Why Canada Slept Pt 1
Thanks to Gerhard for getting these to me, and thanks to Dave for letting me post this series of essays entitled "Why Canada Slept" which originally were published in the back of Cerebus. I have kept the original formating and haven't edit it at all. If you rather read a MS Word document of it, here it is.
Why Canada Slept
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you, from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
“In Flanders Fields” remains one of the most memorable war poems ever written, and probably the most famous poem from the First World War. It was written in the spring of 1915 by Major John McCrae (a Canadian military surgeon attached to the Ist Field Artillery Brigade) after he had spent seventeen days treating injured men—Canadians, British, Indians, French and Germans—in the Ypres salient. As he later wrote, “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days…Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae’s dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain. The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station, he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. “His face was very tired but calm as he wrote,” Allinson recalled. “He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer’s grave.” When McCrae finished, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. “The poem was an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” “In Flanders Fields” was first published in Punch on 8 December 1915.
I remember reciting “In Flanders Fields” in the gymnasium at Forest Hill Public School at the age of eight or nine as part of the Remembrance Day assembly which took place every year on the 11th of November, commemorating the cessation of hostilities at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918. With the magnification of retrospect to which small children are susceptible, I remembered the memorization of it as an arduous task, involving stanza upon stanza of majestic poetry. Almost a year ago now, after 11 September, when I had gone to the library to look it up—and where the librarian had helpfully printed it out for me from the Internet, I was both amazed—and amused—to find that the stanzas I remembered most vividly constituted the entirety of the poem.
The website carries a copyright of 1995 (Rob Ruggenberg) and indicates that it was last modified 11 November 1996. Very much of a piece with Canada’s left liberal quasi-socialist inclinations, the listing includes the observation “…often only the first two verses are cited or printed. This is not just because of the lack of quality in the third verse, but also because this last verse speaks of an unending quarrel with the foe. And if one thing became clear during the Great War it was this: there was no quarrel between the soldiers (except maybe in the heat of a fight). The quarrel existed only in the minds of some politicians and high-ranking officers (who mostly never experienced the horror of the battlefield).”
This is, of course, (like most left liberal quasi-socialist revisionist cant) patently untrue. In the first decades of the twentieth century it would have been most unusual for any politician or any military officer to rise in rank, prominence or both without having served his country (or, in Canada’s case, the Crown) on the battlefield. Military service—prior to John Lennon—was universally accepted as a masculine responsibility to the common good: in peacetime, an omnipresent masculine likelihood and, in wartime, an inescapable masculine given. Young men were soldiers and older men were officers and still older men were leaders. In the masculine scheme of things, it was nonsensical for a soldier to second-guess an officer, or for an officer to second-guess his leader. Anyone doubting the wisdom of that infrastructure had only to look at the French military, grounded in the sensibility of their Revolution where, until very, very recently, everyone second-guessed everyone else at every level of the military hierarchy with the result that everyone went off half-cocked in every direction and the primary French military strategy until very, very recently consisted of milling about aimlessly until it was time for a wholesale retreat and surrender. One of the central theses of “Why Canada Slept” is that there is a foe or, rather, a Foe, and that this is what men of honour have, as a primary masculine responsibility, to recognize and to commit themselves to opposing—by all appropriate means—where and when that Foe emerges. And “emerge” he does. As an example: Wilhelm Richard Wagner was not the Foe. Nor was Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Nor, arguably, was Kaiser Wilhelm I. Kaiser Wilhelm II, however, was. Adolf Hitler was. The great failure of the Western Democracies, 1933-1939, in my view, was three-fold: it constituted a failure to recognize the emergence of a Foe, a failure to reach a consensus that a Foe had emerged and a failure to take timely and concerted action against that Foe. As another example: Karl Heinrich Marx was not the Foe. Nor was Leon Trotsky. Nor, arguably, was Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Joseph Stalin, however, was. Joseph Stalin was the Foe and all of Stalin’s successors up to—but not including—Mikhail Gorbachev, were the Foe. In the example which confronts the Western Democracies at this moment in history, Muhammad is not the foe, Islam is not the foe, but Osama bin Laden is the Foe, Yasser Arafat is the Foe. And even that isn’t entirely accurate. More accurate to say Osama bin Laden is part of the Foe. Yasser Arafat is part of the Foe. For the first time in history, the Foe is not at the apex of a hierarchical national “pyramid”. All that has changed is that the quintessential “old dog” of human history, the Foe, has learned a “new trick”: diversification into the lower ranks.
* * * * * *
It is worth remembering that, in his day, Hitler fit the same category in that Hitler was a “new trick,” from the “old dog” of human history, the Foe. Or, more accurately, Hitler was “a trick which had only been used by the Foe once before, but with great success”—the little corporal who leapfrogs the masculine pecking order (soldier to junior officer to Commissioned Officer to Senior Officer to Division Commander to Senior Command to Political Representative, to Senior Political Representative to Deputy Cabinet Secretary to Cabinet Secretary to Deputy Leader to Leader) and basically went straight from “Radar O’Reilly” to Emperor. In a conventional masculine world it is very hard to take such an individual—a corporal who decides he is going to be the Emperor—seriously. I’m sure there isn’t a military officer above the rank of corporal who hasn’t had any number of Napoleons or Hitlers serving under him at any given time: an “odd duck” who can be trusted to do the paperwork and the filing and who manages, without distinction, to discharge a limited number of obligations but who gets a little “glittery” in the eyes at the first whiff of anything approximating power or decision-making. It’s like a lottery. Millions of them come and go over the centuries, advance a rank or two, retire on a small pension and are never heard from again. But, just as with a lottery, you do have that lucky “one”—or, in the case of the early-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries—“two”. Lucky for them, unlucky for civilization. That was the “old dog’s” “new trick”—counting on the fact that the sheer ridiculousness of a nondescript little corporal deciding to become Emperor would buy the little corporal sufficient time to accomplish his task.
* * * * * *
Gerhard, as I have mentioned elsewhere, works at home now, but he does come in on Tuesdays to do his part of the office work. They had been tearing up the street in front of the studio for the better part of the summer. While I was working on some mindless task of some kind—“blacking in” or something—I could swear that I heard the workers outside saying something about “the Pentagon.” I chalked it up to mishearing on my part. Just before Ger came in, I swore I heard it again. “The Pentagon.” When Ger arrived, he told me that planes had hit the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. “What nationality?” “American. Hijacked passenger planes. One of the Towers has already collapsed.” At the time, I had a portable television and VCR next to the drawing board (specifically acquired for watching the Three Stooges frame-by-frame so that I could draw them accurately from various angles). The television only got one channel, CKCO, the Kitchener CTV affiliate a few blocks away. I turned it on and there was the remaining tower billowing smoke. I had just enough time to glance down at the corner of the screen and register the word “LIVE” when the Tower collapsed into itself.
