Thinking Outside the Herd

You’d like to think that some buffalo at the back of the herd, following all those thundering bulls with balls, Jonathan Livingston Buffalo maybe, is thinking, in response to the shrieking of crazed humans:  "Wait a minute…"

OK, so we’re having elections up here in Canada like we’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We’re trying to decide which minority government is least obnoxious.

Now, Michael Ignatieff, Harvard intellectual descended from the Russian nobility who negotiated the Beijing Convention of 1860 –

"Russian diplomat Nikolai, Graf Ignatiev, helps to draft the Convention of Beijing; ratified by the emperor October 18, it recognizes Russian dominion over all territory on the left bank of the Amur River as well as those lands between the Ussuri River and the Pacific, adds part of the Kowloon peninsula to the British colony of Hong Kong, grants foreigners travel rights throughout China, and affirms legalization of the opium trade…"

– and now allegedly a Canadian, has decided he can no longer support a Tar Sands government and is poised to precipitate a general election to remove the Conservatives from office, a goal I think well worthwhile, almost essential, practically life-and-death. The problem is, there’s no policy. There’s no platform at all (Why does this remind me of the Conservatives in the last election, who released their "platform" well into the campaign and only three weeks from the vote? Why does this remind me of a banana republic, people?) and in particular, no platform on Afghanistan. There was no discussion of Afghanistan in the last election, and I’m here to jam it into the new election:


I don’t want anybody to think I’m being subtle about this. The fact is, there is no rational stated policy, no honest discussion, no frankness, nothing but Disney-esque platitudes and ducking behind the 2011 withdrawal as if that answered all moral questions about why kids keep getting killed and maimed in Afghanistan while Rick Hillier is on the motivational-speaking rubber chicken circuit for US$65,000 a pop plus business-class return airfare, not to mention a desk at Gowlings, international law firm of repute, some kind of paid position at the Toronto Dominion Bank – my bank as it happens – the position of chancellor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and sundry other ad hoc jobs in retirement, none of which seem to contribute a damn thing to returning Afghan veterans who are physically or emotionally traumatized, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 30. I’m not bitter, I’m just pointing out the obvious hypocrisy.

There is of course the hideous Manley Report [.pdf]. There’s really little to say about this. As Tom Lehrer said, "Political satire died the day Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize."

So now we’re into another election with no debate on Afghanistan. You know, I think this should be a deal-breaker. Give me something I can work with. Spell it out. Let’s talk about the legal basis for our involvement in Afghanistan, which as far as I can see is Article V of the NATO Charter, corresponding to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter – which is the right of collective self-defense. Run that by me again. We’re in Afghanistan because of an attack on the United States that was planned by a bunch of guys in Hamburg, who may have received some funding from some Saudis holed up in caves in Afghanistan, but who were in fact trained in flight schools in the United States and were mainly infuriated Saudis – and we’re going to stop this menace by converting Afghanistan into a democratic, peace-loving nation so there won’t be any more caves in which they can hatch out their plots? Then the world and Canada will be safe?

I’m having trouble with the logic. The thing about Iggy (Michael Ignatieff) is that he’s a man of no fixed moral address [.pdf]. Iggy will say anything, including making the argument for torture, if that’s what’s required to stay in with the In Crowd. Alternatively we have Stephen Harper, who seems to have a primordial, completely un-Canadian dream of converting the world into a disciplined unit that will do whatever he says, which always involves more punishment and less imagination. Show me something – anything – that Harper has done in his life that has contributed – remotely – to the well-being of Canadians. Show me that he’s produced anything at all.

So go ahead, Iggy: force an election. But hit me with your best shot on Afghanistan. Your ancestor, the Count Whatever, acted to legalize the opium trade, which is looking pretty sensible, since NATO is the main consumer of Afghan opium, and now you’re going to tell us what your policy actually is. Aren’t you?

Author: Neil Kitson

Neil Kitson is a dermatologist and garment manufacturer in Vancouver.