Thursday, July 19, 2007

Can't We Just Have a Real Conversation?

Isn't it time to have a real conversation about Afghanistan in this country? Haven't we had enough of the rhetoric, enough spin, enough juvenile taunting?

I think we've also had enough of pundits and pollsters telling our leaders what they must do to manipulate our thinking.

The poll, conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail/CTV News, suggests that the best way for Mr. Harper to obtain that consensus would be to argue that Canada has a duty to safeguard the humanitarian gains of Afghan women and children.

The expression, "won't anyone think of the children?" comes to mind. I'm not being callous. To be honest, I'm insulted by the comment. Pull at Canadians heart strings and they'll follow you anywhere. No! We know what is at stake, what we want to know is why the strategy isn't working.

There can be no question that this government has utterly failed to gain support for this mission. In March of 2006, support for sending troops was at 55%. As of this week, it's at 36%.

I'm sure there are many reasons driving this number, but most significant to me, is the fact that this government is loathe to be honest about what is going on. They have turned it into such a political football, that they are unable to articulate anything about the mission, outside of a carefully crafted narrative, that really tells us nothing.

Enough already. It's time for some truth. Obviously the mission is not going well. The Taliban is on the rise and not just Taliban, but Al Qaeda seems to have been successful in re-establishing their capability. The opium eradication plan is a complete failure, that should never have been undertaken in the first place and we have not been able to secure the south, nor do I think we ever will.

Honest questions must be asked and answered. Questions to NATO and to our government. Hillier shutting down access to what we can see, was really the last straw. I see too much similarity here to what crept into the US. I know Conservatives hate that comparison, but it's tough to deny the facts.

No one wants to admit failure, but until we have some factual basis on which we can claim success, it's time to be honest.


Manuel said...

Couldn't agree with you more, it's disgusting how little about this mission the Canadian public knows, for better or worse of the mission people need to hear it all. Their are even people who think Canada is in Iraq and that just sickens me.

Scotian said...

It would be nice, wouldn't it? Personally, I think much of the reason right behind the one you listed (which I agree with you in thinking is the primary reason) is the way Harper has gone out of his to make partisan use of the military and the Afghanistan mission literally from when he became PM onwards. I had noticed up until then a very mild dropping in the polls over the preceding years regarding Afghanistan, but the drop increased speed after Harper started partisanizing the mission. Combine that with his unwillingness to release factual information (which when you get right down to it is for political reasons anyway, I suspect though it is as much for the partisanizing reason as it is simply to keep bad news to a minimum) and it is actually completely understandable. Whatever one wants to say about the Libs they at least did not try to partisanize either the military or the Afghanistan mission as we have been seeing from Harper.

Very good post KNB, unfortunately I do not expect anything resembling honest discourse on serious issues with Harper while he is in power. One of the things about him that always worried me since he first cropped up on my radar screen 20 years ago is his inability to believe anyone is smarter about politics than he is. Not to mention his difficulty in admitting he made a mistake or was wrong about something, even when his subsequent actions make clear he knows he was wrong (see Iraq war support) about something. As much as I opposed Mulroney he at least actually could admit mistakes from time to time and adjust, if not in ways I might have preferred. He also could launch policies I could support wholeheartedly like organizing the Commonwealth to expel SA over Apartheid and working to reduce acid rain (the GHG of the day with the same predictions of economic ruin if attempted) and at least gave some substance as well as spin in his day to day politics. One of the most disturbing things about Harper's CPC is the lack of substance and the non-stop spin.

Iciu said...

Well said... and it answers my question/comment posted a bit earlier on Red Tory's blog (on his latest installment on Afghan history - can't wait for the next one, from what I have read so far about the last 30-40 years over there, it seems to be quite extraordinary).

Could not agree more with your take... it seems so obvious and I still can't figure how on earth somebody like Harper can lead a country like ours... in my view, so far, he took us back quite a few years (not only on foreign policy mind you)... I have a hard time understanding why the liberals do not go for proportional representation that would avoid such an absurd situation in the future - I do not see how a Conservative ideology would win an election anywhere in the world (definitely not in Canada) under such circumstances...

Steve V said...

What scares me, the government is actually paying this polling outfit to find out the best ways to "sell" the mission. Instead of speaking from the heart, Canadians will receive the approved brand, through linguistic testing. If it is a noble mission, I don't see the need to understand appropriate propaganda to influence. Remember a time when leaders spoke their minds?

Iciu said...

Steve: what would they say if they really spoke from their heart? I am not being sarcastic here, I am trying to understand what leads to their confusion here - if they were clear, I suspect we would not be having this conversation...

knb said...

