Monday, April 24, 2006

We're at war? Since when?

Like many other leftie bloggers, Liberal Catnip weighs in on the flag flap, but it's something else in that piece that caught my eye (emphasis added):

My member of Parliament, Jason Kenney, defended his Conservative government's decision to not fly the Canadian flags at half-mast on Parliament Hill to honour the recent deaths of 4 Canadian soldiers by stating on CTV's Question Period that Canada should proudly fly its flag high at all times because we are at war.

I'm sorry ... we're at war? When the fuck did that happen?

No, seriously, when precisely did Canada declare war officially? And against whom? Because this is starting to sound an awful lot like the dishonest bullshit you hear down south with so many people talking about being "at war," the Global "War" on Terror, George W. Chimpster being so terribly morose about having to be a "wartime" president, and on and on and so dishonestly on.

However, the last time I looked, the U.S. president doesn't have the power to declare "war" all by himself but, gosh, it sure is convenient to just start using the word, isn't it? It's even more convenient when almost no one calls you on it. (Hello? Mainstream media?)

Of course, being in this funny grey area of war/not-war has its advantages, since you can pretty much declare martial law but, at the same time, ignore all of those pesky Geneva Conventions since, well, you're not really at war. Not that kind of war, anyway, where you have to fill out forms in triplicate or get official approval or something.

So what exactly is going on up here? Are we technically "at war?" Against whom? And when exactly did that happen, and what did it require? Because if we're not really at war, then I'd like to see every person who makes that claim get immediately bitch-slapped by whatever media wank they're talking to at the time just to keep them honest:

The Hon. Stephen Harper: "Well, it's important for our country, in a time of war ..."

Craig Oliver (reaching over): (SLAP!)

The Hon. SH
: "Hey! What the fuck was that for?"

So ... what's the story? War? Not war? Enquiring minds would dearly like to know.

WHY THE QUESTION MATTERS: I don't imagine I need to spell this out for most of my readers, but I think it's critical to establish whether Canada is, as a country, officially "at war" or not. The reason this matters is that there are very clear rules that govern behaviour in a time of war, such as these.

Note well some of the central underlying principles of those laws, including things like knowing your initial political goals so you can tell when they've been achieved, the fact that the conflict should be brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible, and so on.

Given that numerous right-wing whackjobs have publicly stated that they think the "War on Terror" will never be over, this would seem to suggest that, by definition, it cannot be called a "war."

In any case, this question needs to be answered, and it needs to be answered soon and unambiguously.


Unknown said...

Since we have soldiers with guns hunting people down and killing them, I guess.

Anonymous said...

When we have soldiers with guns hunting down Indians IN Canada (Oka, etc.) does that mean we're at war? Point is......there is a process to declare war, (ahem, Parliment anybody?) Who attacked us? Harper and the Tories are are clearly attempting to pull "W" on the citizens of Canada, do and say whatever you want (make it up!) and avoid the media like the plague (you there! register and get in line if you wish to present a question before our King Harpy!).

CC said...

Wayne, that was actually a serious question with serious implications. If you can't contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way, then, really, as I suggested before, start your own blog, and leave this one for the grown-ups.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. Korea and Vietnam have been pointed out to me as un 'official' wars. They were police actions, not a war like WW2. But in popular usage, they were called wars. I'd have to presume the politicians are trading on that 'popular' understanding, even while they're also trying to equate the conflicts with the surety of WW2. It's handy. Bushco has been able to flip on 'at war/not at war', depending on what powers they want to spin that day.

Jason Kenny has never been one to shrink from hyperbole when offered a microphone and we /know/ he has PMO permission to spout this, so it's no accident.

I'd like to say I am continually baffled by Harper and the CPC openly plagiarizing past Bushco talking points, but the cynic in me can't help but think they're only taking advantage of the Canadian 'sponge' mentality. The one that has already absorbed all the American rhetoric stabbing into our ears from all the US media sources (conciously or subconciously). Canadian Conservative based rhetoric can cakewalk in along pre-messaged/massaged anxiety, hoping to instill enough fear to get that majority election.

And it makes it much easier for Peter (I turned my last girlfriend Liberal!) Mckay to gush for autographs from Condi.

But is anyone warming a journalist seat /going/ to bitchslap them for using loose and fast language?

Anonymous said...

Niles, you make a fair point. But war is a serous thing. I defy one to come up with a more serious issue. This seriousness requires honesty in speaking, especially from those whom the public decides to represent us internationally on such issues. Mr. Kenedy, sadly, is such a person.

When a Member of Parliament refers to an action as war, he had better be sure about what he is talking about. I supect if the question was put to Mr.s Kennedy, Harper, or O'Connor would not refer to our action in Afghanistan as warfare, and would not say we were at war.

Thus, Mr. kennedy is being dishonest and delibately resorting to rhetoric and hyperbole. This has been a tactic of Goob and his brownshirts from before the election in 2000.

It's particularly infuriating to see the word "war" used so selectively and inconsistently. "We are at war," a President might way to stir up patriotism of stiffle dissent. But when people say that the USA lost the Vietnam Wart, it suddenly qualifies as a "Police Action."

