Soldiers. In a Conservative Party press release. Being taken wildly out of context to attack the NDP.

As headlines go, it’s not quite as bad as “The NDP caucus supports child pornography”, but it’s getting close.

From a release issued by the Tories earlier today:


NDP Leader Jack Layton made the disturbing suggestion yesterday that coalition troops are targeting and recklessly killing Afghan civilians. These unacceptable comments are sadly in keeping with previous remarks by Layton and other NDP members.

First off, I like the “sadly” — yeah, guys – you were so upset, you could barely find the strength to fire off a press release. But what did that virulently anti-military Jack Layton actually say?

· Yesterday in Newfoundland Layton said the following about Canadian troops: “This horrific practice of coming in with planes and strafing villages and having civilians killed, it’s turning the civilians against the mission,” (CBC Newsworld, September 12, 2008).

Not surprisingly, the Tories don’t provide the context for the quote, but given the fact that Canadian soldiers are not, have not, and – as far as I know – will not ever be involved in aerial bombing runs, it seems pretty clear that Layton is referring to the missions that have been carried out almost exclusively by the American contingent of the NATO coalition – which have also come in for heavy criticism from the Afghanistan government, most recently in the aftermath of a US-led raid that reportedly left as many as 90 civilians dead.

In an interview in April, Mr. Karzai warned that civilian casualties were undermining the fight against terrorism, and he questioned, as many Afghans do, why Afghan villagers were under attack when the militants’ training camps in Pakistan were left untouched.

“The war against terrorism is not in Afghan villages,” he said. “The war against terrorism is elsewhere, and that’s where the war should go.”

Will “HARMID KARZAI INSULTS TROOPS” headline the next edition of “Just the Facts”? That could get interesting. Meanwhile, the release goes on:

· This is the same Jack Layton whose party considered adopting a policy resolution suggesting that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are “acting like terrorists, destroying communities, killing and maiming innocent people”. (Resolution 1 B4, NDP Policy Convention Fall 2006)

Except that, you know, it didn’t: The resolution in question was drafted by a local riding association, and the preamble – which included the quoted wording – was withdrawn before the convention even got underway, and really guys, do you want to start the first round of Who Wants To Propose a Resolution That Makes Our Party Look Insane? Because I suspect the other campaigns may be able to play that game too.


· Layton’s comments echo those of the NDP candidate in Halifax West, Tamara Lorincz, who recently heckled uniformed Canadian Forces personnel: “Ms. Lorincz told the uniformed members as the entered the exhibition hall: This is a racket and it should be shut down. We need a peace economy, not a military economy.” (Chronicle Herald, September 7, 2008)

Ah, yes. Except once again, the context is oddly absent – the above excerpt makes it sound like the candidate in question was wandering the streets of Halifax, randomly haranguing soldiers (in our stree– sorry, it’s practically reflexive now) for, well, being soldiers. Which wasn’t, in fact, the case — she was protesting a military trade show in Halifax, which casts her “heckling” in a somewhat different light:

Halifax West NDP candidate Tamara Lorincz was among a group of Halifax Peace Coalition protesters demonstrating outside the Cunard Centre on Marginal Road. They were protesting the DEFSEC Atlantic 2008 exhibition, a trade show for defence contractors. […]

Ms. Lorincz hollered at some uniformed members of the Canadian Armed Forces as they drove by.

“This is a racket and it should be shut down,” she yelled. “We need a peace economy, not a military economy.”

That shows that Ms. Lorincz is “unfit for public office,” said Mr. MacKay.

“I felt physically ill,” he said Sunday in an interview. “I thought it was just one of the most disgusting things I’ve heard in a long time. I honestly believe Jack Layton should pull that woman’s nomination papers.”

Mr. Layton did not respond to Mr. MacKay’s attack, and Ms. Lorincz was not available for comment Sunday, but she issued a news release defending her actions.

“I was protesting the presence of major American military contractors’ attempts to influence the type of equipment our Armed Forces purchases,” she said. “Our ongoing in mission in Afghanistan is building a military that works in Afghanistan’s deserts and we need our soldiers focusing on peacekeeping and protecting Canadians.

“I was not protesting the Canadian Armed Forces. In fact, I have the utmost respect for the women and men serving our country proudly; and any suggestion that I would purposely offend veterans is clearly politically motivated.”

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