It took me three tries to get it out, but the first thing I said was, “The United States is the most heavily-armed country on the planet. The question is, now, ‘Will they turn the world into one big police state?’” I spent the rest of the day turning the television on long enough to find out if anything else had happened, leaving it on if there was something worth listening to—the entirety of Rudy Giuliani’s press conference, as an example—and then turning it off when the network “bingo callers” (Frank magazine’s designation for television news anchors) started firing up the Big Feminist Emotion Yadda Yadda Yadda Steamroller.
* * * * * *
I’m still surprised that it wasn’t until the next day that I realized that there was going to be a war. Surprised, because I’m usually pretty astute—at least about the broad strokes—and (as broad strokes go) this one was about as broad as they come. Once it became clear that there was going to be a war, I immediately began to consider my own obligations as an adult male citizen of a NATO country. On the one hand, I definitely wanted to finish Cerebus. On the other hand, I’m very big on being able to look myself in the eye in the mirror when I’m shaving. The Canadian military was in a thoroughly disreputable state and had been for years. Not the military personnel themselves who are considered—pretty universally—to be “top-of-the-line,” but in terms of matériel, Canada’s military equipment—purely through age and attrition—had eroded to a near Third World level. This was nothing new for Canada’s military which has usually been “tiny, ill-equipped and under-funded”—as it had been, as an example, in August of 1950 when we volunteered a brigade to defend South Korea. The brigade had to be raised from scratch and didn’t fully arrive in Korea until 10 months later. War is declared and Canada throws itself into a furious spurt of activity and expenditure, managing to get “up-to-speed” just in time to make a significant contribution in a major battle or two (I’ll be dealing more specifically with Canada’s military history in the next instalment). In the immediate aftermath of 11 September, it seemed to me that the only honourable course of action for a country like Canada to take—having allowed our NATO obligations to lapse to such an unconscionable degree—was to volunteer on an interim basis, basically, as cannon fodder. I had assumed that cannon fodder would be much in demand in Afghanistan if most of the campaign was going to involve extracting al-Qaeda fighters from mountain caves. I’m not exactly a Soldier of Fortune subscriber, but I was aware that the estimated casualty figures involved in “cave extraction warfare” run in the 8:1, 9:1 range. That is, you’re going to lose eight or nine men for every one you kill (most of them as a result of “friendly fire”). Well, you know, fair enough. I had assumed (such was the level of my disengagement from feminist societal reality) that overnight, the military in the NATO countries were going to be up to their eyeballs in volunteers (comparable to what happened in 1914 and 1939)—countries like Canada would volunteer for the “dirty jobs” of sending wave upon wave of ill-equipped soldiers into the caves of Tora Bora and, over the course of a year or two, the military authorities would find out what to do with the real soldiers based on what had happened to the cannon fodder. I prepared myself to volunteer for “cannon fodder duty”.
This next part of the story had Chester Brown laughing pretty good recently when I told him and—a year later—I am able to see the humour in it, but it sure wasn’t funny at the time.
I got into the habit of watching the news on my one television channel—mostly to find out if the Americans had captured Osama bin Laden yet and what the state of the war was in general—and happened to catch an interview with a Canadian Forces recruitment officer (this would’ve been late in September) and the “bingo caller” was asking him, you know, what sort of response there had been, volunteer-wise so far. Well, uh, not a whole lot. No? No. So far, it’s mostly guys in their thirties and forties.
The recruitment officer laughed. The “bingo caller” laughed. Yeah, mostly guys who used to be in the military and (the recruitment officer laughed again), you know, they just want to help. The “bingo caller” laughed. And they moved on to other subjects.
I went through a few mental contortions of how I might forge a new date on my passport and then began the arduous process of learning to accept that from now on, while shaving, I would be staring directly into the eyes of an entirely useless old man. It was—in my newfound role as an entirely useless old man—that I came to accept that the only self-admittedly meager contribution I could make in the early hours of the first defining moment of the 21st century would be an attempt to try to explain to my readers and (chalk it up to a useless old man’s vanity) possibly to posterity my strongly held views on the positive attributes of the Muslim faith, past and present, in a series of essays which became, ultimately, “Islam, My Islam”.
* * * * * *
It was a few days later that I suddenly remembered “In Flanders Fields,” suddenly remembered “Take up our quarrel with the foe, to you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high, if ye break faith with us who die…” and realized that that was exactly what had taken place virtually everywhere in the great democracies over the last number of decades, that was exactly what was taking place in the fall of 2001and that was (I was pretty sure) exactly what was, ultimately, going to leave the United States, Israel and Tony Blair and one-third of his Cabinet isolated from the world community as the War on Terrorism began in earnest. What I realized was that—collectively—the men of my generation had “broken faith” with the war dead, with those young men of the last century (and of previous centuries) who had willingly committed the ultimate sacrifice on the clear, implicit, masculine understanding that when it came time for a subsequent generation of men to do the same—when next a Foe emerged—that they would do so. Not happily, not joyfully—only the Foe finds happiness and joy and glory in war—but with firm resolve that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Vigilance not just as a term, not just as a prerequisite of freedom but vigilance which has as its aim apprehending realistically the emergence of the Foe in his new guise, apprehending realistically when it is necessary to take up arms against that newly emergent Foe. To recognize, in other words—by means of reason and common sense—a newly-emergent latter-day Hitler and to take concerted action against him in the latter-day equivalent of 1933 and not to delay taking action against him until the latter-day equivalent of 1939. The only alternative, inescapably, is to render meaningless the masculine sacrifice in Flanders Fields, in Ypres, the Somme, Bataan, Corregidor, Normandy, to render meaningless the deaths of previous generations of (degrading my argument to current levels of perception) young boyfriends, young fiancées, young husbands and young fathers, most in their teens and early twenties, all of whom, as Major John McRae so astutely put it, “lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved” to, in a very real, very masculine sense, bring shame upon one’s own self and one’s own generation by, in effect, saying to the war dead, “I’m glad that you sacrificed your life in its prime, sacrificed the years you would have had with your girlfriend, with your fiancée, with your wife, sacrificed being able to watch your children grow up, but my girlfriend, my fiancée, my wife, my children are far, far, far more important than yours.” The lesson of 1933-1939 should have been, in my view (and, I suspect, was—for a decade or so) that the necessary and inevitable sacrifice of men’s lives can be minimized—that is, fewer boyfriends, fewer fiancées, fewer husbands and fewer fathers will die—if the Foe is recognized and if concerted action is taken to eliminate the Foe early enough after his emergence: before he is able to arm himself sufficiently to commit acts of war on a monumental scale which will result in astronomical numbers of casualties both among his own forces and among those forces mounted to oppose him.