Their are even people who think Canada is in Iraq and that just sickens me

I haven't heard too much of that manuel. We did have some soldiers there intially, who were on exchange but I don't know if that's still the case.

knb said...

Thx Scotian.

He also could launch policies I could support wholeheartedly like organizing the Commonwealth to expel SA over Apartheid

Indeed. I wonder how the same man is able to support Harper?

knb said...

Steve, Remember a time when leaders spoke their minds?

It seems like a life time away, if we've actually ever seen it. That much I will give Dion. He seems to speak his mind, to his detriment on occasion.

knb said...

iciu: what would they say if they really spoke from their heart?

I don't see this government doing or thinking anything, that doesn't go through some sort of "political" filter first. They gambled on their strategy being a winner, because of the insular prism that they operate in.

Most politicians, obviously consider the ramifications of their words and actions, but as Scotian mentions, this government not only goes to extremes, they are loathe to acknowledge an error.

knb said...

Steve, did the government commission the poll?

Iciu said...

knb: I am trying to apply the benefit of the doubt to everybody, hence my attempt to find out what they really think, and what is in their hearts (as much as everything is calculated and packaged for political gain, there must be some reason behind what I/we label "lunacy"). Are you trying to say that there is no reason other than gain some kind of political advantage and to consolidate power while moving towards a majority? If that is the case, how is this helping them? Let's explore this a bit further, let's try and really understand them then... maybe we can convince them otherwise or maybe we will see the light ourselves - as unlikely as it sounds, if we don't allow for this possibility, we are not communicating either).

Jay said...

From what I gather, we do have troops in Iraq but we didn't send them there.

Some JTF2 are there freelancing for cash. That disgusts me more. I heard this over a year ago on one of either cbc or ctv. Maybe both.

Private militia's, opps I think they call them "Emergency Response Units". Companies like Halliburton, Blackwater, Custer Battles, Global Risk, DynCorp, and The Steele Foundation. Its the problem in Iraq. The real military is trying to win the hearts of Iraqis while at the same time private militias are slaughtering. If you are not part of the official military wouldn't killing someone in battle be murder, pure and simple?

Can you think of anything more dangerous? The USA is full of them now; .

Thats how coup's occur and civil wars erupt at home.

knb said...

Ahhh yes, Blackwater. How could I forget Jay? Nasty, nasty stuff. The US is really a mess now isn't it? It's hard to believe.

As for Iraq, it's hard to see how it could get worse.

knb said...

iciu, I guess I'm saying, my observations of this government and particularly of Harper, now and in the past, tells me that little else is at play here.

I share your penchant for dialogue and obviously would prefer that above all else, as evidenced by the title of the post.

The problem here of course is the gov't is not in least bit interested and it's not just that they are uninterested, they are shutting down all avenues to determine what is going on.

I am trying to apply the benefit of the doubt to everybody

Hmmm, I tend to operate like that in life too. Harper is the exception to the rule though, for me.

knb said...

iciu, I like your avatar. Does it have meaning?

Steve V said...

"Steve, did the government commission the poll?"

Last fall, they did an extensive poll, which essentially tried to gauge what language and concepts Canadians respond too and reject.

Harper should have no problem "speaking his mind", if the mission is a moral one, as he often claims. Telling people what they want to hear is dishonest, dangerous and furthers the belief that politicans are sneaky.

Iciu said...

knb: It's called "Salmon Vision" by a local (Coast Salish) artist "lessLIE"; I saw the original painting three years ago in a Victoria art gallery ( and loved it from the first moment but could not afford the price tag (CDN$ 1,000); I waited for the print (more affordable :)) but he changed the original colours and it's just not the same (I suspect out of reverence for the original and it's owner?).

As far as its meaning, you can see the author's intention at

I just liked it and connected to it at a different level (don't know if purely aesthetic or if it has a deeper meaning).

The author's admitted con/fusion and my personal one must have connected somehow :)

getting back to the topic :)... I can understand the government's unwillingness to have a dialogue (as much as I think it's completely asinine) but I was hoping that some of our conservative friends have a clear idea and the time to enlighten us... or maybe they have already done so somewhere else and in that case they could just direct us to such a source... if we make them feel safe, they may open up a bit... I dare to say for their own good too :)

knb said...

iciu...I like your way of thinking.

Anyone who incorporates, con/fusion , into their life, or at the very least, their vocabulary, is doing right, in my way of thinking.

Thank you for the links...I'll go exploring tomorrow.

As to our conservative friends, they seem to be few and far between.

Olaf is one who tends to engage. There aren't many others that I can think of.

It would stand us all in good stead, imo, not the least of which is them, ;).