And in non-census-related news…

A 20-year old letter allegedly written by Iranian “Green revolution” leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi to Iran’s then-president President Ali Khamenei is causing a lot of chatter within Tehran-watching circles this week. The letter was published on the website of the now-exiled past President of the Islamic Republic Abolhassan Banisadr and appears to expose a long-denied international assertion against the Iranian regime. The letter references the type of activity that suggests that Iran has participated in foreign terrorist attacks and has been fighting an aysymmetric proxy war against its enemies for quite some time now. Not that this is such a stunning revelation to anyone, but it is interesting nonetheless that internal government documents have come to light from within that acknowledges this.

Here is the letter, and I’ve reprinted a Google-translated excerpt below:

“After the plane is hijacked, we become aware of it. When the machine gun in a street opens in Lebanon and the sound turned it everywhere, we will know the case. After the discovery of explosives from our pilgrims in Jeddah, I’m aware of it. Unfortunately, and despite all the loss that the country has realized this move, yet like every time the operation can be called anytime the state occurs”

Our troops in Afghanistan are fighting an asymmetric battle against non-state actors in the south of that country. We’ve known for some time that factions within the Pakistan military have been sympathetic and supportive of Taliban fighters and we’ve known the same about Iran’s support as well. If the letter is valid, it helps the Iranian regime lose face over a lie it has laughably maintained among the international community. Though, such a “revelation” will come as a shock to no one. Iran for example provides billions of dollars in annual support to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Facing mounting opposition from opposition forces, Ahmadinejad has taken a hard-line stance to bolster his support among hardliners within his base. This, of course, is underscored by the development of a nuclear program to assert Iran’s independence, defense and dominance over the region. However, a nuclear program, while couched in anti-Semitic and bellicose terms, is at minimum state-to-state posturing.

The release of the letter that internally confirms that the regime has long participated in state-sanctioned proxied asymmetric attacks against not only foreign soldiers but against civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon among other countries, may simply be yet another element for fodder for an opposition posturing against a hard-line regime losing favour at home. This further suggests to Iranians that their leadership has been occupied with tangential foreign issues while domestic strife rises and quality of life diminishes.

To that point, this is also about two rival political factions blaming each other for failures in Iran’s history as an Islamic republic. Washington’s Daily Beast picks up on this thread,

“This letter has historical significance now,” Banisadr told The Daily Beast in a telephone interview. “At the time of its initial publication it was significant, too, because it clearly stated that the Iranian regime was involved in terrorist activities abroad; that these actions were not sporadic, but that it was the Iranian government that was engaged in terrorist activities.”

Neither Khamenei nor President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has commented on the letter. But people in Iran speculate that the letter re-emerged at this moment because Mousavi was threatening to reveal secrets in connection with the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, having been accused by current Iranian authorities of losing the war. And some hope that Mousavi’s secrecy standoff with the government might cast light on another dark moment in Iran’s history–the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, which reportedly cost the lives of thousands of people. Within Iran, the executions are a taboo subject. But last month, Mousavi alluded to them, suggesting that his cabinet was kept in the dark.

The Mousavi letter also seeks to establish the credentials of the opposition leader as someone who was in government and who was an insider to the regime’s history. This contrasts with Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Tehran who had little to no experience.

CensusLeaks.ca

Sunday at around 5pm, the story hit the blackberries of government staffers and journalists alike in Ottawa that over 200,000 pages of classified documents describing operations of the war in Afghanistan were posted on WikiLeaks.org, an online clearinghouse for classified government information. It has been argued by the Pentagon and by Foreign Affairs that the information released puts soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan at risk and it has certainly has handed the Taliban a propaganda victory over allied war efforts against the extremist forces in that country.

This news comes in a time period where Ottawa-watchers have been discussing the disclosure, security and privacy of data collected by governments. First, opposition parties argued that the government declassify thousands of pages detailing the detention and transfer of Afghan detainees, and then there’s been that war of numbers over the utlility and intrusiveness of the governments ability to collect data on the citizenry via the census.

Is all data created (and withheld) equally? Do defenders of an open and free society sincerely believe the new axiom that “all information wants to be free”? Is our society free because some information is held secure?

If journalism is — by one definition — to bring comfort to the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable, do information dumps on the execution of the war in Afghanistan bring transparency to decisions made by our elected leaders, or do they provide comfort to the enemy? Even the decision to reveal classified documents on detainee transfers to Parliament was done reluctantly and the documents were revealed under strict guidelines.