My own view is that Wahabite Islam is just such a Foe. My own view is that, at the moment, only the United States, Israel, Tony Blair and one-third of his Cabinet recognize that inescapable fact.
That only the United States and Israel, among nations, recognized that fact in the fall of 2001 and that only the United States and Israel are, in my view, “keeping faith” with the war dead today with their War on Terrorism, implied to me that, in addition to “Islam, my Islam” there needed to be a companion piece, a mea culpa for my generation of men, for the generation of men which immediately preceded my own and for the subsequent generations of men in my audience. A communication, if you will, from a thoroughly useless old man that I hope in some small way, speaks to the failure—the continuing failure—of all nations apart from the United States and Israel to recognize that Wahabite Islam is the emergent Foe of the 21st century which must be confronted—and which will be confronted—exacting either a smaller toll in men’s lives today or a much larger toll in men’s lives a handful of years from now with, I am convinced, no other option possible.
“Why Canada Slept” is my attempt at that communication.
“Why Canada Slept” is a conscious play on the title of John F. Kennedy’s graduate thesis at Harvard, Why England Slept, which represented his examination of the complacency exhibited by England between the two World Wars and his examination of the difficulties faced by the great democracies both in achieving consensus in peacetime and in mobilizing men and machinery in the face of a mounting threat (“We cannot tell anyone to keep out of our hemisphere unless our armaments and the people behind these armaments are prepared to back up the command, even to the ultimate point of going to war”). It was a provocative—and timely—analysis which won him a cum laude citation and, with the assistance of Arthur Krock, Blair Clark and others, was published as a book in 1942. There is a certain amount of mythology attached to the book’s success, centering on the question of how many copies were purchased by Kennedy patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy. It would surprise no one to find out that the attics of the houses which make up the Kennedy “compound” at Hyannis Port were thickly insulated with copies of Why England Slept and, later, with first printings of Profiles in Courage.
In a very real sense, however, the book marked out the twenty-three-year-old for greatness at an early age. I suspect that whatever limited success it enjoyed at the time could be attributed to the very theme of the book being so diametrically opposed to the well-known views of Joseph P. Kennedy who, as the American ambassador to the Court of St. James, probably ranks second only to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as the most notorious of the “appeasers” of Adolf Hitler (to such an extent that he was ultimately recalled from his post by President Franklin Roosevelt). In this, the book exhibited one of the least becoming Kennedy family traits: opportunism. I suspect (and I’m not alone in this) that Joseph Kennedy—having recognized that he had “bet the farm” of his own political ambitions on the “wrong horse,” appeasement—wanted to guarantee that his son got onto the right side of the historical ledger as quickly as possible. I suspect that, as a result, in wartime Washington, Why England Slept was viewed as something of a “man bites dog” novelty act—a critique by Kennedy’s son of those very individuals and institutions which his father had endorsed and encouraged through his own appeasement. The title itself was, in its own time, a conscious play on While England Slept, the title used for an American edition of a collection of Winston Churchill’s speeches which had been published in England in 1937 as Arms and the Covenant. Years later the White House revealed that a copy of While England Slept had lain on President Roosevelt’s bedside table, with key passages, including an analysis of the president’s peace initiative, underscored—an altogether exceptional circumstance given that Roosevelt seldom read anything besides newspapers. In a letter from Churchill to his wife (8 July 1938) he wrote, “Arms and the Covenant has not gone as well as we expected. They have sold 4,000, but the price is high, and it is by no means certain that a second edition will be required. The reviews have been very good and I am glad we collected and published the speeches.” Kennedy’s Why England Slept (despite his father’s hyperbolic boast to Churchill in a letter that “it is already a best-seller in the nonfiction group”) did only marginally better at twelve thousand copies.
But—leaving aside what may or may not have been John (and Joseph) Kennedy’s motivations behind the composition and publication of Why England Slept—the larger meaning, to me, attaches itself to the bourdon cautionary note struck. That is, whatever prescience and precision had been either lacking or abundant within both While England Slept (Churchill’s attempt to rouse his countrymen to take action against the gathering storm) and Why England Slept (Kennedy’s retrospective examination of why those attempts by Churchill and others failed) the over-arching thought expressed by the titles alone was—and, in my view, will always be—worthy of serious and central consideration by the men of any generation in any of the world’s great democracies: Here and now, is my country vital and awake? Or is my country complacent and somnambulant? I would argue that—in the face of England’s pre-war and post-war fate—the collective and individual shock experienced by the young American men of John Kennedy’s generation (at those universities which constitute the “farm system” of America’s leadership) was an enduring one. That is, there was the initial shock which resulted from the realization that it was, indeed, possible for the pre-eminent democracy of its day, its leadership, its citizenry and its institutions, to lapse into a national “fugue” state indistinguishable from complete unconsciousness. Then there was the further shock at the realization that, once entered into, England’s national “fugue” state had become virtually universal, virtually unassailable (to the extent that a first printing of four thousand copies of While England Slept, warning of the storm clouds of war gathering across the English Channel, was deemed sufficient to meet public demand in a country of tens of millions). Then, I believe there was the still further shock that the “fugue” state remained virtually universal and virtually unassailable right up to the moment when fascist jackboots were, for all intents and purposes, audibly coming up the front steps. This shock to the system of the American body politic, I believe, was reinforced by the subsequent loss of Empire, the erosion of the British Empire into the residue of the British Commonwealth and the—consequent—inexorable shift of global preeminence from the resident of 10 Downing Street to the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
It was as a direct result of this shock, I believe, that—beginning with John Kennedy’s generation—a bi-partisan consensus emerged among American men as the soon-to-be heirs of British preeminence, hegemony, influence (whatever you want to call it) and I believe that that consensus quickly distilled itself into: Let’s Not Have That Happen To Us.
