Sunday, January 30, 2005

What Price Democracy and Freedom?

Today, sixty percent of voters in Iraq turned out to vote in the first democratic elections in that country since the military coup of July 14th, 1958. Millions went to the polls despite terrorist threats, intimidation and murder. On June 28, 2004, sixty percent of Canadians voted in our last federal election, while enjoying the comforts and safety of one of the most prosperous nations on earth. Quick now, which is the more impressive display of citizenship?

Sophocles said, “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been”. Whatever “evening” brings in Iraq, today has been a great day for democracy and freedom. All Iraqis who voted deserve medals in the war on terrorism. Those who chose not to vote in areas under the control of terrorist tactics of mass murder can be excused for staying home.

In the sixteen months leading up to the last Canadian election, I was at over 25,000 doors and met a wide variety of people. It was a very broad poll of attitudes, some of which made me proud to be Canadian; and some of which made me mad and sad, at the same time. I met immigrants who would be able to participate in their own political future for the first time in their lives. They were thrilled and they couldn’t wait. I met way too many Canadians who take life for granted and couldn’t be bothered to take half an hour out of their “busy” schedules to do their duty. They made me sick.

What is the cost of democracy and freedom? Since we became a nation in 1867, well over two million Canadians have served in uniform overseas. Over 115,000 of those Canadians have died in foreign lands. Of the 1,354 Victoria Crosses awarded since 1854, 100 have been pinned to Canadian breasts, many of them posthumously. Those Canadians clearly understood the price of democracy and freedom.

While many enjoy pillorying the United States, they might also remember that some 630,000 Americans have died in the same cause since 1916, including 1,400 more recently in Iraq. During the Vietnam War era, over 30,000 Americans duty dodgers moved to Canada. During the same time, as many as 30,000 Canadians joined the U.S. armed forces; 12,000 served in Vietnam; and 80 were killed. Did you know that 40 Canadians have won the United States Congressional Medal of Honour, their equivalent of the Victoria Cross?

Love or hate America, the demonstration of democracy in Iraq today would not have happened without them. Will the “evening” of historical hindsight judge this to have been a “splendid” day for Iraq? No reasonable person could possibly hope otherwise.

The new U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, refused to be pinned down by Wolf Blitzer on CNN today, on what is an acceptable cost of democracy and freedom in Iraq. Again, history will pass judgment on America’s efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Despite all the obvious challenges, there are many hopeful signs in Iraq and in the Palestinian-Israeli situation. If Iraqis can overcome the terrorism within their borders, there is hope. If the Sunnis can be convinced to become part of the process in Iraq, there is hope. If the new Palestinian leadership can permanently revoke the terrorism that characterized Yasser Arafat and his leadership, there is hope. If Ariel Sharon can keep his own hard-liners in check, there is hope. If Syria and Iran and Saudi Arabia and others can start acting responsibly and in the interests of their own people, there is hope.

There are a lot of “ifs” out there and a lot of “but(t)s”, waiting to scuttle the process. Millions of Iraqis got off their butts today, setting an example for the Canadians who have been sitting on theirs, while others do the heavy lifting, militarily and politically.

Will Paul Martin be listening when he doles out resources for Canada’s military in the next budget? Will Canadian voters do their duty in the next federal election? I won’t give you my pessimistic predictions. I’ll just say that, if the answers are “no”, then Canada’s “evening” will continue to be overcast and rainy.

To quote Winston Churchill, one can only hope that this is “the end of the beginning” for democracy and freedom in the broader Middle East and the rest of the world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Say Cheese....y

I'm really glad that the Prime Minister is back from his hard-working trip to Asia. I'm sure that it's not easy to look your best for all those staged photo-ops. It's a good thing he has generous taxpayers to pay for an entourage to bully the mere mortals in the area into obedience. The following is an excerpt from an article by Garth Pritchard in the Winnipeg Sun on Jan 19:

PM 'handles" the disaster.

It was a circus when Prime Minister Paul Martin visited the disaster area of Kalmunia in Sri Lanka this week for a photo opportunity.

