Wednesday, July 13, 2005

London Bridge is standing up.

For once, I agree with Anne McLellan. Canadians are not psychologically prepared for the type of terrorist attacks that have been perpetrated upon our allies for the past several years, and since long before 9/11.

Last week's cowardly attacks on innocents in London is only the latest in a long list of wake-up calls that Canadians should heed. We shouldn't panic, but we certainly shouldn't avert our eyes and pretend that it can't happen here. It can and it will. The only questions are when and where.

Those who conduct terror don't care that we think we are nice guys. Apologists for terrorists and people who blame those who die for their own deaths are sleepwalking to their own demise. As Winston Churchill said, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last." Terrorism is a crocodile that will eat every last one of us, if we don't stop it, no matter the cost.

Can we ever eliminate terrorism? Not as long as there are people who do not value even their own lives and who will use terrorism to control their enemies, as well as their "friends". In other words - no! Can we afford to capitulate in the war against terrorists? Absolutely not! What are the costs of losing this war, and a war it surely is? Flush everything you value - summed up by the general term, quality of life - down the drain.

People in the West need to take the blinders off and realize that, no matter what we do, we will always and forever be the targets for lunatics like Osama bin Laden and Al-Queda. They have only one ultimate goal and they continue to state it loud and clear. That goal is our complete annihilation. There is only one answer to such a threat. It is not cheap and, at times, it might not be "nice". But, it must be effective.

As we have in the past, we can learn a lot from the Brits. Their reaction to mass murder was one of defiance and pluck, as they have defied past mass murderers. They are the epitome of the stiff upper lip and a bit of that stiffness should be transplanted to the backs of some other western politicians. The Brit intelligence, security and police forces are also damn good, and it came as no surprise yesterday that they had tracked down the murderers, some dead and some alive. There is really no way to prevent all terrorist attacks by a determined and clever enemy, but the Brits were able to react very swiftly. They would be one of the last countries that I would want to make really angry at me.

We can also learn an opposite lesson from Spain. They appeased the terrorist crocodile after it bit them just prior to their last national election, in which Spanish voters threw out a strongly anti-terrorist government.

What can Canada do? The first thing we can do is to stop kidding ourselves that we are different. We are all infidels in the terrorists' eyes. While I agree with Anne McLellan about our lack of psychological preparedness, I would point out to her that we are physically unprepared, as well. The reason for that is in the Offices of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Liberal Caucus. To be sure, there are many MPs from all parties who understand the seriousness of the situation, but the Government, itself, has been largely somnambulant.

Despite the unquestioned quality, commitment and bravery of our men and women in uniform, both military and para-military, we have not maintained the investment in freedom and security that only they can provide. We have not maintained our intelligence network, at home and abroad, that will help prevent terrorist acts or, at least, help to swiftly track down the perpetrators after the inevitable fact. One only has to say Air India to understand that failure. We have allowed over 40,000 illegal immigrants to roam Canada at will, the vast majority in search of only a better way of life, but some undoubtedly intent on destroying ours.

Canada is a multi-cultural mosaic and I, for one, enjoy that. That doesn't mean that we should be blind to the fact that there are some members of many cultural groups, white Anglo-Saxon included, who are intent on destroying the peace, order, and good government that we aspire to in Canada. Regardless of our ethnic roots, we all have an obligation to make sure that such criminals do not succeed, because we are all in this together. The Government has an obligation to show leadership and strength in preparing us psychologically and physically, to the extent possible. As citizens, voters and tax payers, we have an obligation to hold Government's feet to the fire; and if they don't do the job, we have an obligation to fire them.

"My country is the world and my religion is to do good." - Thomas Paine

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Yet another sacrifice

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been having a rough 2005 in Alberta, and it got rougher yesterday. We were on our way to Calgary and were diverted from Highway 2 at Leduc to south of Millet for an accident. Watching the late news in Edmonton after our return, we were saddened to learn that the accident had claimed the life of Constable Jose Agostinho.

We had known Jose when he was at the Cold Lake Detachment, and since he had been transferred to Wetaskiwin. He was a very strong member of his community, not just as a law enforcer, but as a community leader. Many young Canadians were touched by Jose in his work with cadet organizations.

Many will not know that Jose served in the Canadian Forces for 15 years and flew Buffalo aircraft in the Search and Rescue role. Curiously, at Cold Lake at the same time, there was an ex-Air Force pilot serving in the RCMP (Jose) and an ex-RCMP officer flying CF-18s for the Air Force. These two people certainly knew fully the meaning of "to serve and protect".