Two arguments against the long-form census — in a debate that has turned into a “national crisis” according to one breathless account from a journalist at macleans.ca — are that the census could violate the privacy of individuals and that a mandatory burden comes with state penalty of jail or a fine or both.

We used to live in a world where releasing classified information to the enemy in wartime was akin to treason because it violated a clear national interest — our security. Yet, the founder of wikileaks and those that participated in the release of classified information will likely never see the inside of a jail cell. Our world has evolved such that it may not be reasonable for the government to expect that information can remain secure. Society has changed such that the average citizen can instantly react to information as it continuously breaks. Has our war cabinet been expanded to include the hoards of sarcastic tweeters deskchair-quarterbacking the conflict? Has elected leadership been replaced by liveblogging and instant polls? Does information want to be free because now we all can make the day-by-day decisions to effectively execute this war? No, of course not.

As the wikileaks release has shown, information can never be confidently be deemed “secure”. Even information vital to national security can be compromised and the security of this data is held paramount by our government compared to concerns over personal privacy. In this case, breach of secure information was done so according to a unilateral and unaccountable political agenda of “openness”. Troubling still, a significant subset of the voices against scrapping the long-form census are now heralding this new “transparency” of information that compromises the security of our troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

Transparency, openness, privacy and security are all important principles here. How you justify any of these at the expense of others is of course how your agenda is constituted. In this modern world, we must presume a full spectrum of agendas and since we can no longer stand together united behind one interest, we must be vigilant in protecting our own. If the state cannot ensure security in the private data it collects, we as citizens should not be open and transparent to it. If for the sake of transparency and openness, activists compromise the security and safety of their fellow citizens, they should be afforded neither from the state.

Government’s motion on Afghanistan will split Liberals

The following is text of the government’s motion on extending the mission in Afghanistan. My comments appear between segments of the motion. The key point of contention is Canada’s extended role in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar from 2009-2011.

That, whereas the House recognizes the important contribution and sacrifice of Canadian Forces and Canadian civilian personnel as part of the UN mandated, NATO-led mission deployed in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan;

This sets the scene and important in the emphasis of the internationalist, multilateral mandate that Canada operates under in Afghanistan. The mission operates with the blessing of the UN, an organization in which most Canadians believes strongly and with which Canada self-identifies when it comes to its foreign policy. The UN mandated mission should be something that Liberals can easily subscribe to, but it’s interesting to note that despite the UN’s acceptance of the mission, the NDP and Bloc take a strict isolationist approach.

whereas, as set out in the Speech from the Throne, the House does not believe that Canada should simply abandon the people of Afghanistan after February 2009; that Canada should build on its accomplishments and shift to accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police so that the government of Afghanistan can defend its own sovereignty and ensure that progress in Afghanistan is not lost and that our international commitments and reputation are upheld;

The Speech from the Throne of course is an important reference point. The government received a mandate from Parliament when the Throne Speech passed in the fall. The Liberals, forming the Official Opposition, passed on judging the government’s proposed mandate and abstained from the vote. The Throne Speech first outlined the government’s intention to extend the mission in Kandahar through 2011. So, what has changed since then?

whereas in February 2002, the government took a decision to deploy 850 troops to Kandahar, the Canadian Forces have served in various capacities and locations in Afghanistan since that time and, on May 17, 2006, the House adopted a motion to support a two year extension of Canada’s deployment in Afghanistan;

whereas the House welcomes the report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan, chaired by John Manley, and recognizes the important contribution they have made;

What has changed is that John Manley has released his report. Manley expressed that Canada lost its voice on the international stage but has now regained it. Manley stated that when Canada speaks, the world listens. He cited the former Liberal PM Lester B. Pearson as a source for inspiration and for doing the right thing with respect to Canadian foreign policy.

whereas their Report establishes clearly that security is an essential condition of good governance and lasting development and that, for best effect, all three components of a comprehensive strategy military, diplomatic and development need to reinforce each other;

The report by the former Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs has stressed the need for a mix of a number of Canadian efforts in Afghanistan (including military).

