Saturday, June 23, 2007

Strangely high profile for troops in Quebec this week

It's hard to fathom why troops in Quebec were put in controversial situations this week that left them in very vulnerable public positions on two occasions. The troops' march through the streets in Quebec City last night was a bizarre choice.
Senior military staff in Quebec said the controversial night-time march through the streets of Quebec City, depicted by some as a public-relations manoeuvre, was intended to rally public support for the troops.

“It's important as they leave [for Afghanistan] that they know they have the city and the province of Quebec behind them,” said Brigadier-General Christian Barabé, commander of Land Force Quebec Area. “That way, when they suffer a tough blow, they'll know that people will be there with them and supporting the sacrifice they're making.”
Yet they faced a significant protest, in addition to supporters, that clearly gained enough media coverage to offset any benefits of the march:
As a parade of Canadian soldiers set to deploy to Afghanistan marched through the streets of Quebec City on Friday evening, anti-war activists rallied nearby, carrying drums, banners and even mock coffins.

The protesters, led by the War on War Coalition, said they are against Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.
...
"We're not targeting the soldiers, we respect them as people," protest organizer Joseph Bergeron said. "But we are in total opposition with the Afghanistan mission and we want to show we represent the great part of the population that is opposed."
What a strange situation. The same report notes the mixed reaction that occurred in the National Assembly this week to the appearance of visiting soldiers:
On Wednesday, some members of the Parti Québécois refused to stand in honour of Quebec soldiers who were visiting the province's national assembly. Earlier this month, protesters sent letters to Valcartier soldiers, urging them to refuse their deployment.
Makes you wonder who's giving the orders on this week's events and why. Because these two public relations events surely did not work out as those who planned them had hoped. The Globe's report today suggests the likely backdrop for these decisions:
The Conservatives must pick up seats in Quebec if they are to win a majority government. And the negative feelings being expressed about the mission in that province could well intensify if members of the Royal 22nd Regiment sustain heavy casualties.
Thus the big push to generate support on these two occasions this week. Not to mention the likely rationale for Mini Bush's major flip-flop in his Afghanistan rhetoric that he announced yesterday.

Kinda leaves you wondering, once again, about the guy in charge, doesn't it?