In the Year of the Veteran and a year of RCMP remembrance in Alberta (and everywhere), please take a moment today to remember Constable Jose Agostinho, veteran Air Force pilot, RCMP officer, husband, father, son, and friend.

"Maintiens le droit"

Monday, July 04, 2005

Into Africa

We've just witnessed the biggest worldwide rock concert in history, with the aim of raising awareness to the plight of Africa. The situation in Africa is dire and it is getting worse. The focus of Sir Bob's awareness efforts is the leaders of the G-8. I suggest that they are probably the most aware of all of the world's leaders and the most sympathetic and responsive of all the world's leaders. Could the G-8 leaders and the people that they represent do more? Sure they could. Are they and we the root cause of what ails Africa? Absolutely not!

There are reams of data about the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been poured into Africa by the G-8 and others. Not much of it has actually gone to making life better for Africans, other than a collection of ruthless and murderous dictators. These tyrants are eventually overthrown and replaced by more ruthless and murderous dictators. Will more hundreds of billions of dollars make a difference by themselves? Absolutely not!

Much has been written over more than a century about the colonization of Africa by non-African countries. There were certainly abuses of the continent and its peoples. Despite that, living conditions were arguably better under colonial rule in many countries. Since independence, most of them have slipped into crippling poverty and disease under the leadership of the aforementioned dictators. Just because many of these people were educated in the West does not make the West responsible for their abuses.

The British, French, Dutch, Portugese and others established the rule of law, infrastructure, industry, a civil service, education, churches and many other institutions associated with freedom and democracy. There were abuses, to be sure, but I don't think that what we see now is an improvement. The nations of Africa rightly demanded and achieved their independence, sometimes peacefully and sometimes violently. The nations of Africa are free of colonial rule by foreigners, but they're not free of colonial rule by their own leaders.

The people that need some awareness training are the very people who are grinding their own populations into the dirt. Bush, Blair, Martin, etal may be household names, but how about Abacha, Ahidjo, Kabila, Kbaki and, my personal favourite, Robert Mugabe? While we're at it, how about people like the Sultan of Brunei? I've just seen pictures of the interior of his private jet, complete with sinks of solid gold and Lalique crystal. It makes Air Force One look like a C-47 left over from the Burma Hump.

The well-meaning folks who are gathering in Edinburgh by the hundreds of thousands are right to take the situation in Africa very seriously. Would that it was as simple as pouring more hundreds of billions at the problem and it would magically disappear. That is just not reality.

Until there is some accountability for all that money pouring into dictators' personal bank accounts, nothing will change. Until there is the establishment of the rule of law, infrastructure, sound economies, healthcare, birth control, and more, nothing will change.

Who is going to change it? If the West tries to change those things from the outside, we will be accused of trying to re-colonize Africa. They will have to be changed from the inside. Why didn't some of the people in Edinburgh make the trip to Libya, instead? At the same time as the G-8 is meeting in Scotland, the fifty-three members of the African Union are meeting closer to their problem. Albeit with our help, but they are the ones who hold the key to the solution.

Like any problem of such enormity, the solution will take decades to take effect, if it ever does. The West can help finance and provide guidance to the solution, but we can't run it. It would also be the height of foolishness to simply open our wallets to continually support a status quo that will never change without change from within.

In Canada's case, we are being pilloried by some for falling short of the 0.7% of GDP that Lester Pearson proposed many years ago as the foreign aid goal for developed countries. In simple donated dollar terms, they are right. What they fail to factor in is the money that we spend and have spent on the wide variety of foreign missions that we have undertaken in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

Another regrettable, but inevitable, aspect of the Edinburgh spectacle will be the hijacking of the process by professional protestors. This small, but well-organized, group of thugs, punks and anarchists has no real interest in solving Africa's problems. That is because solving such problems will take the support of democratic governments in Africa by democratic governments in the West.

The key word here is government. Herewith, Oxford's definitions of three important words:

anarchism - n. the doctrine that all government should be abolished.
anarchist - n. an advocate of anarchism or political disorder.
anarchy - n. 1 disorder, esp. political or social. 2 lack of government in a society.

What Africa needs is good order and strong democratic governments, not more of the anarchy that has been, literally, killing them. Violent anarchists have nothing to contribute and have no place among the decent folks in Edinburgh and elsewhere. They do have a place, though, and that is behind bars.