As a direct result, America maintained its vigilance and its military preparedness, maintaining the democratic ideal of civilian control of the military while successfully sequestering the Pentagon and its budget—both in wartime and, more amazingly, in peacetime—from the natural inclination of civilian authorities to slash peacetime military budgets with a meat cleaver. Given the inevitability of conflict which has always and which will always exist between civilian and military authorities and given the economies of scale—or, rather, Scale—which were involved, this was no mean feat. Doubly so as John Lennon “strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage” and “Hell no, we won’t go” became the watchword for a generation of men whose resolve to practice vigilance, to perceive accurately and to meet the threat of an emergent Foe while his elimination still represented a “police action” rather than a worldwide conflagration rebelled (I think justifiably) at the casting of the North Vietnamese and Ho Chi Minh in the role of Foe instead of foe (as foolish a perception, in retrospect, as casting South Viet Nam, Ngo Dinh Diem and his successors as Allies instead of allies). However, as is always the danger in these cases “Hell no, we won’t go” which began life as a concise reaction to an unjust and objective-less war swiftly eroded into a universal statement of left liberal quasi-socialist—which is to say feminized—policy: Hell no, we won’t go…anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, no matter what is at stake.
(There was nothing especially new in this, either. In 1933, nine days after Hitler had become the German chancellor, the Oxford Union held a debate on the question “Resolved: That this House refuses in any circumstances to fight for King and Country.” The union voted for the affirmative, 275 to 153. Winston Churchill, at the time, denounced the vote as “abject, squalid, shameless”.)
What was interesting (and which didn’t fully come to light until President Clinton bombed Kosovo to get Monica Lewinsky off the front page—of just such strange bedfellows are the watershed moments of a great democracy composed) was that the Pentagon, in the aftermath of the United States’ great failure in Viet Nam (failure of perception, failure of policy, failure of will, military failure, diplomatic failure, political failure and, thus, democratic failure) had, evidence now indicated, moved in response to the implicit will of “We, the People” in truly democratic fashion, institutionally asking itself the question: Why? That is, Why is a substantial portion of the American body politic unwilling to go anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, no matter what was at stake? And the answer was: casualties. The consensus view of a significant number of American citizens had demonstrated either a complete intolerance for or profound aversion to battlefield casualties (“significant” from the Pentagon’s standpoint in that it might or might not represent a majority viewpoint and, thus—given that, in a democracy, policy is shaped by the viewpoint of the majority—might, at any given political “moment,” pose a threat to the Pentagon’s continued existence). Like any democratic institution, governed by the need to respond to the will of “We, the People,” the Pentagon basically set about solving the problem, developing military technologies which would minimize battlefield casualties to such an extent as to virtually eliminate them. Eliminate casualties and you eliminate the largest objection in a democracy to military action. The extent to which this was made possible by the development of high altitude bombers, supersonic fighter aircraft and laser-guided missile technology was first demonstrated in the Gulf War by (not surprisingly) a President whose own military background was in the Air Force, George Bush, Sr. (Political leaders with military backgrounds invariably favour—when it comes to military decision-making—the branch of the armed services of which they themselves are veterans: Roosevelt and Churchill were both Navy men, thus the Normandy invasion with the preeminent role of battleships, aircraft carriers and landing craft, likewise John F. Kennedy’s naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962). The larger lesson of the extent to which the nature of warfare had been permanently transformed by these quantum leaps forward in the technology of the “air war” was rather lost on most people in 1991. Of far greater moment in the popular imagination was the duration of the conflict—Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon having barely had time to cobble together a “We are the World” cast of left liberal, quasi-socialist singers (for some reason Chevy Chase and someone in a giant Bugs Bunny costume stick out in my mind) and shoot a video for a re-release of “Give Peace a Chance” before the whole war was over. The irrefutable argument that this presented was: why jeopardize popular support for military action with ground troops, since ground troops are far more susceptible to casualties than are pilots, given that popular support erodes in direct proportion to the number of casualties sustained? That is, the length of time that popular support for a military action can be maintained is proportional to the length of time that casualty figures can be kept to single digits. The exact proportion is, as yet, unknown but, extrapolating from the Desert Storm experience and the War in Afghanistan it can be measured in weeks, but probably not months. I would qualify this by saying that I think this dynamic governs only the period of time between the commencement of formal hostilities and their formal end. Military occupation, mopping-up operations, rebuilding of infrastructure and nation-building are (for reasons inexplicable to me) very much “off the radar screen” of Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Chevy Chase, whomever-that-was-in-the-giant-Bugs-Bunny-suit, the New York Times, the Washington Post, et al.
But, as I say, the effectiveness of the “pure air war”—a war fought exclusively with high-altitude aircraft and laser-guided missiles—didn’t fully come to light until President Clinton used it in Kosovo where it largely solved what had (to that point) been seen as the very intricate problem, the diplomatic Gordian Knot writ large, the powder-keg and the potential Viet Nam-style quagmire posed by Slobodan Milosevic. Which, in my view, proved actually to be nothing more than an emergent Foe whose forces were crushed in a timely fashion, metaphorically in “1933” rather than “1939”. That is, Milosevic was stopped the way Hitler should have been stopped. None of the dire consequences foretold by the would-be Cassandras of the UN, the EU or the global hand-wringing chorus of the left liberal quasi-socialists came to pass as a result of the United States taking decisive action in Kosovo. What is interesting, however, is how this constituency still manages to hold to these central beliefs no matter how often they are thoroughly repudiated. The UN, the EU and the United States are not mired down in Kosovo. The UN, the EU and the United States are not mired down in Afghanistan and I don’t believe, personally, that the United States will get mired down in Iraq if it chooses to act militarily against Saddam Hussein. I believe that the United States, by virtue of its belief in its own responsibilities as a great democracy to remain vigilant and to act in a timely fashion against Foes (taking Adolf Hitler, rather than Ho Chi Minh, as the template for the nature of the Foe), by virtue of having developed technologies not only sufficient to the task, but technologies which are, therefore, fully responsive to the implicit popular first priorities of its own citizenry whose will is expressed through its democratically elected leadership (“we don’t want any of our people being hurt and we want a minimum of civilian casualties on the other side”) is now in the best position to determine where and when that technology is to be used. Had any other democracy, or, indeed, any other nation endeavoured to keep pace with the United States in the aftermath of the Second World War, devoting a comparable percentage of its GDP to national defense and to shared defense under the UN charter and under the charter of such organizations as NATO, then I could see some semblance of an obligation on the part of the United States to consult with its allies when it comes to where and when those technologies are going to be used and to put together scrupulously broad-based coalitions before even beginning to consider whether or not to take military action. However, given the state of the western democracies half a century or so after the end of the Second World War (I’ll fall back on the illustration I used in “Islam, my Islam”—the United States has a .357 magnum and the rest of us are using sharpened sticks), I think it ridiculous for the country with the .357 to make any effort whatsoever to accommodate or even consider the views of any country which is defending its borders with sharpened sticks and which seeks to create the illusion that it is capable of discharging its military obligations in the world and to the world with sharpened sticks.
