Me and Jack Layton:
As Good As it Gets?
C. L. Cook
July 8, 2006
On a beautiful summer's day, I mingled with they, and local party supporters, all anxious to meet the man of the moment. All this city's NDP apparatchik, past and present, were in attendance, squeezed into the Queen Mother's Cafe, down on Victoria's Gorge waterfront. One-time provincial NDP leader, Dave Barrett, aspirant to office, Charlie Beresford, sitting MP, Denise Savioe, and MLA, Rob Fleming, pressed the flesh, and graciously granted interviews to yours truly; I guess they hadn't read my last piece on Jack and the NDP, 'An Open Invitation to Jack Layton: Why Do We Not Fight?'
Pound for pound, I think we'd match up evenly, though Jack is a few years my senior, and a little paunchier, but my "invitation" is of another sort; what I mean is: Why does Canada go along with the fascist agenda emanating from Washington? Why do we NOT fight?
Eight years, and hundreds of interviews since my beginnings in, what has come to be called, 'Citizen Journalism,' I've learned a few things; chief among them: I hate interviewing politicians! They're, generally, coached cleverly, cautious, and rarely give straight answers. I understand, there's a broad constituency to consider, and better to say nothing than stake a position easily assailed, or possibly alienating. But, these are dangerous times, perhaps the most so ever witnessed by we hapless human masters of the world. Now is not the time for meek circumspection.
As in the United States, where the Democrat "opposition" mouths platitudes concerning the horrors of Iraq, more being discovered daily, the NDP's position on Afghanistan refuses a complete and immediate withdrawal of Canadian Forces and support personnel for fear, it seems, that the "thick as a two short planks" Afghanis are incapable of administering their own affairs. Instead, Jack and his party fence-sit, "supporting the troops," while feigning to oppose those troops' masters of war.
Just another "failed state," it is now apparently Canada's duty to ensure Afghanistan's future, irregardless of the wishes of the Afghanis. Though Jack says the time to have Canadians out of the occupation is now, a careful listen to the NDP position requires we first define what the definition of is is.
My time with Jack was short, only time enough for a few questions. I asked:
(CL) "There's many Canadians that want Canada out of Afghanistan now, what's your position?"
Jack Layton agrees, saying:
(JL)"That's our position. We, of course, were the ones to precipitate the vote in the House of Commons..."
(CL) "A vote for bringing them [Canadian Forces] out by 2007; what about bringing them out in 2006?"
(JL) "Well our view, the vote we were able to precipitate, was a vote on whether there should be any extension beyond 2007, and of course if one was not extending beyond 2007 one would have to be starting to pull out now. We voted against, and were the only party to vote 100% unanimously, in attendance, against any continuation in Afghanistan, which of course by implication suggests we should be doing the withdrawal at this moment. And, Canadians, I think, in the majority, and certainly New Democrats, do not support the war fighting role that has been assigned to our troops there."
O.K., so that's it.
The NDP demand the immediate withdrawal of all Canadian troops, and support personnel now, right?
Well, not exactly. When I asked if it not be the time for that, Jack would not "totally agree" with me.
(JL) "I think Canada can, and has, traditionally been able to help countries in conflict to work through conflicts..."
(CL) "But this is a country under occupation."
(JL) "Yes it is. And we have to move away from this concept of occupation, and towards a process of multi-party talks."
(CL) "We're being seen, Canadian soldiers are being seen, as aiding and abetting an illegal occupation of their country, and as well the "reconstruction teams." And, they will be targeted."
(JL) "That's right. And that's why, of course, we didn't support the extension of 'The Mission.' And what we say... I don't believe we should walk away, and wash our hands and say, "Whatever happens in Afghanistan, if horrific things begin to take place, that we're not even gonna suggest that the sides get together. I think Canada should play that creative, important diplomatic role that we've often played in situations where there's conflict."
O.K., so we should stay and go?
What is "one" to make of this shite?
As the planet careens towards global fascism, thousands violently erased daily, here amid the shrimp cocktail and wine I and the party faithful are expected to swallow this limp acquiescence to a perceived Real Politik, merrily congratulating ourselves for token opposition?
Remember, please the brutal bombing and invasion of Afghanistan was "justified" by the United Nations on the precept of Article 51, which provides for military action taken in self-defence. The U.S.A. argued the 9/11 attacks emanated from caves by Osama bin Laden, he sheltered by the Taliban government of Afghanistan. For this pauper's gruel thin logic thus the B-52s flew. Never mind due process.
Thousands in that benighted country are dead, maimed, and destroyed on this precept, an assumption so lame, in the view of the vaunted Federal Bureau of Investigation, a direct charge against M. bin Laden has yet to be filed.
But, never mind the facts, bombs away!
There is a true "crisis of democracy" unfolding before us in 2006. In Canada, "America," Britain, Australia, and elsewheres, it seems a consensus has been arrived at where the quaint notion of a system of governance for, and by, the people can't work. It is, that consensus informs, to be replaced by a State/corporate marriage; a union that permits no place for pity, or empathy. It is a vision best encapsulated in the corporate ethos of maximum economic profit manifest in Mussolini's Italy in that awful century past, with shocking results.
And, the best today's leader of the "peace party" can do is parse paragraphs,
paraphrasing his lamentable confrere Democrats south.
Stephen Harper says the reason Canadian soldiers are in Afghanistan today is entirely due to the "about 30 Canadians" perished during the fateful 9/11 attacks. Nearly five years, and nearly five billion Canadian dollars spent since, nothing of substance has been achieved to help the bombed and irradiated people of Afghanistan. But none in the House have mounted a serious challenge to this idiotic policy.
In fact, the opposite is the case.
Had I the misfortune to interview Stephen Harper, or the Liberal party's titular leader, Bill Graham, I would expect nothing more than the B.S., so familiar on every "American" media outlet, blathering about "pottery shop rules," to whit:
"Well, we may have made a mistake, but now we've broken it, we're stuck with it."
But, coming from what I, and many Canadians have, viewed as the guardians of Canadian values, the NDP, it cuts to the bone. If they, the good and decent folks, can't find it in themselves to stand against the mass butchery of women, children, and men, killed solely for the corporate pursuit of profit, what is left?
Sitting on a sunny patio, beneath benevolent skies in my green and pleasant British Columbia, the horrors of our [sic] government's policies abroad are difficult to fathom. Perhaps it's better to just eat the goddamned shrimp cocktail, have a drink, and comfort one's self that, as long as we utter the right words, we're O.K.
Let us all just surrender to this War of Terror, and sanction barbarity in the name of preserving our privilege.
But I can't do it, Jack.
If Jack Layton and his New Democrats are the best we can get out of this system, now is the time to look farther a-field for those willing to defend the identity we Canadians have become accustomed, and wiling to put up a fight for what's left.
Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News, and host of Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.
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