whereas the government accepts the analysis and recommendations of the Panel and is committed to taking action, including revamping Canada’s reconstruction and development efforts to give priority to direct, bilateral project assistance that addresses the immediate, practical
needs of the Afghan people, especially in Kandahar province, as well as effective multi-year aid commitments with concrete objectives and assessments, and, further, to assert strong Canadian leadership to promote better co-ordination of the overall effort in Afghanistan by the international community, and, Afghan authorities;

The government states, in its motion, that it is following the lead of Mr. Manley. Here the motion stresses aid development and international coordination. All of which should be found acceptable to a majority of Parliament.

whereas the results of progress in Afghanistan, including Canada’s military deployment, will be reviewed in 2011 (by which time the Afghanistan Compact will have concluded) and, in advance, the government will provide to the House an assessment and evaluation of progress, drawing on and consistent with the Panel’s recommendations regarding performance standards, results, benchmarks and timelines; and

Full reporting to Parliament on progress in Afghanistan.

whereas the ultimate aim of Canadian policy is to leave Afghanistan to Afghans, in a country that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure;

How could any MP disagree?

therefore, the House supports the continuation of Canada’s current responsibility for security in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to the end of 2011, in a manner fully consistent with the UN mandate on Afghanistan, but with increasing emphasis on training the Afghan National Security Forces expeditiously to take increasing responsibility for security in Kandahar and Afghanistan as a whole so that, as the Afghan National Security Forces gain capability, Canada’s combat role should be commensurately reduced, on condition that:

Stephane Dion has stated that he wishes Canada’s “combat role” in Kandahar to cease by February 2009. John Manley recommends against this. The House will essentially be voting on the recommendations, or at least within the guidelines of the Manley Report. This motion is not inconsistent with John Manley’s recommendations and the Liberal Party (many of whom have incredible respect for Mr. Manley) will find itself divided on this motion if allowed to vote freely. John Manley and Mr. Harper are framing Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan in a Pearsonian perspective; internationalist intervention in failed states is the right thing to do and consistent with values that Canadians cherish. Mr. Dion faces a tough choice. If he chooses to abstain from voting on this important motion, he loses his credibility on speaking on the most important issue facing Parliament today, Canada’s role in Afghanistan. If Dion whips his caucus into voting against, there will be an open revolt against his leadership. If Dion allows a free vote on the motion, internal divisions within the party will be counted as if a roll call and the public division will emphasize that the Liberal party is only a loose collective of membership card holders waiting for the next leadership review.

(a) Canada secure a partner that will provide a battle group of approximately 1,000 to arrive and be operational no later than February 2009, to expand International Security Assistance Force’s security coverage in Kandahar;

A move entirely consistent with a recommendation from the Manley Report. A realistic move to shift some of the weight to a partnering NATO country.

(b) to better ensure the safety and effectiveness of the Canadian contingent, the government secure medium helicopter lift capacity and high performance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance before February 2009.

This is important for Canada’s success in Afghanistan. UAVs are recommended for road surveillance especially during the night in order to spot and help neutralize Taliban fighters planting IEDs at the sides of roads used by the Canadian military and aid workers.

ABC News: Suicide bombers being sent to Canada

ABC News is reporting that a “graduation ceremony” for suicide bombers was held along the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan on June 9th. Some of the bombers are intended for striking within Canada.

Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9.

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

abc_canadian_070618_ssh.jpg
ABCNews.com photo caption: “These recruits stand ready to target Canada.”

Of course, this may simply be a propaganda campaign by al Queda and the Taliban. It is not certain if the Taliban has the means to strike within Canada and individual suicide bombing has not been common in North America (I cannot think of one incident). Further, a suicide bomb strike within Canada would only strengthen the relatively shaky resolve that Canadians have in the Kandahar mission, an outcome that wouldn’t seem to be consistent with Taliban objectives. Of course, this quote from a Taliban commander indicates that their objective may simply be revenge:

“These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places,” Dadullah says on the tape. “Why shouldn’t we go after them?”

Taliban tortured? Some context.