His people from Ottawa, including the RCMP, were pushing people out of the way, grabbing at cameras and trampling over graves on the beach in order to photograph the PM.
An RCMP guy tried to interfere with my camera, but one of our soldiers intervened. A couple of women from the PM's office were running around yelling at people. It got out of hand. It was crazy.

The whole visit was a photo opportunity -- with cameras set up for the PM in designated spots: Martin on the beach looking out to sea, Martin amid the wreckage, Martin with a homeless kid, Martin taking a token drink of water produced by the DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) water purifier.

He met with the Canadian commander, Lt. Col. Mike Voith, and a small medical team but didn't visit the camp of the 200 Canadian military people here for tsunami victims. Martin's handlers wanted no one but their people taking photos. The padre was even shoved out of the way.

And then he was gone -- helicoptered out. Maybe 90 minutes in the area. Embarrassing. I'm in Sri Lanka with the DART men and women and, as Canadian soldiers always do, they're working miracles -- but the PM didn't have time to visit them. I found it a slap in the face. Why couldn't the PM's handlers have taken him to the soldiers who are doing a fantastic job? There were eyebrows raised at the camp when it was learned he wouldn't be visiting.

Makes you darn proud to have him representing us abroad, doesn't it? The best part about him being back in Canada is certainly not the leadership he practices, because he doesn't. The best thing is that we won't have to suffer through all those spontaneous shots of Mr. Martin gazing thoughtfully out over the sea; or strolling purposefully through the courtyard of the Forbidden City; or contemplating the mystery of the Great Wall.

When I saw him walking on the beach, I had a vivid flashback of Bill Clinton strolling the beach at Normandy deep in reverent contemplation of the sacrifice that American servicemen made on those shores. I was surprised that the PM didn't 'stumble' across some white stones that just happened to be in the shape of a maple leaf. Maybe his staff doesn't have the same imagination as the former President's. The other thing that was missing was the strategically placed warship in the background. But then, we don't have enough of those to go around, even for something as serious as polishing the fantasy of a caring leader.

I hope that the PM enjoyed some nice wine on his return trip from the "front", to go with his vintage cheese.

Monday, January 24, 2005

My Son, the Alien

Peter Worthington had a piece in the Toronto Sun, yesterday, titled "Forces babies deprived", and it was brought to my attention by an old squadron mate from our Germany Starfighter days. This is unbelievable, even in Canada, but it seems to be true. The essence of the story is that the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development (HRSD) has decided that children born overseas of Canadian Forces parents are not Canadian citizens.

None of this would come to light until one of those "alien" children tries to apply for such mundane things as citizenship cards, passports, new SIN numbers, etc. Then they find out that they have been living a lie all these years. They may have had previous SIN numbers, worked, voted, paid taxes, served in the military, and born other children; all this in flagrant disregard for the Ottawa mandarins who'll not be fooled by such trivialities as reality and common sense.

It all starts to make sense (?) now, when I consider the difficulty that my thirty-one year old son has been having in getting a passport. He has been stonewalled and shuffled from one bureaucratic incompetence to another for years. I guess he has committed the "crime" of being born in a German hospital, while we were committing the unpardonable sin of serving our country overseas.

It appears that the situation can be fixed by obtaining "proper proof" of citizenship, paying a $75 application fee, getting passport photos, having identity certified by a notary public and then being prepared to wait many months while the backlog of citizenship applications is processed.

Now, do the math with the thousands of Canadians who have, unbeknownst to them, been stripped of their citizenship. How long do you think that would take to correct and where do you suppose these pseudo-Canadians might fit on the Liberal priority list? Heck, they can already vote through the vagaries of the flawed Canadian electoral system, just like other non-citizens. Why would they get priority over newer immigrants who can be convinced that they are here because of Liberal generosity, and be added to the voter pool?

It would be almost incomprehensible that a professional public service could practice such mind-blowing insanity, were it not for our experience with their masters in Cabinet. Apparently, DND and Immigration are on the side of reason, but Human Resources and Skills Development has the final say. They can change HRDC's name and Jane Stewart can leave, but nothing much has really changed. We're still paying these people to abuse us.