In the years that I have been alive and aware of geopolitical world realities, it seemed to me that the reason that the great democracies—apart from the United States—contented themselves with a military so “bare-boned” in its nature that the analogy of “sharpened sticks” holds up nicely was that the consensus view had emerged—apart from in the United States—that “War is Over (If You Want It)” (to quote Yoko Ono’s late husband). I could never quite bring myself to believe that. The view always seemed redolent to me of wishful thinking and whistling past the graveyard. The fact that World War I was popularly described—up until 1939—as the “war to end all wars” indicated to me that the track record in the great democracies for accurate prognostication of “the end for all time” of armed conflict as an element of human history was not (to say the least) unblemished. I do believe that war will end one day, just as is promised in the Scriptures. One day, men will beat their swords into plowshares and will “practice war no more,” but, unlike the Kumbaya brigade, I’ve never thought that the way to bring that about is to close your eyes, clasp hands and sing it into existence. I didn’t anticipate that the next Foe would be Wahabite Islam, but then, we never have, as a civilization, guessed who the next Foe was going to be. Nor would I hazard a guess as to who will be the next Foe once the great democracies have successfully dealt with Wahabite Islam. The best evidence of history, to me, indicates that the only appropriate course of action has always been and is always going to be vigilance and accurate perception and the avoidance of wishful thinking (I remember Ronald Reagan at a press conference with Mikhail Gorbachev quoting a Russian proverb: “Trust, but verify!” Gorbachev stepped forward and, through his translator, said, “You keep quoting that same proverb,” which got a good laugh from the international press corps. To which Reagan replied, “Because I like it, Mr. Chairman” which got a bigger laugh).
Up until 11 September, I would have counted myself in the ranks of supporters of the UN and those who gave the benefit of the doubt to the idea of war being “over”. Prior to 11 September, it seemed to me that war was either “over” temporarily (but was unlikely to recur until late in my lifetime) or it was “over” temporarily (and was unlikely to recur until I had been long gone). The regional conflicts in the world, to me, constituted house parties that had gotten a little out of hand when compared to the First and Second World Wars and I thought the UN and the “good will” of men more than sufficient to keep them below a tolerable threshold. As the “post-war era” stretched past the half-century mark (as compared with the 21 years between the First and Second World Wars) like most people, I saw the United States as being in a permanent state of military over-preparedness which I saw, in turn, as a product of the military-industrial complex of which Eisenhower had warned near the end of his second term of office. This over-preparedness looked as excessive to me as did Canada’s complete lack of military preparedness. 11 September changed that perception for me in much the same way that betting my entire savings on a horse that came in dead last in a race would have changed my perception of that horse. I live in a country which has “bet the farm” on war being “over” in the same way that Joseph Kennedy “bet the farm” on appeasement of Hitler being the correct course of action. Clearly, war is not “over” and is nowhere near to being “over”. To me, the United States now becomes the central consideration by virtue of being the only one of the great democracies to have bet on any other horse besides “War is Over”. In a world where owning a .357 magnum suddenly seems to be a “not bad” idea (to say the least), having contented yourself, as a country, with a sharpened stick it seems only sensible to me that you would offer what meager support you can offer to the country with the .357 magnum (offering a cobbled-together mass of the aforementioned “cannon fodder” being, in my view, a sensible place to start) and begin, as quickly as possible, to upgrade from a sharpened stick to…well, just about anything, since just about anything is going to be of more use than a sharpened stick. Most particularly, to determine in the short, medium and long term, what the perceived requirements of the country with the .357 magnum are—to frankly and openly admit, “We bet on the wrong horse. We thought ‘war was over’. War is not over. What can we do to supplement your military capability?” I also think that it would be an honourable course of action to admit that the United States—by virtue of “keeping faith” with the war dead of the great democracies (to the extent of developing technologies which permit the United States to conduct both virtually casualty-free warfare and to dramatically limit the length of any conflict) has thereby earned the right to stay out of the “dirty” end of warfare. To use the most obvious recent example, I think it was a deplorable shame that the United States thought it necessary to rely on Afghan “allies” like the Northern Alliance to pursue the al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters on the ground as they fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan. In a circumstance like Afghanistan (and, I suspect, Iraq) “almost all air” warfare is possible, but at some point ground troops are going to be required to achieve the central objective: the capture or confirmed execution of Osama bin Laden (or Saddam Hussein). That is, capturing bin Laden was an American priority and, to me, should have been a NATO and UN priority but was, self-evidently, not a Northern Alliance priority. Having the al-Qaeda and Taliban forces “herded” by air strikes out of Tora Bora and into Pakistan solved every pressing concern which had faced the Northern Alliance—it’s hard to imagine any strategic Northern Alliance purpose that would have been served in actually engaging the widely superior forces of al-Qaeda and the Taliban (against whom the Northern Alliance had previously had exactly “zero” success) in hand-to-hand combat—apart from trying to “please” the United States. With the luxury of 20-20 hindsight, I think this high-risk “pursuit” by ground forces could have more effectively—and honourably—been accomplished with sheer masses of “cannon fodder” from all NATO countries—under the United States’ command—in conformity with Colin Powell’s strategic view which prevails at the highest levels of the Pentagon: that the United States should only commit to conflict where they have overwhelming superiority. Overwhelming superiority is a given in the “air war” if the United States is participating. As the only country which possesses weaponry sufficiently advanced technologically to make inevitable a) largely casualty-free conflicts and b) dramatically shortened conflicts, speaking personally, I would think it only fair that the United States assume the “low risk” ground troop positions in any conflict in which it participates and to expect its allies to assume the “high risk” ground troop positions in those same conflicts (by virtue of those allies bringing a demonstrably less militarily-valuable contribution to the NATO or UN “table”). Post-Afghanistan there remains only a certain amount of fine-tuning to be accomplished in the successful execution of “almost all air” warfare: particularly how and at which point you “switch” from the air war to a ground war. A handful of United States Special Forces on the ground can, quite successfully—using the most advanced laser and communications technology—call in pin-point air-strikes by high altitude bombers using laser-guided missile technology to destroy the vast majority of the enemy’s opposing forces and entrenched positions and, essentially, “herd” the survivors in a chosen direction, as was proven in Afghanistan. The only sensible course of action, to me, is to halt the air war once the “herding” process is underway and to either “herd” the survivors into a corner (if that’s possible), or toward a numerically overwhelming superior ground force (if that’s possible) or to pursue the survivors with a numerically overwhelming superior force. It seems only reasonable and honourable that these ground forces should be drawn from the ranks of the military of all NATO countries besides the United States and to place those ground forces and their national commanders under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of U.S. military leaders (until such time as those countries begin to shoulder their fair share of the “heavy lifting” in upgrading their military capabilities to levels proportionately commensurate with those of the United States).