From the second last page of an Al Qaeda training manual found in Manchester England from a terrorist safe-house:

Lesson Eighteen

PRISONS AND DETENTION CENTERS

IF AN INDICTMENT IS ISSUED AND THE TRIAL BEGINS, THE BROTHER HAS TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING:

  1. At the beginning of the trial, once more the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security [investigators] before the judge.
  2. Complain [to the court] of mistreatment while in prison.
  3. Make arrangements for the brother’s defense with the attorney, whether he was retained by the brother ‘s family or court-appointed.
  4. The brother has to do his best to know the names of the state security officers, who participated in his torture and mention their names to the judge. [These names may be obtained from brothers who had to deal with those officers in previous cases.]
  5. Some brothers may tell and may be lured by the state security investigators to testify against the brothers [i.e. affirmation witness], either by not keeping them together in the same prison during the trials, or by letting them talk to the media. In this case, they have to be treated gently, and should be offered good advice, good treatment, and pray that God may guide them.
  6. During the trial, the court has to be notified of any mistreatment of the brothers inside the prison.
  7. It is possible to resort to a hunger strike, but it is a tactic that can either succeed or fail.
  8. Take advantage of visits to communicate with brothers outside prison and exchange information that may be helpful to them in their work outside prison [according to what occurred during the investigations]. The importance of mastering the art of hiding messages is self evident here.
  9. - When the brothers are transported from and to the prison [on their way to the court] they should shout Islamic slogans out loud from inside the prison cars to impress upon the people and their family the need to support Islam.
  10. - Inside the prison, the brother should not accept any work that may belittle or demean him or his brothers, such as the cleaning of the prison bathrooms or hallways.
  11. - The brothers should create an Islamic program for themselves inside the prison, as well as recreational and educational ones, etc.
  12. - The brother in prison should be a role model in selflessness. Brothers should also pay attention to each others needs and should help each other and unite vis a vis the prison officers.
  13. - The brothers must take advantage of their presence in prison for obeying and worshiping [God] and memorizing the Qora’an, etc. This is in addition to all guidelines and procedures that were contained in the lesson on interrogation and investigation. Lastly, each of us has to understand that we don’t achieve victory against our enemies through these actions and security procedures. Rather, victory is achieved by obeying Almighty and Glorious God and because of their many sins. Every brother has to be careful so as not to commit sins and everyone of us has to do his best in obeying Almighty God, Who said in his Holy Book: “We will, without doubt. help Our messengers and those who believe (both) in this world’s life and the one Day when the Witnesses will stand forth.” May God guide us.

When taken into Afghani custody, did the al Qaeda training take over? Curiously, detainees did not claim torture at the hands of Canadians, but only by Afghani jailers. Detainees are only held by Canadian Forces for at most 96 hours before being handed over to Afghan authorities.

Of course, this does not absolve Canada from their duty to protect the human rights of even the most despicable human beings. However, we should be aware that claiming torture is standard operating procedure for those trained by, or in association with al Qaeda.

The Globe and Mail’s Graeme Smith has been covering this story all week from Kandahar and details horrible accounts of abuse in this article.

I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: I suspect the claims because the Taliban have been trained to claim such mistreatment while imprisoned. However, the Afghan prison system is one of the last places where I’d want to be incarcerated.

The Canadian government is also trying to balance a couple of important objectives here. They must help the Afghani state to stand on its own two feet, and this includes the establishment of a prisons/corrections department of the government. But, they must balance this with being cognizant of human rights.

Consider this from an interview with Afghani ambassador Omar Samad from CTV NewsNet:

“We don’t kiss murderers, and I’m not saying that anyone who is detained is a murderer, but we are dealing with very vicious dangerous people. Every day we are facing normal citizens being beheaded, normal citizens being blown up, your soldiers being attacked, other soldiers that are being attacked. We’ll not tolerate that. At the same time we are trying to bring rule of law to Afghanistan. Justice system that works in Afghanistan. And so we are working on those things. If there are problems we’ll try to correct them as soon as possible.” — Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad

This point brings me back to an earlier thought. While the opposition is coming down on the mission in Afghanistan, showing concern for Taliban detainees, they are driving a wedge through the support of the Canadian electorate for a effort to establish and maintain human rights for millions of Afghanis, including women and children who for many are only experiencing their rights for the first time. We know that the opposition opposes the mission in Afghanistan. However, on the issue of rights I feel that Dion and Layton are throwing the baby out with the bathwater by trying to sink the Conservatives on the issue of detainees.

The news is inherently foggy as it deals with accounts from some unsavoury characters. One example has emerged from Smith’s story that I link above. Smith quotes Sadullah Khan, the Kandahar NDS chief and senior administrator of the system where most of the torture is alleged to have taken place.

