Summer breezes .. Chuck Cadmans’ death, more London transit disaster, war in Iraq, etc.

Jul 15th, 2005 | By | Category: Key Current Issues

TORONTO. Friday, July 15. 4:00 PM. It is very hot in this part of the world these days. News about politics and the big picture comes as so many short summer breezes. For avid fans of the almost prime-time soap opera in Canadian federal politics, the July 9 death of Chuck Cadman, independent MP from Surrey North in British Columbia, will be at the top of any list. But even in Canada the July 7 London transit disaster, in the old imperial metropolis across the seas, was the most important thing on earth for a few days. Now there is further intriguing news from England itself (and Egypt too). And then, however you look at it, the London transit disaster leads back to just what is still going on in Iraq? Assorted further “Canadian News Briefs” suggest a few other gurgling pots, somewhere still further back on the barbecue grill.

Chuck Cadman’s unhappy death on July 9

Chuck Cadman was the single altogether class act in what the local media has taken to calling “one of the stormiest sessions of parliament in Canadian history” – from more or less the start of April 2005 to the end of June.

He stood up for those sides of the old Reform and Canadian Alliance parties that even their opponents had to concede were democratically impressive. Ironically enough, even for Canadian politics, this finally led him to give his crucial one vote to Paul Martin’s Liberals and their New Democrat allies on May 19.

Cadman had represented Surrey North in the greater Vancouver area as a member of both Preston Manning’s Reform Party and its Canadian Alliance successor. But then he failed to win the local nomination race of the new Conservative Party (which finally united the Canadian Alliance and the old Progressive Conservatives).

Yet even though he had lost the Conservative nomination, he was re-elected for Surrey North in June 2004 as an independent. This would seem to suggest some problems in the new Conservative Party riding nomination process. In any case, for their part in “one of the stormiest sessions of parliament in Canadian history” Stephen Harper’s new Conservatives missed more than Chuck Cadman’s crucial vote on May 19.

They missed his old Reform Party populist integrity too. Keeping faith with the deep democratic creed, Cadman consulted his local electorate about bringing down the Liberal minority government in Ottawa, and precipitating a fresh federal election so soon after the last one.

After listening long and hard, he heard the people of Surrey North say clearly enough that most of them really did not want a fresh election quite so soon. (Even if Jean Chretien’s old Liberal government did seem to have doled out quite a lot of taxpayers’ money foolishly, or worse, in the wake of the failed 1995 sovereignty referendum in Quebec.) On May 19 he voted not to give them one. And as it happened he had the deciding vote.

Even if you are a radical left-wing person or worse yourself (say, for the sake of argument), a country that can produce right-wing politicians like the late Chuck Cadman can’t be all bad. Now what W.H. Auden once called “the people and their favourite islands” can go on to remember something like: “Not all politicians are jerks. Look at Chuck Cadman in Canada, in the spring of 2005.” He must have been a proud man when he died. And he certainly deserved to be.

More big news on the London transit diasaster?

On Monday, July 11 federal Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan told the 15th World Conference on Disaster Management at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre: “Canadians need to abandon the notion that their country is invulnerable to terrorism in order to be better prepared for an attack like the one that struck London last week.”

But the important news about the July 7 London transit disaster of course came later in the week, from London itself – and a few points beyond as well. It now seems clear enough that those most directly responsible for the July 7 bombings were suicidal “Islamic extremists” from inside the United Kingdom (albeit with help from jihad thugs in such places as Egypt and Pakistan).

In fact this seems not all that different from the earlier more jarring 9/11 disaster in the USA – with its dependence on airplane training facilities in the sunshine state of Florida. But the growing details on “7/7” in the UK do appear to underline just how misleading it is to conceive of such events as any kind of conventional or unconventional military attack from offshore.

In any event, the head of Scotland Yard, Ian Blair, has now “visited mosques across Greater London … to appeal to the city’s million strong Muslim community to actively join the fight against terrorism … Blair warned that Muslims had been in denial about the lunatic fringe’ in their midst for too long. The bombing of London by British-born Muslims had been the worst nightmare for Britain’s settled Muslim community. In their aftermath, Muslims could no longer ignore the dangerous elements in their midst, said Sir Ian. Now it is your problem,’ he told Islamic leaders in a speech at the Minhaj-ul-Quran mosque in Romford.”

