It may be redundant to write this, as those who read this blog probably already know it, but as always, I figure someone should say out loud what all the articles, columns, editorials and tweets hint at, regarding Harper's "odd" generosity in trying to spare the LPC from an open debate on Afghanistan.
All parties, most stupidly and shamefully the NDP, have the blood of wasted Canadian youth on their hands as regards Afghanistan. But for Harper and Rae-Iggy, or Riggy (an appropriate moniker for those who rig deals), the 2011 deadline was particularly difficult. As stupid as Harper had long been on Afghanistan, once Prime Minister, no PM with half a brain could avoid concluding that Canada's involvement in Afghanistan was a folly, given all the reports. Unfortunately, because of his foolishness, he had dug himself, the CPC and Canada into a hole as regards his cabinet, his caucus, his supporters, target voters, and "allies", more specifically, the USA. When one uses the kind of rhetoric he did, for as long as he did, and makes the sort of promises, not to say commitments, he did, it takes a very strong man, a very strong PM, to liberate himself, his party and his country from the quicksand he'd leapt into, having pulled everyone in with him. And Harper is no Chrétien, nor Trudeau. The problem with words and promises is that, *shocker*, an awful lot of people take them seriously. So target voters expect the party to respect them, the party members expect the same, the dimwitted backbenchers likewise, and even in cabinet, there are always a few dull fools. And of course, internationally, as in all public policy, it is usually possible to turn a "NO" into a "YES", but it's almost impossible to turn a "YES" into a "NO". Especially with the Americans (hypocrites).
So Harper wanted to get out. You may have heard. He was quite vocal about it, one or two Embassy guards and all that. But he had to deal with his cabinet, caucus, party, country and allies, the USA. These are not insuperable difficulties, if one really wanted to leave. But, again, Harper is no Chrétien, no Trudeau. Riding the tiger isn't as easy as it looks, as Martin found out. But Harper wanted (rather than needed) to bring cabinet, caucus, party, people and allies along with him, being good politics here and abroad. If the Opposition, mirroring the will of the people, was to be solidly against any fudge, he would have been in trouble. Harper was in a muddle.
But so was the supposed Official Opposition. The LPC had its own problems, given its leader's history on the Afghan and other files, and the party's history. For just as many in the CPC took words and promises seriously, so it was that the LPC was full of passion on the subject, some people still taking Canadian lives and leaders' words seriously enough to get quite angry and intransigent. And while a strong majority, 3/4 and more, of the LPC was against the mission in 2006, and has only grown more convinced of its foolishness, with every new report, the other 1/4 have also correspondingly stuck in their heels, psychologically blocked, unwilling to come to terms with what they have wrought, and so stuck in fantasies of a few more summers doing the trick.
What to do? I don't know if there were any meaningful backroom dealings, perhaps, but I doubt it. I think we are rather witnessing the conclusion of a process of oligopolistic price fixing. I would claim that Rae played the role of price leader, since his June statements made it clear a deal was doable, was on, and at what price, though Harper may have been the price leader, as his preceding statements made it clear he was open to an offer. So just as one of your local gas stations raises its price by one cent, and all follow, and all members of the local cartel comfortably reap the rewards of the inflated price, without anyone having to directly or explicitly communicate in order to fix the price (which would be dreadfully wrong, wouldn't it?), so I think the Harper & Riggy never had to explicitly communicate to reach a deal.
Why Harper? Why Rae? For the deal to work, it had to be managed most delicately. Harper had to bring his warmongers along with him, and since he'd built up some credibility as a warmonger himself, it was necessary for him to set out a position sufficiently extreme and at odds with prevailing sentiment within the CPC that anything more than "a couple of embassy guards" would be seen as a win by the warmongers. On the other side, Rae was thought of as being on the Left of the LPC, he had opposed the 2006 extension, he was foreign affairs critic, he was BOB RAE, fer gawds' sake! So who better to bring the left of the LPC along, than frigging BOB RAE? So we have been witness to a pincer action, not just within their parties, but also, they hope, within the country, Harper bringing the Right along, and Rae bringing the Left. Iggy obviously can't deliver the Left, given its suspicion of him, so it had to be his old roommate, who did him a solid. Who can now doubt Rae's loyalty to the LPC? He was willing to incoherently deny his own intelligence and renounce his supposed principles, Globe-style, to support Iggy, the roomie who cheated so as to block him out of the top job. Bob Rae, great Liberal, great Canadian.