The United Nations should be playing a key role in the process, in cooperation with the African Union, the G-8 countries, and others. Regrettably, the majority of the 192 members of the UN are ruled by the same type of folks who have been, at the same time, siphoning wealth from the West to their personal benefit and trashing the West for not giving them more. Kofi Annan does not help when he parrots the dictators' demands and demands little from the dictators in return.

The West does care and the G-8 leaders do care about the plight of Africa, but throwing endless money down a dark hole won't solve the problem. If it would, perhaps Sir Bob and his pals could contribute some of the proceeds of the Live 8 version of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which went on sale within an hour of the concert. We all need to do more, but let's do it with our eyes open, as well as our wallets.

If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind us.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Friday, July 01, 2005

Canada Day

We've just come back from a day in Edmonton celebrating Canada Day 2005, and it reminded me of all that we have to celebrate.

Canada has been through a lot in our 138 years of official nationhood. In the family of nations, we're still just a kid with a lot to learn. For a kid, we haven't done too badly and we've given the family a lot of things.

In the world of aviation and space exploration, we gave them the anti-g suit (1940), the Canadarm (1981), the crash position indicator (1959), the helicopter bear trap for landing on a ship's deck, the jet airliner, the radio compass, STOL aircraft, and the variable pitch propeller (1918). We've also given them people like J.A.D. McCurdy, Billy Bishop, Wop May, Buzz Beurling, Andrew Mynarsky, Max Ward, Marc Garneau, Chris Hadfield, Roberta Bondar, Julie Payette and many, many more.

In the world of sports we've contributed games such as basketball (1892), lacrosse (circa 1600), hockey and five pin bowling (1909). The names Naismith, Howe, Richard, Orr, Gretzky, Villeneuve and hundreds more have brought us international glory.

The world is a healthier place because of Canadian inventions like insulin (1921), polio vaccine, the pacemaker, heart valve operations and the CPR dummy.

Some things could only have been invented in Canada. Who else would have come up with the snowblower (1927), the snowmobile (1937) and, of course, Muskol.

Canada has led the way with communications firsts like the telephone (1874), the foghorn (1854), newsprint (1838), the walkie-talkie (1942), wirephoto and standard time.

For the household, Canada has supplied the electric cooking range (1882), gingerale (1904), pablum (1930), frozen fish (1926), kerosene (1840), the first patented lightbulb (1874), the jolly jumper and the washing machine.

In the miscellaneous category, we gave the world the rollerskate, the ear piercer, the hydrofoil, the IMAX theatre, Superman (1938), Trivial Pursuit (1982), the zipper, AND, drum roll please, the brainstorm of a brilliant young inventor named Steve Pasjac. In 1957, Steve invented the retractable beer carton handle and beer lovers have been thanking him ever since.

The entertainment world has been enriched by more Canadian entertainers in every category than is possible to list. And, most of them are assumed to be American, because that's where they've made their money.

Finally, we've given the family well over one hundred thousand of our sons and daughters in the name of freedom. In this Year of the Veteran and every year, we should never forget what they sacrificed or take for granted what they have given us.

What we saw today in Edmonton is some of what we have. It was the spectacle of people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities enjoying themselves. Where there's water, there are kids; and we didn't see anything bigger than a puddle at City Hall or at the Legislature grounds that didn't have kids playing in it. Everywhere was a sea of red and white, music and laughter in the air, and people celebrating being Canadian or just being in Canada. Only in Alberta would you see a lovely young lady doing a balletic pas de deux in logger’s boots with a Bobcat as her partner.

It all gave me pause to think about some of what I've been hearing from some of the many people that I'm talking to these days. That is the talk that maybe Albertans are getting tired of getting what they see as the short straw from Ottawa, and that maybe it's time to look at going it on our own.

I can understand and empathize with the anger that some people are feeling and giving vent to. I cannot agree with their solution. We have come too far and accomplished and sacrificed too much together with the rest of Canada, to give serious thought to leaving. We may not succeed in getting everything that we think we deserve, but separation wouldn't make it any better.

Like many people, my family has had the opportunity to live, work or play in every part of the country. We love every part of the country.

There is success in achievement, but there is also success in effort. There are many things that need to be fixed in Canada, but we can't do it unless we're prepared to work together. We also can't do it unless we're prepared to accept less than we think we deserve. Naturally, we want people in other parts of the country to feel the same way. The best way to accomplish that is to talk to them and listen to them.

We think too small. Like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view. - Mao Tse-Tung