The rising new democracy in Iraq?

Mmmm … let’s see now. According to George W. Bush, the US, and presumably its most favoured ally (and former mother country?) in the UK as well, are fighting international terrorism in Iraq, so they won’t have to fight it at home.

But for the UK at least this is just another half-baked theory that does not seem to working. As Sir Ian Blair from Scotland Yard has just been urging in his tour of London mosques, it is the battle on the home front that apparently counts most in trying to prevent such things as the July 7 London transit disaster.

Meanwhile, earlier this week some delusional analyst on the Fox News channel in the USA was talking about the new “democracy in Iraq,” as if it actually existed down on the ground. On the criteria usually applied in such cases, it would still seem uncertain at best that Iraq as yet has even a functioning government of any serious description, let alone a democratic one.

An “insurgency” is no doubt not quite the same as a “civil war.” And even the most strident opponents of George W. Bush’s current US foreign policy cannot and do not wish for a real civil war in Iraq. But if an insurgency is nonetheless going on in your jurisdiction, you cannot properly claim to have a stable government either – or anything like what the frenzied proponents of the War in Iraq predicted when it began some two years ago.

So just what actually is going on in Iraq now anyway? The transatlantic literary twins of the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books have been providing some recent reporting that at least gets you beyond most of the daily news in North America.

In the July 7 London Review of Books journalist and television documentary film-maker Ed Harriman presents assorted intriguing bits of hard and soft information on “Where has all the money gone? …On the Take in Iraq.” Among other things, he reports that: “This is all horribly reminiscent of American policy in Vietnam. American troops are staying in Iraq to stiffen Iraqi forces who are dying in droves in an escalating counter_insurgency war that neither the Americans nor the Iraqi forces are prepared for.”

In the July 14 New York Review of Books Tony Judt, director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, offers some all-too-sobering thoughts on “The New World Order.” He begins by telling us: “Those of us who opposed America’s invasion of Iraq from the outset can take no comfort from its catastrophic consequences. On the contrary: we should now be asking ourselves some decidedly uncomfortable questions.”

You may or may not want to take these pieces to the beach for summer reading.

“Canadian News Briefs” from Alabama?

Just why the University of Alabama should have a website with “Canadian News Briefs” may or may not be an interesting question for further reflection at the beach as well.

(Perhaps because it has lot of students from Canada? But then that seems odd too. In any case, Canadians are bound to approve, whatever the reason may be.)

Along with a report on Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan’s recent musings on terrorism, the July 11 Canadian news from dateline included three other items:

  • “The federal government has joined Quebec to ask for an 18-month stay in a Supreme Court of Canada judgment striking down a ban on private health insurance in the province.”
  • “British Columbia’s health services minister is prepared to visit a remote Vancouver Island aboriginal village fighting to overcome an increase in suicides and attempted suicides among its people.”
  • “Prime Minister Paul Martin must decide soon who will replace Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson and observers say it must be someone with political savvy.”

Meanwhile, the July 15 edition of Canada’s self-proclaimed “national newspaper,” with its home office in Toronto, had reports on three more key stories – at least the first of which is vaguely related to the Canadian news from Alabama:

  • Former Ontario premier Mike Harris’s policy on the Ontario Provincial Police may have had more to do with the 1995 shooting death of aboriginal leader Dudley George, at Ipperwash Provincial Park, than Mr. Harris has claimed.
  • The US border will apparently be opened to Canadian cattle at last … maybe (or, it would seem, don’t break open the champagne quite yet: US cattle ranchers who don’t like fair competition and free trade may still have a further cheap trick or two up their sleeves).
  • The Canadian federal government is giving itself special powers to block foreign investments for security reasons, in a new Bill C-59. Although “the United States” is currently “embroiled in a debate about the potential dangers of a Chinese bid for Los Angeles-based oil producer Unocal Corp.,” Industry Minister David Emerson “waved off the notion that C-59 is a move to shield” parallel “Canadian riches.” The “aborted 2004 bid by Chinese state-owned China Minmetals Corp. for Noranda Inc. didn’t prompt the changes” in Canada. The “bid just happened at the same time as Ottawa was reviewing its investment law.”