That is, to me, in an ideal, masculine, militarily hierarchical world, I think that those countries which have shirked their masculine responsibilities for decades—like Canada—agreeing to provide a disproportionately larger number of high-risk “pursuit” ground troops until such time as they have modernized their forces to an acceptable level would represent a sensible, honourable and ideal basis upon which to conduct the War on Terrorism.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, that has proven to be so far from the case (with a few isolated exceptions which I’ll be addressing later on in this series) as to render any discussion of what is “sensible” or “honourable” or “ideal” completely and entirely moot. Of course, where any subject—as this subject most assuredly does—touches upon the feminization of the western democracies this is not, to say the least, unexpected given that all three of those adjectives are so remote from the feminine experience as to represent a foreign language to them. So, let us leave “sensible,” “honourable” and “ideal” entirely to one side and begin, instead, a discussion of Her Majesty’s Once and Future Dominion and/or Quasi-Nation-State of Canada, the deplorable and feminized state in which it found itself on 11 September 2001 and why that state has not, in my view, changed one iota since.
* * * * * *
As I have already indicated, having expected that the reaction to the events of 11 September among the western democracies would be a virtually instantaneous “rising up” of those democracies in support of the first and greatest of the vanguard democracies, the United States of America, I was not surprised to find Canada to be “slow off the mark”. On 11 September, when President Bush had closed American airspace and directed that all planes in the air were to be diverted, one of the places to which those aircraft were diverted was Gander, Newfoundland. Gander is about as far east as you can be in North America and still be in North America. It’s a very small community (11,000 or so) but its airport is the first resort of air traffic coming into Canada or the United States in the event of an emergency. On September 11—and for a number of days afterward—the people of Gander hosted a little less than 7,000 stranded travelers from dozens of diverted international flights—that is, approximately two-thirds again the size of its own population. Not only was every square inch of community space devoted to serving the needs of the stranded passengers, but virtually every resident of Gander opened their own homes for that same purpose—all without a suggestion of compensation, all without any participation by the federal government. Unquestionably, the people of Gander, Newfoundland provided Canada with its finest hour in the immediate aftermath of the events of 11 September. To what I regard as Canada’s eternal and ineradicable shame, it would prove to be the last contribution any Canadian would make for some time.
“The subject who is truly loyal to the chief magistrate
will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures.”
My own immediate decision was to pull the inside front cover and part two of “Is Dave Brady Actually Gay?” from Cerebus 271 which was already at the printer, leaving me little time to decide what to replace them with. Mindful of the fact that I was living in a country which was behaving in what I saw as a thoroughly deplorable fashion at the highest levels (exposing what I saw as an inconceivable degree of fundamental disloyalty to Canada’s greatest ally that—literally, moment-by-moment—boggled my mind) only compounded the problem I was facing. For a period of several days Prime Minister Jean Chrétien seemed completely unable to comprehend the significance of what had happened. For those with long experience with the ways of Canadians and (most especially) Canadian Liberals, this was not entirely unexpected. Knee-jerk anti-Americanism is at least as Canadian as maple syrup and this is nowhere more in evidence than in the Liberal Party of Canada of which Mr. Chrétien is the leader. He is also of that generation that I think of as “first wave feminists,” those who first “took” to the idea of men and women being interchangeable as a duck “takes” to water. In fact, in the first couple of days after 11 September most inquiries directed to the Prime Minister about 11 September were met with wholly irrelevant and inexplicable dissertations on how Canada is the envy of so many other nations and how leaders of other countries were always dumbfounded—awe-stricken, in fact, according to the Prime Minister—by the news that Mr. Chrétien’s Cabinet consists half of male Ministers and half of female Ministers (this was demonstrably untrue as we shall see in a subsequent installment of this essay). That the “boy/girl/boy/girl” composition of his Cabinet was completely irrelevant to the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon seemed not to have occurred to the Prime Minister. Again, this was not entirely (at least on my part) unexpected since I have, for some time, considered the Prime Minister to be in that category of “hollowed-out ventriloquist puppet husband”. That is, I have long suspected that, as a “first wave feminist” and a “hollowed-out ventriloquist puppet husband,” the first thing he asks himself when posed any question is: “What would Aline say?” (Aline is Mrs. The Prime Minister’s name). And, I think, given that women had no idea what to say about the events of 11 September—then or now—the Prime Minister was left to parrot a view which his wife held about a completely unrelated subject (which, I’m sure, they both believed was infinitely more important than the terrorist attacks on a NATO ally) while he waited for all the fuss about 11 September to, basically, go away.
So my first instinct was to write an apology to my American readers for what was going on north of the 49th parallel. And then I realized that that would be in particularly bad taste given that most of my American readers were (mercifully) spared any awareness of Canada’s deplorable reaction by virtue of Canada existing at a place below most American’s “radar” and that introducing the subject so soon after 11 September would constitute its own form of fatuous Canadian navel-gazing, albeit in a different direction. I decided instead to save my honest observations for “Why Canada Slept” (which, at the time, I believed would be coming out in three or four months). I finally decided to run “foreign policy” excerpts from John F. Kennedy’s speech which had been prepared for the Dallas Trade Mart luncheon. Given that most of my audience (like the vast majority of the comic-book field itself) is in the “left liberal” camp (the group which—it was obvious to me, even then—had experienced the most dramatic and wrenching political dislocation as a result of the events of 11 September) I thought it would not be entirely unhelpful to remind them that someone who (in many ways inexplicably) has found himself in the Liberal Pantheon was, in his day, far from a “peacenik,” far from “squishy” and very far from being a “wishful thinker”—although his portrayal by left liberals has, in recent years, tended to cast him in each of those roles.