However, in a release today, the Afghani embassy in Ottawa issued a release questioning that particular detail of Smith’s report:

“NDS officials also confirm that their employee rosters for Kandahar do not show any person named Sadullah Khan as having been employed by the agency in the past year. They also clarify that the person in-charge of NDS in the province is a person by a different name.”

One thing is certain, we do not have all of the details and those that we have are questionable, at best. The Canadian government has its own capacity to investigate and I’m hopeful that they are doing what they can to clarify, and if necessary, remedy the situation.

Who will sing a folk song for the women of Afghanistan?

There are times when I cannot understand the logical path that the left takes in order to come to some of their conclusions.

For example, the other day, Stephane Dion floated a trial balloon on his idea that perhaps instead of handing Taliban detainees over to the Afghan people, we should import them and detain them here in Canada!

Nevermind that Dion and Jack Layton’s activist base have been advocating for the release of men linked to al Qeada in Canada and held on security certificates. They advocate that if we can’t deport them back to the backward countries that may torture them, we shouldn’t detain them here but rather release them into the public. Now, consider Dion’s plan: import Taliban fighters for detaining, and failing the stomach to detain them — the logical progression and historical record goes — release them into the general Canadian public when leftwing activists condemn the Canadian government for holding combatants without charge.

Most times, while logic is lacking, left-wing positions can often be explained by a sense of self-loathing as these revolutionaries are dyspeptic of their presence in our modern Western civilization.

Let’s look deeper into the intellectual pretzel of Dion and Layton’s crowd.

In a March 2007 article in the Globe and Mail, Amir Attaran wrote:

Transport our detainees from Afghanistan to prisoner-of-war camps in Canada. This sounds awful, but that is a shrill and unhistorical analysis. Starting in June of 1940, Canada transported about 40,000 German and Italian enemy combatants to this country and held them in camps in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Those enemies were treated humanely. They were fed even as Canadians suffered under food rationing. They were given democracy classes, so they could spread those ideas in their fascist homelands. When the war ended, they went home; some returned as immigrants.

All of this was expensive, but Mackenzie King decided Canada should uphold the Geneva Conventions — and we did.

Not only would this option show Canada at our humanitarian best, but it poses vital questions. If Mackenzie King could imprison 40,000 European enemies without devastating Canada’s war effort, then how can it be seriously contended that Stephen Harper cannot now imprison roughly 40 Afghan enemies (the number detained by the Canadian Forces from 2002 through mid-2006)? Mr. O’Connor says the Canadian Forces will always follow the Geneva Conventions. If that’s so, why does the military fail to provide Geneva protections to 0.1 per cent of detainees, compared to the Second World War historical norm?

The heart-rending answer to these questions appears to be race. Canada’s inability to treat European and Afghan enemies on equal terms indicates that our military and foreign-policy establishment may still be dominated by a Eurocentric ethos. The current detainee policy suggests a subterranean racism that lags decades behind Canada’s contemporary reality as a multicultural state.

A primary concern for the Allies and Canadian forces during the Second World War was that Germans and Italians would escape or be liberated by their comrades and rejoin the fight. The removal of 40,000 prisoners from the European theater made sense strategically. If Canadians have captured 40 Taliban fighters, this number is certainly more manageable (and less significant of a strategic concern) when it comes to detainment.

Layton and Dion and their supporters on the left are inconsistent when it comes to their claimed ideology of rights and their policy position that we ought to pull out of Afghanistan. Why do these leaders want to abandon the Afghan mission when the alternative is unthinkable from a human rights perspective? To the Liberals, was the Charter a practical document for Canadian rights or does it represent a global ideal? Women in parliament? Girls in schools? The crackdown by the Taliban would be horrendous if Canada left. In fact, why was World War II worth the fight and why would Layton and Dion suggest that we shirk our responsibility to stop fascism in Afghanistan? Is it the Eurocentric ethos of the NDP and Liberal Party? Or is it more consistent with the trend of reductio ad americanum practiced by the left?

Who is Amir Attaran? Unfortunately, he’s close to the only seemingly sane faction of the Liberal Party. The Globe and Mail provides some information:

Amir Attaran, now Canada research chair in law, population health, and global development policy at the University of Ottawa, was a research fellow at the Kennedy School during Mr. Ignatieff’s time at the Carr.

He ran afoul of an influential faculty member and the school’s administration over a line of academic inquiry he insisted on pursuing, and found himself about to be booted out.