I have a couple of questions for the bureaucracy. Are the children of these alien Canadians also alien? Is this special insult reserved for members of Canada's military, who are so valued and respected by their government? Have Canadians who have served overseas with other government departments also spawned aliens? Do they know, one way or the other? When is the government going to tell them?

Anyone can touch one toe on Canadian soil and enjoy all the rights and privileges that so many thousands of Canadian military members have sacrificed to preserve. Now, their government is treating thousands of their children as undesirables. Sorta makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it? Maybe I should take up pizza delivery.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

CORRECTO-BLOG

Yesterday, I published a piece called The Politics of Pizza. In it, I referred to a blog site for some interesting tidbits from Elections Canada. The blogsite address as printed had two letters transposed and took people to an ultra-religious site called "Abundant Bible". THAT WAS NOT MY INTENTION! The real blogsite is www.whatittakestowin.blogspot.com.

Sorry for the question marks over the canopy that those who know me must have had. Before I get nasty-grams from the other side, I am not anti-religion, but this one is over the top.

I shood haf taaken tipingg in hi skuul.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Politics of Pizza

The Minister of Immigration, Judy Sgro, is gone by resignation last week, although one suspects that Prime Minister Democratic Deficit, a.k.a. Paul Martin, may have had something to do with encouraging her conversion to altruism. It would not have been good for the Liberal exercise of Canadian democracy to have such an easy target in the House, when the zoo resumes sitting at the end of January.

Judy Sgro stands accused of trading free pizza for her election campaign in exchange for favouritism from her department for a man many times denied appeals to his sentence of deportation. Guilty as charged? I don't know. Was it all Ms. Sgro's fault? Probably not, but she has earned the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by her adherence to the credo of corruption that has characterized her party and its governments for past decades. Her (former) Department of Immigration is arguably the most prone to political patronage at its most basic level. "Support me and I will make a new life for you and your family(ies) .......or, not".

Liberal governments, and members and ministers thereof, have been using the human proceeds of immigration as vote pools for decades, and nothing is about to change, unless voters decide to change it. It was suggested that, during the 2004 federal election campaign, the Deputy Prime Minister may have "encouraged" Edmontonians of Asian descent that a vote for her opponent might have a deleterious impact on their efforts at family reunification. No threat there, I'm sure, just friendly advice. I wasn't at that meeting but I know of those who were.

The fact that Canada's immigration and refugee programs are out of control is well established. For all of the well-intentioned motives behind looking after those who reach our shores in search of a better life and an escape from tyranny and persecution, Canada has lost control of the process. The consequences of that failure are well understood by others, most notably Americans, who stand to suffer from our weakness.

At last count, there was something like 37,000 refugee claimants who have never showed up for their hearings. No doubt, the vast majority of that number are just folks trying to find a better way of life. There is also no doubt that there is a percentage of that number who are here specifically to do evil to our way of life, or that of our neighbours. If it's only two percent, that's 740 people whom we may come to know as "terrorists". I put terrorist in quotations, because the media loves to portray them as various other things in other scenarios, such as insurgents, militants, rebels and reactionaries. They are TERRORISTS, plain and simple.

I'm not sure that anyone should feel sorry for Judy Sgro. She showed her real political prowess and maturity with her childish stalking and
harassment of Stephen Harper during the 2004 election campaign. She is
simply symptomatic of large-L liberalism in Canada. That is embodied in the Liberal Party of Canada that has received donations, over the years, from strange sources. The inquisitive blogger at www.whatittakestowin.blogspot.com has uncovered some interesting tidbits from the Elections Canada website.

Canadian taxpayers unknowingly contributed directly to the Liberal Party of Canada when Jean Chrétien was Leader of the Official Opposition in 1993 ($60,000), and when he was Prime Minister in 1997 ($43,000). These contributions came from offices paid for by taxpayers and not at liberty to make such contributions. The taxpayers of the Town of Drayton Valley and the City of Edmonton have also made contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada, and to no other parties. I'm betting that they don't know that. Non-profit and charitable organizations, including children’s charities, children’s hospitals and the Calgary Zoo have contributed substantially to the Liberal Party of Canada. They can't even use the tax break, so what's up with that? Do you know where your charity dollars are going? Is Paul Martin’s reluctance to ban the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization, as our allies have done, tied to votes and donations? Surely not?