That still left the inside front cover, which—pretty much at the last minute—I decided to fill with an excerpt from The National Post’s coverage of the Memorial held on Parliament Hill on 14 September, hopeful that the coming months would validate the words of Prime Minister Chrétien: “Generation after generation, we have traveled many difficult miles together. Side by side, we have lived through many dark times, always firm in our shared resolve to vanquish any threat to freedom and justice. And together, with our allies, we will defy and defeat the threat that terrorism poses to all civilized nations.”
Actually, “hopeful” is a little too strong a word. Even four days after the tragedies of 11 September which transcended all boundaries, national and otherwise, I was reasonably certain that in scrupulous, two-faced, feminist fashion, the Prime Minister had decided to make his intentions sound as good as possible while committing Canada to do as little as he could humanly get away with. Which, considering how little the United States had come to expect from Canada, turned out to be very little, indeed. Even at the time, I had thought that Paul Cellucci, the American ambassador to Canada could have shortened his already brief and, in my view, undeservedly gracious remarks at the ceremony to: “Thank you for your…” [lengthy pause] “…words” and it would still have been more than Canada deserved.
Not having a television at home and being unaware that the speech was scheduled, I missed President Bush’s address to the Joint Session of Congress on 20 September. I did not, unfortunately, miss the appalling example of Canadian navel-gazing which swept this country on 21 September. President Bush, in thanking America’s allies for their support in the aftermath of 11 September, had failed to mention Canada. How can I describe the wrenching level of embarrassment that I experienced that day on behalf of my country? Embarrassment? Hell. Shame! An excruciating, soul-deep level of humiliation I can’t remember ever having experienced before and which I will count myself, indeed, fortunate if I never experience it again. Canada, dear feminized, self-absorbed, fatuous, feel-good, praise-hungry Canada was still…still!…by 20 September bathing contentedly in the warm afterglow—not of what Canada had done, but of what the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland had done. By osmosis, every arrogant left liberal quasi-socialist in Canada who wouldn’t (under ordinary circumstances) even admit to having an indirect association with Newfoundland except in the most patronizing and distanced and arrogant way, had suddenly become a self-appointed honorary citizen of Gander, Newfoundland and had tuned in to President Bush’s speech, in no small part, for the express and exclusive purpose of hearing themselves thanked, as self-appointed honorary citizens of Gander, Newfoundland, by the President of the United States on national television.
HE DIDN’T THANK LUXEMBOURG, EITHER! I wanted to scream across a nation-wide public address system. Like most Canadians, I know virtually nothing about Luxembourg—which my Funk & Wagnall informs me is “a constitutional grand duchy, between Belgium, France and Germany; 998 sq. mi.” However, like most Canadians, I know the name because Luxembourg is the only member of NATO which makes a smaller contribution of its Gross Domestic Product to that organization than does the self-confessed “True North, Strong and Free.” (Canada contributes 1.15% of GDP. The average…average!...NATO contribution is 2.13%). What had, apparently, completely escaped the notice of my fellow citizens was that by the time President Bush was addressing the Joint Session of Congress, the United States and the rest of the world had moved on to the infinitely more pressing issue—infinitely more pressing, that is, to everyone else in the world besides Canada—of what shape the military response to 11 September would take. “Gander, Newfoundland” was now carved in large letters in the “Legend of 11 September” only a) in the fervent, fame-hungry, collective Canadian imagination which is always desperate to seize a share of the spotlight on the world stage by any means possible (so long as it doesn’t involve fulfilling our obligations to our allies or, you know, hurting anyone) and b) the minds and hearts of those stranded travelers who had experienced first-hand the inspirational open-handedness of the actual citizens of Gander, Newfoundland and who (it would please me no end) probably have no idea to this day that Newfoundland has anything to do with Canada. At the time of the President’s speech, when asked about Canada’s participation in the imminent war in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Chrétien, in good, conventional, feminized Canadian fashion kept repeating that we hadn’t been asked to contribute any forces. And in likewise good, conventional, feminized Canadian fashion, not one reporter asked, “Well, aren’t we going to offer our forces?” Not a bit of it. And then the entire country has the nerve, the unmitigated gall to take umbrage at having been left out of President Bush’s WARTIME address to the Joint Session of Congress.
I was slow to begin tearing articles out of the paper. I kept hoping that Prime Minister Chrétien would either be shamed into “coming around” on his own or that sufficient pressure would build to compel him to behave in a more honourable fashion. He has very, very good political instincts. The Canadian political graveyard is littered with individuals who have underestimated the Prime Minister and his ability to sense each subtle change in the political winds and to make sure that it is his sails which are being filled by them. I kept waiting for him to sense that 11 September wasn’t “going away,” that 11 September and the War on Terrorism would define this generation and shape geopolitical reality for at least the next decade if not longer. Gradually, the sickening realization came to me. The Prime Minister had sensed which way the political winds were blowing. Not globally, but then his instincts have never been very good, globally. But he had sensed, with complete accuracy, that Canadians were right there with him in his reaction to 11 September. They had Gander, Newfoundland to feel good about. They had the Memorial on Parliament Hill to shed a few crocodile tears and to listen to their own exalted opinion of themselves reflected back at them. They had their omission from President Bush’s speech to be hurt and offended about. And that was the extent of the average Canadian’s interest in 11 September. As quickly as possible, Canadians wanted to get back to their happy, insulated little navel-gazing existences and just forget that 11 September had ever happened. And Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, good “hollowed-out ventriloquist puppet” feminist husband and astute possessor of solid feminized Canadian instincts that he is, knew that. Knew that what Feminist Canada wanted was to have someone promise the United States whole-hearted support and then back away from it as quickly as possible before it cost anyone a few extra dollars on their taxes for helicopters that actually fly (our “Sea Kings,” as the name would suggest, are from the 1960s) aircraft capable of transporting those armaments we do possess, communications equipment that is actually compatible with what every other NATO country is using or (heaven forbid!) artillery that might actually be used to hurt anyone.