Whatever "war" is, we are either at it in Afghanistan, or we are not. If we are, then I would like to know on whom we have declared t. If not, then I would like Mr. Kennedy to correct himself and clearly state he was mistaken to use the word.

War is the most serious duty a government can make. We deserve a government that can take is as seriously as it is. If we don't have that now, then we'd better get on with choosing another.

Scott F (Vancouver-Kingsway)

MgS said...

Jason Kenney has a track record of two things:

1) Hyperbole

2) Button Pushing

He usually gets his facts wrong in both cases.

During the last election, I heard him in an "all candidate's forum" (the only one his lardship deigned to attend) claim that Canada was the last "major democracy" with an unelected upper house. (ummm - shall I start my enumeration with the UK?)

The difference between JK and the Commenter formerly known as Jinx is this - Kenney's in elected office.

Dave said...

The operation in Afghanistan is not a war. Canada is not at war, despite what Jason Kenney, Stephen Harper, Jaunty O'Connor or any of those other drum bangers say.

The Canadian Forces are engaged in a Contingency Operation in Afghanistan. A war is declared; a Contingency Operation can range anywhere from sandbagging the Red River to hunting down armed guerillas to securing the borders of somebody else's country to providing food and medical assistance in Rwanda.

There has been no formal declaration of war against any country or any group. By us, the US or Britain.

The Rules of Armed Conflict, however, do apply. They always have. There is no change for Canadian troops going from Contingency Ops to a declared war, particularly with respect to weapons use, accepting surrenders and the treatment of prisoners in the custody of a combat unit.

I know Stephen Harper wants to be a "reluctant war prime minister", but he'll just have to wait.

Anonymous said...

It really comes as no suprise to me that Harper would want centralise communication from the government through his office. Jason Kenney and all the other gifted orators in the CPC just can't help themselves.

MgS said...


Kenney has a great deal of influence in the CPC Caucus in Ottawa. On paper his role as "Parliamentary Secretary" to Stephen Harper doesn't mean much, but it effectively gives him a seat at the Cabinet table - without the accountability of being a minister.

While I think he's absolutely awful as an MP, I will concede that he's very good (if annoying) with a microphone in hand. His reasoning is crap, but he can play a room quite well.

Among the CPC's "orators", he's one of the ones to watch out for.

Anonymous said...

He has never impressed me with his skills as a speaker, because he doesn't have the honesty or the intellect to pull it off. And you're right, he is among the best of them...them being a bunch of used-car salesmen.

We are doomed.

Anonymous said...

We have rules in place in this country governing the declaration of war. The last time I checked, our competing political parties hadn't rolled over and died quite yet. So we're not at war. Parliament hasn't confirmed a declaration of war on anyone.

If someone has the email address for one of the party leaders in Parliament, please send them a copy of this post asap.

We need to see some Question Period Fur fly over this idiotic and irresponsible statement from Kenny.

catnip said...

Okay, okay, don't bitch slap me please. I get your point.

What I probably should have written is that Canada is *in* the middle of a war in Afghanistan. No, we didn't declare that we were officially *at* war, but we sure as hell are over there fighting one.

As far as Iraq goes, I'll stick with 'illegal' war, because that's exactly what it is.

I understand these nuances and you're right to call me out on it, but rest assured, I have no desire to spout right-wing talking points. Sometimes, you need to use their language to describe what you're talking about. For example, I can say "so-called WoT" or I can choose "this crusade for global domination that the neocons began right afterr 9/11 when they decided they could get away with killing people wherever the hell they wanted to in the world in the name of stamping out terrorism".

Sometimes, brevity wins.

On things military, I defer to my new friend Dave from the Galloping Beaver. Point noted.

catnip said...

There has been no formal declaration of war against any country or any group. By us, the US or Britain.

I believe that's debatable (as much as I love you, Dave).

wilson said...

Excerpt from National Post story:

We believe the answer is clear: Canada, like the rest of the civilized world, is at war -- not only against the Taliban, but also against every other entity that seeks to pervert Islam into an excuse for senseless slaughter. It is also a war to bring stability and freedom to Afghan society. In this war, as in all wars, people will be killed. And sometimes, those people will be Canadian.

CC said...

wilson61 quoted:

We believe the answer is clear: Canada, like the rest of the civilized world, is at war -- not only against the Taliban, but also against every other entity that seeks to pervert Islam into an excuse for senseless slaughter.

"Against every other entity?" Man, but that's vague, isn't it? So who would get to sign the declaration of surrender?

Alison said...

The Entity can only be destroyed by using a modulated graviton beam.
Everyone knows that.

Anonymous said...

This mirroring of Bush's tactics has gotten downright ridiculous. Secrecy and aggrandizement of power in one leader. Plus ending speeches with "God Bless Canada" and wearing a flag in his lapel. Although I hear that aids have to remind him not to say "God Bless America," and to put a Canadian, rather than a U.S., flag in his lapel.