He brought his troubles to Mr. Ignatieff, who gave him office space and mentoring support until he could find another academic home. “Michael stuck up for me against some extremely nasty attacks,” Prof. Attaran says.

Tous ensemble in a twisted stew of self-loathing. It is illogical to suggest that we must transport Taliban fighters to protect them from torture while advocating that we withdraw from Afghanistan leaving women and vulnerable minorities to certain dehumanization.

Canada is in Afghanistan to enable the vulnerable to stand up, but we must also work to protect the human rights of all Afghanis. While war never happens as planned and calls for constant refinements to operations on the ground, we must always work towards maintaining our fundamental principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law so that others may enjoy them too.

The Code of the Centre Block Schoolyard

“The Prime Minister should apologize” whines Her Majesty’s Loyal Official Opposition in reaction to Stephen Harper’s latest attack on the sensibilities of the Liberal Party. This week in the House, in reaction to a call from Stephane Dion for the Defense Minister to resign, the Prime Minister retorted,

“I can understand the passion that the leader of the Opposition and members of his party feel for Taliban prisoners. I just wish occasionally they would show the same passion for Canadian soldiers.”

How dare he? Who does he think he is? Liberals are offended!

Of course, this brings up thoughts of the recent incident involving the Prime Minister and his quoting from a recent Kim Bolan article (which was included in Quorum that day, no less) which suggested familial ties between a Liberal MP and the Air India investigation. Outrage from the Liberal benches! How dare he? The Parliamentary Press Gallery went into a tizzy and questioned the Prime Minister’s tactics and found him to be quite rude in his reading.

Of course, baiting the Liberals is turning into a sport for Mr. Harper. The now famous attack ads on Stephane Dion famously put a spotlight on the Opposition Leader’s whine “This is unfair!” to then-opponent and fellow leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff.

The main street Canadian, as PMO strategic whiz Patrick Muttart’s psychographics must show, is not very likely to sympathize with the pain from the verbal bruises that Stephen Harper is handing out to the Liberal benches. Frankly, those of us who live outside of the Parliamentary bubble understand that tattling to the adults (the public and the press, in this case) in the face of Prime Ministerial bullying isn’t likely to earn much respect. In fact, this is a thread on which the press, by sympathizing with Dion, is finding itself out of touch with Canadians. When Peter MacKay allegedly implied that his former girlfriend Belinda Stronach was a dog, the press covered the incident for two weeks and while claiming that the public was being turned off by the degrading decorum in the House, the press felt that the story had enough traction to sell tons of newsprint. We weren’t sold on the outrage; we were tuned in because of the same reason why kids drop what they’re doing and converge whenever they hear the far off words “fight, fight, fight” during recess.

Similarly, when Stephane Dion whines that Stephen Harper is being unfair, he is not appealing to our sense of sympathy, he is unwittingly appealing to our schoolyard instincts. Nobody likes the whiner and his whiny mother in the press gallery who called our parents and the principal (besides, we’re pretty sure that our dad can beat up his dad). Instead, we all like the guy with the snappy comeback.

Too bad for Stephane, he can’t whine and take his ball home. This Parliament is Harper’s and our pal Steve is the king of the court.

LIBERAL DEBRIEF: I figured that this would be necessary. This article does not condone bullying. It is in fact a piece of creative writing that describes the parliamentary arena as if it were a schoolyard full of children. The piece describes the dramatis personae including the bullies, the victims, the other kids, the parents and even the principal. If Harper is the bully and Dion is the victim, we’re the other children and we act as such (like it or not), and we reinforce the model. As parliamentary observers, we tend to reflect the psychology of schoolyard children when it comes to observing Harper being aggressive with Dion. When Dion cries “unfair”, he doesn’t get sympathy from the rest of us.

Schoolyard analogies aside… Dion is all grown up now, and he has a job in federal politics.

UDPATE: The National Post weighs in (3/24):

“This is certainly a pattern,” Mr. Dion told Parliament, referring to the Prime Minister, “where he acts as a bully and I don’t want to follow this way, I don’t want to do that.”

Then don’t follow it, Mr. Dion. Or do. Either way, stop whining like a child whose older brother just got a bigger lollypop. Act like a leader, or at least a grownup politician. Accept that in the cut-and-thrust of political jousting your opponents are going to make allegations against you and your party every bit as outsized as the ones you make against them.