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The Unfathomable Stephen Harper

Monday, 19 September 2011 16:15

There are moments when Stephen Harper is utterly unfathomable.

The latest came last week, in an interview with the CBC. Almost casually, the prime minister said he would reinstate emergency anti-terrorism powers - allowing judges to compel witnesses to testify in secret hearings and police to jail terrorism suspects without warrant for up to three days.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

The Decade of Terror That Wasn't

Monday, 05 September 2011 11:43

In early 2005, Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief, imagined himself in 2011, looking back on the decade that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. What he saw was horrifying.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

Remember That "Eurabian Civil War"?

Thursday, 06 January 2011 11:06

If someone mentioned terrorism in Europe, you would probably have an idea about the size of the threat and who's responsible.

It's big, you would think. And growing. As for who's responsible, that's obvious. It's Muslims. Or if you're a little more careful with your language, it's radical Muslims, or "Islamists."

After all, they were at it again just in the past month. On Dec. 11, a 28- year-old naturalized Swede - originally from Iraq - injured two people when he blew himself up on the way to a shopping district. And on Dec. 29, police in Denmark said they thwarted a plan by five Muslims to storm the office of a Danish newspaper and kill as many people as possible.

So the danger is big and growing, and Islamists are the source. Right?

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

On Sunday, reporters and other Serious People referred to Omar Khadr as an "accused terrorist." On Monday, when Khadr stood before a military commission in Guantanamo and accepted a plea bargain, he became a "confessed terrorist." This is now the standard nomenclature of Serious People.

Indeed, when Khadr's lawyer later said "it's all a fiction ... in our view Mr. Khadr is innocent," Norman Spector pronounced himself "troubled" in The Globe and Mail. Khadr swore to the truthfulness of the accusations, he wrote. Reporters should now be pressing his lawyer to say whether he "is of the view that Omar Khadr committed perjury? And, if so, did he counsel his client to do so?"

In ordinary circumstances, I would understand Norman Spector's concern. A plea at trial is normally the last word on whether one is or isn't a criminal. If the defendant says "guilty," it doesn't matter that he had his fingers crossed. He's guilty. And the "accused terrorist" becomes the "confessed terrorist."

But do I really have to note that these are not ordinary circumstances?

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

No, religion is not all sweetness and light

Saturday, 11 September 2010 11:50

At the time of writing, it is not clear if that strange little man in Florida, or the strange little man in Kansas, or some other strange little man somewhere, will go ahead with a much-discussed plan to burn a stack of Korans. But a few things are certain.

One, this is something only a strange little man would do. Two, this is something that only a strange little man who is religious would do. Three, if a strange little man goes ahead and burns a stack of Korans, many people who share that strange little man's religiosity, but not his religion, will be angry with the strange little man and will express their anger by bellowing, rioting, smashing, burning, and generally behaving like jackasses. Four, the jackasses will shout "God is great."

Speaking no evil

Friday, 03 September 2010 15:38

Speaking no evilLast spring, female suicide bombers set off massive explosions that tore apart two subway stations in central Moscow, close to the headquarters of the FSB (the domestic successor agency to the KGB). Dozens of people were killed. Scores were injured.

Later that day, Bill Bennett interviewed William Kristol on Bennett's radio show. Bennett, a former high-ranking official in the Reagan and Bush administrations, is a heavyweight in Republican circles. Kristol is an influential neo-conservative and ultra-hawk.

Lawnmowers, terrorists, and other major threats

Wednesday, 01 September 2010 14:28

Lawnmowers, terrorists, and other major threatsI do not wish to alarm the public, but I must urgently report the discovery of a disturbing fact: It seems that in 2006 -- according to the most recent StatsCan data -- two Canadians were killed by lawn mowers.

As I said, disturbing. And there's more. Much more.

Also in 2006, nine Canadians were killed in accidents involving kayaks or canoes. Three were killed by dogs. Six by hot tap water. Thirty-two drowned in pools. Fifty-four were killed by falls from ladders, while three more died after falling from trees. One person was killed by contact with a thorny plant. Another died after being stung by an unspecified "nonvenomous insect." Medical "misadventure" claimed the lives of 18 more.

Monsters And Ordinary Men

Monday, 02 February 2004 11:43

'You don't look at their face, even when you put prods in their mouth," a Chilean torturer said in 1984. "You keep their eyes covered. The secret is not to look into their eyes. The other secret is not to draw blood. You leave that for the sick bastards or the young brutes. You can watch the body arch and bounce under electricity, but never draw blood."