working and studying in Washington, Haskett developed a number of close friendships and contacts with key political leaders having influence within the highest reaches of the White House and the Congress. As a member of the Harper government, Haskett would be well placed to promote Canada’s interests with the United States, our closest ally and most important trading partner.

For voters in Monday’s byelection, there is another, practical consideration. Instead of sending someone to Ottawa who could only harp and criticize from the back benches of Parliament, they should take advantage of the rare opportunity to elect Haskett, a politician of national stature who commands the respect of the federal cabinet and will work zealously on behalf of all the people of London.

Since Confederation, London has produced several outstanding cabinet ministers. None has gone into Parliament better qualified than Haskett. To get her started on what promises to be a brilliant career in national politics, the voters of London North Centre should give her a thumping victory in Monday’s byelection.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Clash of Civilizations in Iraq

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the United States single-handedly transformed Japan into a thriving and stable democracy. Why, then, have Britain and the United States failed in their no-less-noble attempt to bring peace, prosperity and democratic stability to Iraq?

Fouad Ajami has addressed this issue in his latest book, The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq. Ajami is the distinguished Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle East Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

To begin with, Ajami points out that Japan was militarily crushed at the end of the Second World War. With Hiroshima and Nagasaki virtually obliterated and the rest of the country utterly prostrate after years of devastating air bombardments, the defeated Japanese had no disposition to resist the United States army of occupation.

In contrast, most of Iraq emerged unscathed from the lightening invasion by the United States and British forces that toppled the brutal regime of president Saddam Hussein. Granted, most Iraqis were duly shocked and awed by the devastating power of the surgical air strikes unleashed by the United States air force. But the backers of Hussein’s tyrannical government suffered few casualties. Within weeks, they were able to mount a series of terrorist counter strikes that have escalated into the massacre of close to 3,000 Iraqi men, women and children each month.

Ajami notes another crucial difference: While Japan is a relatively unified country, Iraq is riven by centuries-old rivalries among a host of factions led by Sunni and Shiite Arabs in the south and Kurds in the mountains of the north.

Saddam belongs to a tribe of Sunni Arabs. He relied upon his supporters in the Sunni community to terrorize, torture and subjugate the Shiite majority and the Kurds. In the process, his murderous thugs killed literally hundreds of thousands of their fellow Iraqi citizens.

Yet Ajami reports that there is “no wholesale embarrassment among the Sunni Arabs about the crimes and terrors of the old regime.” Many Sunnis inside and outside of Iraq hold that Saddam’s cruelty was necessary to avoid the kind of wholesale anarchy that now grips large parts of Iraq.

Ahmed Chalabi, once a favorite of the Pentagon, concurs. He bitterly contends that if President George W. Bush had put him in charge of the government of Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam, he could, and would, have taken the tough measures necessary to crush all Sunni resistance.

As it is, Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair firmly rejected this option. Constrained by the principles of Western civilization, they refused to condone criminal means to achieve the desirable end of democracy in Iraq.

A third major difference between Japan and Iraq is that while the people of Japan were completely isolated and friendless after the Second World War, the Islamist Sunni terrorists in Iraq have been able to count upon the sympathy and support of Muslims throughout the world.

Consider the views of leading Muslim religious scholars such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Qatar. Ajami describes him as “the intellectual godfather of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel.” Qaradawi has ruled that it is “a duty incumbent on every Muslim” to oppose the “crusading” war by the United States-led coalition to bring democracy to Iraq.

Even Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, whom Ajami characterizes as “the quintessential establishment jurist Sheik al-Azhar of Egypt,” has opposed the war. With United States and British forces poised to topple the Saddam regime, Tantawi issued a standard fatwa declaring: “It is obligatory to stand with Iraq against any aggression, for resisting aggression against any Muslim country is incumbent on all Muslims.”

Ajami contends: “Qaradawi could do no less: The Muslim street, as far away as the communities in Western Europe and North America, looked to him, and his rulings would have to be consistent with the worldview of his followers.”

With admiration for Saddam and opposition to the liberation of Iraq so pervasive in the Muslim world outside Iraq, is it any wonder that there is not a single, Muslim-majority country that has established a stable and prosperous democracy? What more graphic evidence can there be of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West?