Well, of course. And now it really is time to go to the beach.

July 9-14: ANOTHER BLACK DAY IN JULY …And through the smoke and cinders … You can hear it far and wide

More than 50 people were killed on the morning of July 7 in London, England when “an al-Qaeda-style series of bomb blasts” hit “rush-hour commuters” in subway trains and “on a double-decker bus.”

Four blasts hit around 9 am London time. “Seven people were killed in the first blast in a tunnel near Moorgate station in the City, 21 were killed in a second near King’s Cross and another five died at Edgware Road station in west London.” There were additional fatalities on a bus that was blown up on Tavistock Place in Bloomsbury. As many as 700 people were injured.

It has been reported that an “unknown al-Qaeda cell in Europe claimed responsibility within hours” on an internet site. This claim remains to be verified. (As of July 12, however, there are reports that bombers involved in all four incidents died in the blasts.)

By the early evening of Thursday, July 7, local time, the subway system was “partly normalised.” Extra buses “have been running through the city centre” since midday Thursday. For more on the story as it continues to develop, check out the Spiegel Online Live News Ticker (and the Reuters news reports to the right).

Early impact on G8 meeting in Scotland, and reactions from Blair, Bush …

British prime minister Tony Blair has said that: “Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks, it’s also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G8” meeting in Scotland (involving leaders from the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, and Russia). Mr. Blair left the meeting to visit London. But the meeting went on without him, and he later returned to Scotland.

US President George W. Bush “commended the resolve of G8 leaders and condemned the group responsible for the attack.” The president went on: “We will not yield to the terrorists. We will find them. We will bring them to justice, and at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.”

(Which might be almost impressive, if what seems to be an increasingly corrupt regime in Washington were doing anything remotely like spreading “hope and compassion” in its own backyard, to say nothing of the troubled ongoing War in Iraq.)

Meanwhile leaders of Iraq’s two immediate geographic neighbours, Syria and Iran, have condemned the London bombings. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad spoke of “the sickening attacks,’ in a note of sympathy to the British Prime Minister, according to a Syrian state news agency.” A “spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, terrorist attacks of this kind are of course no way to achieve political aims of any kind.'” (Which might be almost impressive as well, if Syria and Iran were not also such apparent welcoming harbours for jihad thugs … along with, well, Saudi Arabia?)

As a measure of the relative extent of the current terrorist disaster in the people of London’s mass transit system, the New York Times has reminded us that an “Al Qaeda group based in Europe also claimed responsibility for the train bombings on March 11, 2004, in Madrid, which killed 191 and injured 1,900.” So far the London disaster does not seem to be of quite this magnitude.

On-site observers all seem to be similarly stressing how effectively the London disaster has been managed by British emergency services – and by the people of London, who have within still living memory beaten back much fiercer assaults on freedom than this. The jihad thugs, in all countries of the world (if they are responsible in this case – and who really doubts that they are, even at this point?) are doing worse not better, as time goes by.

And, however much sympathy one may and should have with the billions of people on the undersides of the vast inequities in the global village today (which the G8 did finally bow towards slightly in Scotland), George W. Bush is surely right about one thing. The thugs will be crushed in the end – even if the naively militaristic Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove, and Mr. Rumsfeld finally are revealed as just not up to the job themselves.

And surely, somewhere beyond our earthly coils, Allah must be blushing indeed at those who systematically murder innocent women and children in His Name – in the supposed interests of some twisted 21st century totalitarian theocracy, that would so obviously be such a dead end for the human future.

(Though it must also be said that by about 10:30 on Thursday evening: “British Muslim leaders” had “called for prayers for the victims of the bombings. In addition, they promised the police their full support in the hunt for the attackers. ‘We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow British citizens,’ said Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents some 1.6 million Muslims.” See the Spiegel Online Live News Ticker.)  

Meanwhile July 7, 2005 will go down as another noble “Black Day in July,” pregnant with assorted lessons about what must be done to save the world for democracy.

Whatever else may or may not be true, the greatest days of freedom are still living memories in many human minds, in various parts of the world. And once again: “We Shall Overcome.” Those everyday free (and multicultural) people of the democratic global village who have died on the London mass transit system have not died in vain.

Leave Comment