Thursday, October 9, 2008

From Social Justice To 'Taliban Jack'

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away ... okay, maybe not quite that long ago and not that far away ... I was a firm supporter of the NDP.

For my American friends, that's about as far left as the Canadian political spectrum goes. Although for the sake of clarity, I would have to say is not quite as far left as American Democrats go.

Anyway, as I was saying, I could pretty well be counted on to vote NDP. Because basically I believed in what they believed in. 'Social justice', I suppose I would label it, for lack of a better term. Sure, I foraged a little closer to the centre occasionally, with a few votes for the Liberals sprinkled here and there (which generally happened when I particularly liked the Liberal candidate in my riding), but for the most part, I sided with the NDP.

And although I remain a big NDP supporter provincially, it's more than a bit of a different story federally. I lost faith with the federal NDPs a long time ago. I can't say for sure exactly when but it was probably sometime around the end of Alexa McDonough's time as leader of the federal party.

Prior to Alexa taking over as leader of the federal party in 1995, she had been the leader of the Nova Scotia NDP party. I had really liked Alexa in her provincial stint, so I was pleased to see her take over leadership of the federal party. But it must have been sometime shortly before Alexa's retirement in 2003 that I felt my faith with the federal NDP start to wain.

Criticism. All criticism. All the time.

That they were good at. But at some point they seemed to start losing their ability to come up with constructive alternatives, constructive solutions. While in her stint as leader of the Nova Scotia NDP (where she was by the way the first woman in Canada elected to lead a major party in a provincial legislature) Alexa coined the phrase "shocked and appalled," which eventually became synonymous with her. And, when she moved on to the federal party, the phrase, at least in my mind, became synonymous with that party. Because it seemed like they were, you know, "shocked and appalled" by just about everything.

For part of her time in Nova Scotia, Alexa was the lone NDP member in the house, a one-man woman party, as it were. And in her own words:
"I was often pretty obnoxious in terms of flying by the seat of my pants and in some ways living up to the worst stereotype of kind of a holier-than-thou ‘I know what’s right here and what’s wrong with the rest of you.’ I can understand how that would happen, and somehow ‘shocked and appalled’ seemed to be the label they put on it."
Alexa was followed federally by Taliban Jack Jack Layton in 2003. He remains the leader of the federal party today and quite frankly, he has rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go. Initially it was the constant carping, the negativity, the apparent disagreeing just for the sake of disagreement and the nothing positive to offer in return posture. Later, it was often issue-based, as well. So, no, not a big fan.

And now, it looks like Layton is up to his usual shenanigans. Earlier this week, Layton (quite predictably) seized upon the comment of British Brig-Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith that "we're not going to win this war" in Afghanistan. He was also quite happy to tag team the General's comments advocating negotiations with the Taliban.

Did I ever mention how the Conservatives had given Layton the handle "Taliban Jack" a few years ago for his suggestion that all would be well if we would just sit down and "talk" with the Taliban? Yeah, my reaction exactly.

At any rate, I imagine we could have renamed Layton 'Happy Jack' earlier this week as it seems as if he has been spouting how horrid, wrong and immoral the actions of Canadian troops in Afghanistan have been for at least a couple of years now. And how they need to come home. Now. Did I mention how that better be right now?

Yes, once again, Layton acted in predictable style. In his own words:
"I'm heartened by the words of this senior military commander who is adding his voice to those many, many Canadians and others around the world who believe that the prosecution of the continued war effort has got to be changed,” Mr. Layton said.

“The New Democrats came out very early with this view and we've continued to argue respectfully with those who disagree that there's got to be a new path ... Let's hope that more and more people are reaching this conclusion.”
Well, Jack, you might want to check your facts a little more carefully before you try jumping on that particular bandwagon. Make sure there actually is a bandwagon, like, and who might actually be on it.

Apparently, what the senior British military commander actually said was that troop levels need to be sufficient to contain the insurgency to a level where it does not threaten the survival of the country's democratically elected government.

And by the by, Mr. Layton, just to be clear, the key to negotiating with any Afghan tribes which might be persuaded to switch sides, much like disgruntled Sunni tribes did in Iraq, is that any such negotiation must come from a position of strength.

As pointed out in an editorial in Wednesday's edition of the Chronicle Herald,

Ultimately, Mr. Layton’s policies would only weaken the Afghan government’s hand. If all NATO countries were to follow his lead – declare the war unwinnable, then pull out their contingents ASAP – what precisely would there be left to negotiate with the Taliban on the ground?

Damn. Couldn't have said it better myself.

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