Harper couldn't have done it without Riggy, and Riggy wanted to avoid any unhelpful division themselves, so Harper's end of the deal is to be "beau joueur", and save the LPC from suffering the division of an open debate and vote, so he says it's not a combat mission so no vote necessary, Riggy agree, and the media, who understand all this, and have their own responsibility, voire guilt, oil the wheels of the machine, permitting the deal.
It's true that sooner or later there will be an NDP or Bloc motion, but it won't get much coverage, as the issue will be judged old news, the decision having been taken, the two larger parties agreed, the media concurring. Only the Canadian people strenuously disagree. And who cares about them? Suckers.
I'm not trying to be unfair to Harper or Riggy, they all think they are also doing the right thing policy-wise, as they feel that this the best they could have done, and while it might have been possible, technically, for Harper to have the courage to stand up to the Americans and elements of his party, and Riggy to do likewise, they all feel that there's possible, and then there's possible, and political bravery, for them, is abstract art - not their thing. And of course, all three are thoroughly colonised. Even Rae's original left-wingery found its roots far more in the American Left rather than the Canadian Left, a recurring and often ignored problem among the Canadian Left (see Rebick, Judy, and Klein, Naomi), who spend their time criticising the Canadian Right for being all American, one of life's sad, sweet, ironies.
However, there is one teensy tiny problem. The whole thing is sick and wrong.
We're a democracy, yeah? And a solid majority of Canadians, year after year, poll after poll, want us out, all out, of Afghanistan. What about that?
Our soldiers believe what they're told, and do what they're told. But we all know, and we have for some time, that they are dying and being wounded for a lost cause, perdue d'avance, from which we will withdraw, in a few years from now, and within a decade we will see almost all our gains in human development disappear in any subsequent "Taliban"-supporting region (quotes, because really just code for widespread noxious patriarchal behaviour, not necessarily "taliban" per se). The places we mostly weren't, the North & West, might fare better. Encouraged by the American special forces etc. who remain. Think of Kurdistan post-Iraq War I - it'll be something like that in North and West.
So the CPC, LPC, Canadian media and much of the elite, are all in on a massive stitch-up, which means no-one has to confront their guilt while letting even more of the best Canadians die and get crippled for nothing, a waste of lives and dollars, contrary to the wishes of the great majority of Canadians. Some principles. Some elites. But at least the chatterers get to feel clever as they allude to it without saying it. Aren't you all so very very clever?
Watching much of the coverage this week, with the BS on the ins and outs of the politics, was sickly. There was a particularly gruesome segment on CBC's Power and Politics when Rosemary Barton was brightly hosting Russo, Martin and Anderson and everyone was so pleased to talk about the faux politics, and avoid all meaningful discussion of the underlying issue, and the BS it's wrapped in, that they have helped wrap. Does it make sense? To what end? What is the endgame? For our soldiers, and our country (Canada, in case you'd forgotten), not political parties, or media, wondering how many stories they can pulp out of the issue, saving them more, deeper, work on harder questions.
I know about all this BS, and why, I always knew, I always know, but some issues are too important for gameplaying. Democracy. Human rights. Canadians' lives, especially those who obey our orders, and that "our" is Canadian democracy, it's all of us who order them.
I mostly only write when I feel I have to. I don't feel like any of these posts should be necessary. It always shocks me that they are. You can't claim to believe in x, y and z, and then not follow through. Sure, we all mess up in little ways, but in major questions of rights and democracy, of life and death? Can you not be true to what you claim are your selves, even then? Who are you? What has happened to you? What's it all for, otherwise? You all do know we are all going to die, sooner rather than later, all things considered, right? What do you want to leave behind? What do you want to be remembered for? Clever cynicism or simple idealism?
I want to help. And CTV, of all places, had some great reflection on the real issues this week, with interviews with Col. (retd) Drapeau, Scott Taylor and Sunil Ram, and some pointed questioning of the self-interested bumpf from the CDA, available here. Watch 'em and learn. And think.