Is this the tip of another iceberg of Liberal corruption? You bet it is. Will Canadians ever care enough to do something about it at the polls? I sure hope so. In the meantime, would you like wings with that pizza, Minister?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Leadership means being there.

Some have suggested that Paul Martin's absence on a beach in Africa in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster is not an important issue. I disagree. This is Canada's disaster as much as anyone's. A handful of Canadians are confirmed dead, and well over a hundred more are presumed dead. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have relatives and friends in the affected areas. We're not experiencing their physical pain and deprivation, but we can "feel" it. Apologists say that the Prime Minister was in constant contact, and I have no doubt that is true. Effective communication of information and direction is not the issue. Effective leadership is the issue. Canadians are doing a magnificent job of responding to this disaster, but appear to be leading the government, rather than the other way round.

With today's connectivity, you can be just about anywhere on the planet and maintain effective communication. Leadership is not just communicating and giving direction. It is being there and being seen to be there, in person and in charge, if humanly possible. It was, and those being led expect it and miss it, when it doesn't happen. As capable and qualified as deputies may be, no real leader wants to be anywhere but "there", when things go wrong. Paul Martin was not there. For that matter, where was Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan?

I had a couple of personal experiences of not being there, and both broke my heart. The first involved the loss of a pilot on my squadron and the second was Gulf War I. In 1990, about two-thirds of 416 Squadron was returning from a six-week deployment to Germany in our role of rapid reinforcement to NATO. I was relegated to riding home in the back of a "bus". About a hundred of us were a couple of hours out of Toronto on a Lufthansa 707 from Frankfurt, when I was PAed to the cockpit. I was given a message to contact the Wing Commander as soon as we landed in Toronto, and I stewed in foreboding until I got to a phone on the ground. The Wing Commander, Dave Jurkowski, told me that one of our pilots had been killed in a crash earlier that day. As a CO, that is the worst news you can get. I knew what would be happening, as I had been involved in many such circumstances in other roles. And I knew that the presence and leadership of the CO, for the troops and for the family, was very important. The only good thing was that I was there for the troops in Toronto. We were collectively stunned, and frustrated that we were stuck many hours away from home, while our squadron was suffering. None more so than me, and talking to my very capable deputies in Cold Lake didn't help much. It was another seven long hours before we made it to Cold Lake around midnight, and the wake in the Mess had wound down. The family's PMQ was dark, so I didn't go in and see them until the next morning. The next day, we had a muster parade in the Squadron and talked about what had happened. I then took a Hornet up to fly over the crash site. I had the DCO get everyone outside the hangar, as I had a message for them from 'Trots'. I went by the front of the hangar at Warp 8 and four-foot-six (Brit term for somewhat low) and did a disappearing act in a vertical roll. It didn't change anything, but it made us all feel a bit better, and "Dad" was back in charge.

The second time was when 416 Squadron deployed to Qatar without me, as I had given up command two weeks before Saddam invaded Kuwait. Nothing much I could do about that, but it still broke my heart. With no disrespect to the man who replaced me, many of the troops felt it, too. The last hand that each of them shook when they left Cold Lake was mine, and I was in Ottawa to greet them when they came back several months later. To add insult to the squadron, and through a series of wrong-headed decisions, their real CO was not allowed to command them and fly with them during Desert Storm. He performed valuable service in the Gulf in a staff role, but I know that broke his heart, as well. The squadron did a great job without me, as I knew they would, but not being there was the biggest disappointment of my career. One of my little treasures is a photo that was sent to me after the war ended. They were all partying and decorating some of the buildings with spray paint. On one of the buildings they had painted "Hawnski is here!". It brought pride and regret at the same time.

Anyone who has been in a leadership role in military or para-military organizations will have similar experiences. Leadership is more than a title and picking up a phone to give direction. Leadership is being there and doing everything that you can to be there. Anyone who doesn't understand that is not a leader. Paul Martin is not a leader.