By Michael Lashley
I make no apologies for repeating my central theme in hundreds of different contexts, situations and policy areas: It is always your decision; before or after the fact, you make the decision by urging or by ratifying, by choice or by complacency.
However, I do apologize for using some of the most obnoxious and ethically obscene examples in order to drive home my point that there are some political and social opinions that are blatantly offensive to the value systems of most cultures and religions. Never take it for granted that some of those negatively extremist opinions do not exist here in Canada at the highest political levels.
Having prefaced today’s commentary with all those warnings, I will go straight to my Exhibit No. 1, a political opinion expressed by the American Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican who is also the youngest member of that country’s upper house. My extract is taken verbatim from a newspaper item written by the Washington bureau chief of a Canadian daily newspaper:
“The academic, Walter Russell Mead, joked that sanctions were supposed to have brought Iran to its knees. “Unfortunately”, Cotton replied, “if the sanctions had brought them to their knees, Barack Obama, as is his tendency, gave ‘em a hand and helped them up from the mat. Which is what I learned to do laying basketball in Dardanelle, Ark. It’s the sportsmanlike thing to do to your rival. But I learned in combat, when your opponent is on his knees, you drive him to the mat and choke him out.”
That is quite an inspiring lesson in diplomacy, the peaceful and negotiated settlement of international disputes, and the universal principle that the winning is not always the simple solution to every problem. Thank you, Honorable Senator.
With that same senator and that same senior journalist’s permission, I now present Exhibit No. 2, no pun intended: “… said that Cotton is now stronger than ever in Arkansas – less because of the Iran letter than (because of) his lesser-noticed inflammatory comments in February about the Guantanamo prison. The only problem with Gitmo, Cotton said, is there are “too many empty beds.”
Such brilliance, according the same journalist, is the reason why Senator Cotton has been mocked as an educated ignoramus. Given the goodly senator’s expertise as a qualified and experienced jurist and an army veteran who had served in Iran, the provisions of international law have become totally irrelevant as they relate to the conduct of warfare, the treatment of prisoners of war, the obligations of due process and the duty of sovereign countries’ governments to respect international law.
Do you want our Canadian troops to be sent to wars abroad on the basis of either of those two of Senator Cotton’s arguments? Do you recognize that our troops belong to Canadian families just as you do, families that will have to bear the emotional pain that will follow if any of those troops are injured, captured or killed? Do you care that such military interventions abroad cause even more damage to life and limb for the populations of the countries in which the wars are being fought? Do you even care that almost all of those interventions fail to solve the political, military and socio-economic problems that they are meant to solve?
And, finally, do you care that such interventions cost Canada millions and millions of dollars of your taxpayers’ money, money which is already in short supply for so many of your urgent needs in health, education and social services, affordable housing and transit?
Please do not respond to those questions by throwing your hands in the air in an act of helplessness. Both before and after the fact, you have a choice. Do you know how to exercise it? Do you share my dislike of violent protest?
Then, always remember that violent protest is a dangerous extreme! You may take any of the three most commonplace forms of peaceful action against those who insist on using our troops, our money and our country’ international reputation to further their dubious objectives which include winning partisan votes from immigrant communities in this year’s federal election. Those three are voting, participating in the political activities of interest groups and political activism within a political party.
Or, you may choose to engage in non-violent civil disobedience as so many had started to do with telling effect in the “Occupy” movement and the “Idle No More” movement.
Do you know of any Canadian politicians at the federal level who share the extremist views of Senator Cotton on the desirability of war-to-the-finish as the effective solution to international challenges? Would you care to name any of those Canadian politicians?