We saw Junior MacKay dishing out turkey to the troops yesterday. An event that should have been free from controversy. Yet it wasn't. Junior decided to engage in some choice fear mongering by implicating Iran in the Afghanistan conflict. Didn't hear any evidence of it, however. Just "concern" voiced by Junior, inspired by his guest on the trip, perhaps:
CTV's Murray Oliver, reporting from Kandahar, said it was the first time a high-ranking Canadian official has identified Iran as helping the Taliban.Wtf is Junior up to? This venture into Bush administration thematics makes me extremely uncomfortable. See Dave's post and pretty shaved ape for reaction with which I concur.
"It was really surprising to hear Iran singled out so strongly by the defence minister as a country that is contributing to the harm of Canadian troops," Oliver told CTV Newsnet. "I think we are going to hear a lot more about this Iran-Taliban connection in the coming weeks."
The alliance is surprising considering the Taliban were mortal enemies with Iran while they were in government, he said.
"Of course, as the saying goes, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,'" Oliver said.
David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, traveled with MacKay and Hillier during their trip.
"Certainly the Americans have been sending out messages recently that they believe there is much more Iranian involvement in Afghanistan than has been widely reported," Oliver said.
But he also noted that NATO officials think that any Iranian assistance might not be coming from the government itself, but factions within the government. If true, that would make a diplomatic solution more complex, Oliver said.
And today we have a report of a year end interview with Mini Bush himself telling us how he doesn't know whether Canadians get the significance of the Afghan mission. How he, essentially, doesn't trust that Canadians are smart enough to get it.
Parliament will be asked by spring to vote on what kind of mission Canada should undertake after the current mandate expires in February 2009.
Asked whether he believes Canadians truly appreciate what is at stake in the decision, Harper said: "I don't know, the short answer is I don't know."
"The government understands we took on an important international commitment for important reasons of international security that in the long run impact directly on our country," he said an interview in the living room at 24 Sussex Drive.With numbers like these, demonstrating that Canadians do indeed feel strongly that the mission should be shorter, not longer as Harper desires, and that the progress is just not there to sustain the loss of human and economic treasure, it's not surprising that he's doing his best to undercut such polls. If he's intent on ignoring the views of Canadians in 2008, hopefully he'll be given a lesson by the voting public on what happens when that occurs. And I say hopefully, since it's likely that problematic issues for the Harper government will be massaged and managed to the hilt in order to make them less impactful during an election.
A poll released in the weeks after the throne speech suggested the public was overwhelmingly against continuing for another three years beyond the current mandate.
"So I don't know whether Canadians do - or don't - understand. I think Canadians are deeply troubled by the casualties," Harper said.
In June, a Canadian Press-Decima Research survey found 67 per cent of those asked believed the number of casualties in Afghanistan were unacceptable when weighed against the progress that had been made in reconstruction and keeping the Taliban at bay in Kandahar.
These further quotes are just plain old irksome:
"All we can only hope from the Manley exercise is that it causes Parliamentarians, particularly in our official Opposition - which as you know commenced this mission - to sit back and think about what is in the best interest of the country before a vote is actually held," he said.Because, as we all know, Harper is not at all about "short-term politics," is he? Continuing to demonize the opposition as he's seemingly trying to ask them at the same time to think in the long term and rise above partisanship. Shoot yourself in the foot much there guy? Way to kick off the 2008 debate on the wrong foot. If anyone is responsible for any partisan rancour on the Afghan file, it's Harper. He's done his best Mini Bush work here, attacking the patriotism of the opposition and accusing them of showing more concern for the Taliban than Canadian soldiers. That's what he did in 2007. It's almost comical to now hear him purporting to take the high road and do what's best for the country when this is his track record.
"We really have got to avoid - on this one - taking a decision for reasons of short-term politics. We must take a decision that is in the long-run interest of the country, its international reputation and the respect we should all show for the sacrifice our men and women have made to secure it."
Partisan, heal thyself.
And while Canadian soldiers and their families have paid the ultimate price for this mission, it's inappropriate for those considerations to block us from making a different decision going forward. The case can equally be made for withdrawal using Harper's criteria.