Soldiers are dying and the PM is playing politics with patriotism

Stephen Harper continues to harm Canada's international reputation

Proche-Orient : mensonges, désastre et cynisme

The prime minister should be ashamed of himself. In the bloodiest week so far for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan - eight men dead as of Wednesday - Stephen Harper chose to play petty politics instead of answering hard questions on the army's mission there.
To pick this week to fulfill his silliest electoral promise - the one to investigate how the Liberal government handed contracts to polling firms between 1990 and 2003 - doesn't say anything kind about Harper's sense of priorities.
To pick such a time to go Grit-hunting is either a puerile attempt to divert attention from Afghanistan or another display of how weakening the Liberals has become an obsession for Harper. Or it's a mix of both.

While Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan face increasing danger and eight NATO countries met in Quebec City yesterday behind closed doors to discuss a mission that's in trouble, Tory Senator Michael Fortier could find nothing better to do than bring up Liberal polling in the never-ending pre-electoral battle.
While the Tories play away the hours punching holes in Stephane Dion's leadership, down here on planet Earth, Harper continues to try to justify Canada's involvement in Afghanistan and the channelling of billions of tax dollars in a mission that's going nowhere.
In the five years since 9/11, this mission has met none of its objectives: to fight the Taliban, reduce the threat of terrorism, rebuild the country and foster democracy.
In fact, today, the Taliban appears stronger than ever, extremist Islamist terrorism has actually expanded - even recruiting among home-bred Muslims in Western countries - and Afghanistan is nowhere near "reconstruction." In reality, democracy there is a farce.
In the face of this reality, all Harper finds to do is call upon the most elemental of emotions - patriotism. Canadians must "support" their soldiers and blindly believe that all of this is done in the name of freedom. If that sounds like U.S. President George W. Bush's justification, that's no coincidence.
The problem here is that, just as in the United States, patriotism isn't the issue. Appeals to patriotism work when you're winning, not when you're losing.
By supporting Bush's self-destructive, ideologically driven "war on terrorism," Harper is doing three very bad things.
He's riding the coattails of a lame-duck U.S. president who's not only on his way out, but whose invasion of Iraq, failed Taliban-hunting in Afghanistan with NATO and entire Middle East policy have been discredited and are opposed by many Americans.
By sticking so close to Bush, Harper shows he has no long-term vision of Canada's role in world politics and is incapable of showing a leadership that looks to the future, not to the past to which Bush will soon be relegated.
Harper is also blind to what U.S. policy is doing: feeding the terrorist base and encouraging anti-Western resentment instead of decreasing it.
Harper continues to harm Canada's reputation as a more peaceful, independent-minded player in international politics.
By leaving Canadian soldiers in this quagmire, he's not only putting them in harm's way for no tangible results, he's running the danger of discrediting the Canadian army itself. That's what happens to an army sent on an impossible mission.
Now, there might be no easy answers in Afghanistan, as Susan Riley rightly pointed out in yesterday's Gazette. But one thing is clear: It is irresponsible to continue to follow Bush's follies and leave the Canadian army stuck in a policy that simply isn't working.
Senator Romeo Dallaire, who supports the Afghan mission, says that "we have a responsibility to protect others." But the prime minister has a responsibility not to endanger soldiers on a mission of protection that is a failure.

And he has a supreme responsibility to come up with a Canadian foreign policy that is part of the solution to the post-9/11 world, not part of the problem.

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