Megapundit: Omar Khadr and the Canadian conscience

Must-reads: Graham Thomson in Afghanistan; George Jonas on the Order of Canada.

Thinking about Omar Khadr
More raspberries for Stephen Harper and George W. Bush on the Guantanamo file, with some Liberal apologist whipped cream on top.

The Toronto Star‘s James Travers believes the Khadr situation is forcing Canadians to undertake some tough-but-necessary “introspection.” Since either John McCain or Barack Obama will be steering American foreign policy away from the current brand exemplified by Guantanamo, which sacrifices the nation’s “own founding ideals in favour of its enemy’s no-rules tactics,” we need to ask ourselves how Canada should position itself going forward. “Preparing for change in the relationship starts with self-awareness,” he argues, which is “where Khadr is particularly helpful.” Perhaps. But we sincerely doubt most Canadians look at Khadr and instantly realize “that trade and security are inextricably mixed.”

The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin denounces Harper’s stance on Khadr as an abandonment of his “stand up for Canada” principles, noting that he could easily have adopted a softer stance (that “all available options” would be explored, for example) without angering his buddies in the Republican White House. Instead, Martin says Harper “has chosen to defend the indefensible—a system of incarceration out of the dark ages.” Then, nauseatingly, Martin attempts to redeem the Liberal record on Khadr, suggesting Bush was so “angered” by Jean Chrétien’s honourable refusal to go to Iraq and by Paul Martin’s honourable intransigence on missile defence, that the Prime Ministers were in “no position to be seeking any breaks.” By way of proof, he argues countries that “supported the White House war effort—the British and the Australians—were successful in getting Gitmo inmates repatriated,” while curiously neglecting to mention that Belgium, France, Germany, Russia and Sweden enjoyed similar success.

Obama’s newest, and worst, advisor
Declaring “the Iraq invasion and occupation … utterly unjustified” and promising to withdraw troops and send more to Afghanistan is a fine domestic message for Barack Obama to convey, the Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui argues, but it won’t do anything for America’s standing in the “non-western world.” That would entail “assum[ing] full moral responsibility for the mass death and destruction it has inflicted on Iraq and Iraqis” and acknowledging that the invasion may have been just as costly in human terms as Saddam Hussein’s “30-year gulag”; pledging “to put these people’s lives back in order and rebuild Iraq’s shattered infrastructure” (after withdrawing, presumably); establishing “a timetable for troop withdrawals” from Afghanistan; and ramping up “political engagement with Pakistan and elements of the Taliban.” If you could get back to us by Monday on that, Mr. Obama, that’d be super.

People upset with the Obama camp’s hysterical reaction to the satirical New Yorker cover “miss the point,” says the Globe‘s John Ibbitson, who believes their hypersensitivity is well-justified, or at least perfectly understandable. The “ballot question” of this campaign is, “Can we trust Barack Obama? And the answer, for many voters, will be defined by the fact he is black.” We think we might be missing the point too, unfortunately. No doubt it’s true that “religion intermingles with race” in the American psyche, but the religion at play in this debate is Islam. What does that have to do with Obama being black?

An imperfect Order
Though George Jonas considers abortion an “abomination,” he believes “putting unborn children to sleep is a family matter,” not one for the state. And while he’s “not getting [his] knickers in a twist” over Henry Morgentaler’s investiture in the Order of Canada, that’s mostly because of its “self-congratulatory” nature—something he hopes Canadians take this opportunity to consider. Morgentaler aside, he argues in the National Post, “for every person who earns a British knighthood or membership in La Legion d’honneur, another buys, worms or brown-noses his way into it.”

The Post‘s Jonathan Kay is understandably nonplussed by Jonas’ uncharacteristic “who cares?” reaction, considering his hatred for the “busybody, bureaucratic state” and his oft-demonstrated ability to “take any subject and bring it back to Joseph Stalin in four paragraphs.” To Kay, the Order is “essentially a vestige of pre-capitalist, pre-liberal times, when hereditary elites—with no other way to explain their privileges save the fact they were born with them—lavished ribbons, medals, titles and furry cloaks on one another.” It is, he says, “an anachronism in our meritocratic age.”

Duly noted
As the Vanouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer predicted, yesterday’s report by the provincial auditor-general on the BC government’s 2007 decision to release a giant parcel of forest land for private use was a bit of a humdinger—and the government is fighting back, tooth and nail. The decision “appears to have been a done deal from the outset,” Palmer reports, lacking “proper consideration of the public interest” and with insufficient efforts to secure “compensation for the loss of those lands to the forest base” or a share of the development profits. “Incredibly,” Palmer adds, the A-G “could not even find much evidence that the Liberals had examined the benefits of the transaction to the owner of the land.”

Yesterday in Kandahar Province pretty much exemplified the current situation in Afghanistan, the Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson suggests. At the very moment Canadian military brass and the local governor were announcing “a successful airstrike against the Taliban that they believe killed Mullah Mahmoud, the second-in-command of Taliban forces in Kandahar province,” five fuel tankers were set ablaze west of the city by a rocket-propelled grenade attack, and, minutes later, a roadside bomb demolished a nearby stretch of highway. Canadian troops interviewed by Thomson are baffled by the “pessimism” expressed in some quarters, but one, tasked with rebuilding the highway, conceded the mission’s Sisyphean nature. “If you let the frustration of redoing the same things over and over again get to you, we’re not going to accomplish anything.”

The Globe‘s Margaret Wente details Europe’s ostensibly disastrous experiments with harm reduction, and the hardcore prohibitionist backlash they have precipitated in otherwise kindler, gentler nations like Sweden and the Netherlands. Frankly, we can’t take any column seriously that contains the following sentence: “Drug use is widely tolerated [in Scotland], as you know if you saw Trainspotting.” She does know it’s not a documentary, right?