A letter, expanded from part of my last post (also, .05% more civil).
The Honourable Gordon O’Connor
Minister of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
I write to you as a fellow citizen of Western democracy, not as a Canadian. I recognize that my opinion regarding the conduct of Canadian politics is open to outright rejection, but I think a dose of “We’re all Danes now” would be useful in North American politics generally. My own country, the United States, has by no means lived up to this standard.
In defence of my effrontery, I offer the fact that I lived in Canada for 23 years and was able to observe the conduct of politics, and the changes in society, from the beginning of Pierre Trudeau’s government until 1994. You will understand why I say I have heartfelt hope for the change Prime Minister Harper’s government may represent. I wish you every success.
In that spirit, I must say that your recent comment regarding publication of the “infamous” Danish cartoons by The Western Standard was well off the mark.
Did you really mean that the exercise of free speech would place Canadian troops, already in a war zone, at greater risk? Did you mean to imply that such risk was a larger concern for the _Defence_ Minister than the concept of defending a free press? I ask, because it sounds like some leftover trope from the former government. They never seemed entirely certain about Canada’s status as a Western democracy.
About the Western Standard‘s publication you said – “It doesn’t help. Radicals in Syria and Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, they get people roused up because their religion’s being offended. We don’t need any more risk in the area than we have.”
Let us assume this is true; these people are going to be even more offended than they were. That isn’t all bad. It might take some combat pressure off our allies, the Danes, who certainly don’t deserve it. This seems only sporting, if you are unwilling to support them via a free press.
On the other hand, recall how gently Canada was treated at Dieppe before the worst of those insensitive cartoons of Hitler were printed. It would have been worse if the Germans had seen caricatures of Hitler; and sure, Bataan wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t depicted Tojo with buck-teeth. What were we thinking?
On the other, other hand – Muslim groups in Canada have already initiated civil suits against The Western Standard. Canadian troops are defending this right, as well. If the jihadists don’t care about this fine point, why should Canadians kowtow to their exquisite sensitivities? If decades of anti-assimilationist angst now paralyze the EU, why should we invite it?
I think you insult “real” jihadists, the ones who would be the attackers in the war-zone, by suggesting that they are spurred to more effective effort by some cartoons – several of which had to faked up. This is an invitation to attack Canadian troops; because a) as noted, it insults the jihadi, and b) it tells them attacking Canadian troops will have a significant political effect.
I would have suggested a statement more along these lines: “Well, we hope Canadians’ exercise of Western values, in particular that of a free press, does not provoke attacks against Canadian troops. My advice to anyone contemplating such an attack would be that that would be a serious mistake in judgment.” If you wanted some real punch, you might add: “We have the Danes’ back.”
Let us not even supply a hint of apology to people who are killing each other, much less ravening to kill us, over some cartoons; cartoons that did not raise a stir when published in Egypt last October. It’s a trumped up sensitivity, and those who are inflamed by it should be severely cautioned, not encouraged.