“We answer to a higher destiny.”
~ Sir Wilfrid Laurier
“Whoever has not felt the danger of the times has not penetrated the forge of destiny.
~ José Ortega y Gasset
“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
~ George Bernard Shaw
This nation, conceived in economic enterprise by European monarchs of centuries past, came to maturity in the bloody trenches of Vimy Ridge and on the cliffs of Dieppe and in the sands of Normandy and through the bitter winters of Korea and under the scorching sun of the Sinai and over the stormy seas of the Atlantic. And too, in the corpse filled jungles of Rwanda and on the muddied fields of Bosnia . Our national identity was not forged from the compromises of public trust bred behind the closed doors of Parliamentary committees and corporate boardrooms. Nor by the prejudices of social orthodoxy that dominate focus groups and seek to dictate the common weal. Nor even in the trials of silent suffering in the waiting lines of general hospitals.
Our progress as a people has always been predicated on a resolve to shoulder our share of the burden in mankind’s continued quest to realize its transcendent yearning for redemptive change. It has always been a struggle, tempered by service and sacrifice, to assure the victory of universality over particularity. Our proudest boast was that we were ready to meet the challenges of the open sea and were not content to rest smugly at harbor. If we fail to recognize those challenges from abroad today we will inevitably face the consequences of that failure at home.
Events of last week demonstrated that we are continuing to pursue purposes that have failed spectacularly and often. They also demonstrated that the most senior levels of our government have an inability to formulate integrated policies to protect Canadian assets and preserve Canadian interests.
Robert Wright, the Prime Minister’s national security advisor, told the conference of the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies that it would be "absurd" to believe terrorists will not attack Canada. He pointed out in his address that " Osama bin Laden has publicly identified Canada as a country he believes his followers should attack. He ranked Canada as fifth out of seven countries and every other country on that list has already been attacked. So this is not someone else's problem. And experience shows that it's absurd to think that these attacks could not happen here. The Air-India and Ressam cases demonstrate that the dangers within Canada are real."
Despite unprecedented evidence that terrorists are preparing to strike, much of official Ottawa is reluctant to discuss Mr. Wright’s views. This typical caution is even more disturbing given that Bin Laden named Canada as a target in November, 2002, and an al-Qaeda manual posted on the Internet in March called for attacks on Canadians. Additionally, documents uncovered from Afghanistan show al-Qaeda ordered an operative to study possible targets in Canada. Last year, police in Pakistan found a list of potential targets in Ontario, including Toronto's Union Station, in the pocket of a senior al-Qaeda member.
As troubling as the reaction to Mr. Wright’s comments was the news that the government is looking to claw back $144 million it allocated to the Canadian Forces in its latest budget and plans to take another $184 million next year. It is astonishing that this is even being considered, much less voiced, at the very moment when attention is being focused on the problem of political delays in the purchase of military assets in favor of funding for vote-grabbing pork programs.
These Clawbacks are only part of $500 million the government is considering in squeezing out of the military. What brings these matters into even starker relief is the recent revelation that there had been a $53 million reduction in Canada’s submarine-retrofit program that negatively impacted on the condition of our submarine fleet. And all these cuts are coming from the $800 million promised by Ottawa to relieve budgetary shortfalls of the Forces in ongoing operations alone.
It is unacceptable that such conflicting positions exist at the highest levels of our government. With a clear and present danger so evident, conscience, and reason, do not allow for military cutbacks. This administration contends that it is acting reasonably and responsibly and that Canada is able to meet its share of international obligations and is not simply relying on the American shield. These arguments are disingenuous. And they are dangerous. Two examples will suffice to make the point.
The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies estimates that tens of millions in terrorist fundraising takes place in Canada annually. That money is going for a purpose much more resolute than any demonstrated by our government.
Senior military and intelligence sources have confirmed that though the United States respects the capability of the Canadian Forces, they do not consider Canadian assets at levels acceptable to meet our multinational command commitments. At the least we need to match Australia’s contributions.
Today’s threats are as real as the resentments. If we do not find the will to keep taking the fight to the enemy in concert with willing allies we may well find the streets of our cities to be the new killing fields. As they did in Bali and in Beslan and for that matter in Madrid. Our positions today are not tenable and are inimical to responsibility and reason. It is time to chart a new course guided by Churchill’s injunction that,
“If this be reason then perhaps it is better to be unreasonable and right than
to remain reasonable and wrong.”