By: Robert Patton
Terrorism is once more the explanation for an explosion of violence in Canada. First a Muslim driver ran down two Canadian soldiers near Montreal killing one and severely injuring the second. Police pursued the driver in a high-speed chase that ended when his car overturned. When the man left the car he was shot and killed by police. Apparently no attempt was made to take the man into custody.
Less than two days later, a Canadian soldier guarding a war memorial in Ottawa was gunned down by an assailant, reportedly a Muslim convert who had his passport confiscated to prevent him from traveling to the Middle East. The shooter then went to the nearby Parliament building where he was quickly cut down by what witnesses described as “dozens of shots.”
Although the victims in both cases were soldiers, neither had any reason to believe that they could be attacked. The wanton, cold-blooded murder of innocents is a tragic thing, but there are a number of lessons to be learned from these attacks.
A half century ago, America was at war in Vietnam; Canadians, sensibly, were not. In fact, a significant number of American war resisters, sought and received sanctuary in Canada. America lost more than 50,000 brave soldiers and Marines in that pointless conflict; Canada lost none. We were at war because an egomaniac in the White House did not want to be “the first President to lose a war.” Lyndon Johnson, like George W. Bush, lied to the American people to get us into that war.
In 2008 we elected a President who promised to get us out of Bush’s war, but 6 years later, we are not only still in it, but it keeps expanding. From Afghanistan and Iraq, we moved on to Libya and now Syria. Right under our nose, the government that had gained power in Iraq at the cost of thousands of American lives purged its army of soldiers that belonged to a different faction.
Then, not surprisingly, many of these purged Sunni soldiers found a new flag under which to ply their trade and we had a new war to fight. This time we would fight from the air. Those who remember Nixon’s “plan” to end the war in Vietnam will find this failed strategy all too familiar. But the Canadians, at least recognized the folly of our actions in Southeast Asia and stayed home.
But this time Canada, like the authoritarian regimes of several Arab states, decided to throw in with us. Why not? Killing from the air is relatively safe and can be portrayed as heroic. But there is something the Canadians overlooked. Our own CIA calls it “blowback.”
Blowback is the term the intelligence community uses to describe the unforeseen consequences of an action. It is important to understand that describing a consequence as blowback does not, in any way, excuse or justify the slaughter of innocent people. But what happened in Canada in the last few days is certainly blowback.
Why Canada chose to participate in an air war in a far-off nation is hard to understand. With Obama it is different. He has political opponents who would quickly attack him as a coward if he failed to carry on the wars others started. He is certainly aware that when historians list America’s “great” presidents, they invariably select those who have presided over, and in some cases, started great wars. It goes without saying that “greatness” requires that wars, once started, must be pursued to victory. That’s why Lyndon Johnson is seen as a failed President. A President who presides over a peaceful and prosperous nation is never called “great.”
The same is true of Canada. Who remembers Canadian leaders during long peaceful and prosperous years? And now Canada too is at war. Canadian pilots will be killing people who, as of a few days ago, meant them no harm. And so there is blowback. By calling it terrorism, Canadian leaders wash their hands of responsibility. Terrorism is seen as the irrational acts of fanatics that need no justification for their acts.
When America was at war in Vietnam, we had domestic terrorism. Best known of these was the Weather Underground. Bill Ayers was a key member of this group which acted on a belief that terror was the way to peace. Ayers narrowly escaped death when a close friend and his own girlfriend blew themselves up while building a bomb in a Greenwich Village apartment. The bomb, packed with nails, was of a type designed to kill lots of people. Ayers, although he was not present, was involved in the plot and now, 44 years later, is a good friend of Barack Obama.
Canadians, at the time, bothered no one and no one built bombs to blow up Canadians. But now that Canada is playing the American game it is unrealistic to expect different results. And yet the airwaves are all full of stories about Canadian dismay at how this could happen to as peaceful a country as Canada and as peaceful a city as Ottawa.
There is another aspect of this tragic situation that is noteworthy. Only days ago, a Norwich University professor opined on Vermont Public Radio that while the militarization of police may be going too far there is one place where it is sorely needed. And that place is [drumroll please] our own Vermont. Why with our low crime rate do our police need tanks and heavy weapons? It is because of our permissive gun laws. Did you know, the professor asks, that Vermonters can own 50 caliber rifles? These fearsome weapons, he claims, have bullets 5 inches long and can smash through concrete barriers to slaughter innocent people.
Sorry professor, the 50 caliber bullet is not much more than one inch long and does not have the fearsome abilities he describes. Not only that but such weapons weigh more than 30 pounds, cost up to $5000 and are not the machine guns he describes in his op ed.
Meanwhile in our neighbor to the north, almost all firearms are prohibited especially handguns and we have an innocent off-duty soldier killed with an automobile. And the killing, two days later was carried out with a sporting weapon. One account describes a hunting rifle while another witness claims to have seen a double barreled shotgun. And in the late nineties, in Japan with the most restrictive firearms laws of all, a leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult was killed, while television cameras were rolling, by a Japanese gangster, a yakuza. The weapon used was a knife.