As is usually the case in Canada there was little respite from our exclusive and bland daily diet of left liberal, quasi-socialist cant. When respite—mercifully—came, it arrived from an unexpected quarter, Canada’s novice foreign minister, John Manley, who addressed a media “scrum” outside the Commons, 17 September saying, “Canada does not have a history as a pacifist or a neutralist country. Canada has soldiers that are buried all over Europe because we fought in defence of liberty. And we’re not about to back away from a challenge now because we think somebody might get hurt.” As might be expected, this had the highly feminized Liberal caucus stumbling all over themselves and each other to try and determine an appropriate reaction which, also not unexpectedly, was not forthcoming (since the only reaction a feminized Liberal has to the word “hurt” is “bad” or “stop” or “naughty”). Many of Mr. Manley’s Cabinet colleagues over the ensuing two weeks “tried on” variations of the Manley approach which they just as quickly discarded, having evidently decided whatever trick Mr. Manley was “pulling” on everyone (the prominence of his brief remarks having vaulted him, overnight, from virtual obscurity to centre-stage in the national media) was a temporary phenomenon which would quickly fade from the national consciousness—which is rather the way the feminized Liberal caucus collectively viewed 11 September itself. On 4 October, likewise in a media “scrum” outside the Commons, Mr. Manley repeated the success of his initial “trick” (said “trick,” of course, consisting of speaking the self-evident truth about Canada’s responsibilities in the world) by saying, “You can’t just sit at the G8 table and then, when the bill comes, go to the washroom. If you want to play a role in the world…there’s a cost to doing that.” Like Icarus, Mr. Manley was undoubtedly aware that, with this observation, he was flying rather “too near the sun”—which is to say, the Prime Minister. In masculine terms, he was getting “above his place” and verging on disloyalty to his leader. In feminized Liberal terms, he was leaving himself open to getting an interchangeably-male-or-female hatpin in the ribs since “sitting at the G8 table and then, when the bill comes, going to the washroom” is as concise an explication of the entirety of Liberal policy over the last thirty years regarding the G8—and NATO, for that matter—as you could hope to find distilled into a single sentence and, thus, to the self-deceiving feminized poseurs of the Liberal caucus an observation which verged on high treason. It was a singularly apt analogy because it made clear that Canada’s course of action in the world in recent memory had been to behave in an entirely dishonourable fashion, in the masculine sense of the term. Freeloading, to use another masculine term. The loss of personal honour which attaches itself, irrevocably, to the sort of individual who slips off to the washroom to avoid paying his fair share of a restaurant bill is decidedly analogous to Canada’s own loss of national honour in pulling the same trick, repeatedly, at the G8 table and in NATO. It was an eloquent reminder that in just these areas of masculine honour it is dishonourable to wait for someone to make an issue of such behaviour, rather than avoiding the behaviour in the first place or correcting the behaviour the moment one becomes aware that one is behaving in a dishonourable fashion. In its own distinctly dishonourably feminized fashion, Canada happily strolls the world stage, hitching a free ride on everyone else in the G8 and thinking itself “clever” or “lucky” that, as a country, it is never “called to account”. Only a woman or a dishonourable man can behave in such a fashion and retain a good opinion of her/his/its self.
With many Liberal hatpins now drawn and at the ready (a feminized version of the “long knives” of a more masculine age) Mr. Manley covered for himself, rather adroitly, by observing that Canada “punches above its weight in the world” because of the prestige which attaches itself to Prime Minister Chrétien as the G8 leader with the greatest seniority. I say that this was adroit because, while largely untrue, it did mirror the Prime Minister’s perception of himself, thus absolving Mr. Manley of any charge of disloyalty…
(So much did the Prime Minister take Mr. Manley’s observation to heart, that he insisted that the G8 meeting he hosted this summer would confine itself to his own chosen agenda: Assistance to Africa and not to that of President George Bush: the War on Terrorism and the President’s Middle East Peace Initiative. The result would be much as you would expect, with the six other leaders having to choose between the agenda of the leader of a country that upholds its international obligations and the agenda of the leader of a country that slips out to the washroom when the dinner check arrives)
…and, through use of the term “punches above its weight,” Mr. Manley was, again, able to compel the Liberal caucus to stumble all over themselves and each other since, again, feminized Liberals have a narrow spectrum of reactions to the word “punches” which is, likewise, limited to “bad,” “stop” and “naughty”. Having determined that “punching above one’s weight” was unrelated to “caloric intake issues”—that the foreign minister was not in any way suggesting that the dress that Canada was wearing was unflattering to its body type—most of the Liberal caucus, male and female, took a turn using the phrase “punching above our weight” over the ensuing forty-eight hours and then discarded it, as well, as just another one of John Manley’s strange and inexplicable conversational “tricks”.
How bad is the situation facing Canada’s military?
As Canada’s Auditor-General, Sheila Fraser (who is doing a wonderful job, by the way, as I freely and enthusiastically admit: as I am always more than willing to do on those rare occasions when I see a woman genuinely distinguishing herself in a given field. Sheila Fraser, “two thumbs up! - Dave Sim”) reported this year, Canada is unable to deploy one of its frigates because there are not enough qualified sailors. The army is short of weapons and fire-control technicians, engineers and mechanics (to maintain combat capabilities) while the Air Force doesn’t have enough experienced fighter pilots. The navy has only 80% of the electronic technicians it needs to run its ships and submarines and is also short of naval weapons technicians, communicators and engineers. Since 1994 (Jean Chrétien’s first full year as Prime Minister) defence spending has been reduced by 23% and the size of the Forces’ regular personnel has been cut from 75,000 to 60,000. When retirement, sick leave and disciplinary measures (that is, the number of personnel in the brig or on suspension) are factored in, the number of effective members is just 52,300. Rather than look for qualified personnel, the Armed Forces continues to accept people it does not need, such as cooks, stewards and communication researchers.
In addition to Fraser’s report (wherein she speculated that it could take 30 years to fill the gaps in the military population), the Senate Defence Committee and “other experts” have said the defence department needs an increase of $4 billion annually just to halt the erosion in the Forces’ ability to fulfill its peace-keeping and military obligations.
The present total military budget is $11 billion annually.
Less than three months after promising at the Memorial service on Parliament Hill to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the United States in the War on Terrorism, less than three months after swearing to U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci that “together, with our allies, we will defy and defeat the threat that terrorism poses to all civilized nations” in his Budget tabled in the House of Commons in December of 2001, the Prime Minister pledged $1.2-billion of increased spending for the military.
Over five years.
That is, a whopping increase of military spending from $11 billion annually to $11.25 billion annually. In any man’s language, a national—and international—disgrace for a country of Canada’s size and affluence.
Next issue: a closer examination of Canada’s military contributions over the years