After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Harper's Ferry is really Harper's photo folly

When I first ran across this article at Cathie from Canada's it left me enraged enough that I had to take a good eight hours to calm down enough to write this post. You see, yesterday lunchtime I heard about Harper flying to pick up evacuees and bring them from Cyprus back to Canada. He was leaving the media and his staff to maximize seating availability for those evacuees yet he kept three communications staffers and his staff photographer. At the time I posted a comment at the top of this thread at Cathie's where I admittedly was being quite cynical in believing this was more motivated by political needs than actual humanitarian concern for the evacuees. This was based on the combination of Harper's endorsement of the Israeli response to their two soldiers being taken last week along with eight others killed in the process by Hezbollah as a "measured" response and his unwillingness to back away from it after the seven Canadians were killed, including four children under the age of nine. Harper had altered the decades old policy of not taking sides in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute nor that or the disputes between Israel and her neighbours. Canada's policy was to follow whatever the international law said was appropriate for each circumstance, thereby leaving Canada as a neutral party and able to be an intermediary when possible during these conflicts. This change did not sit well with many, especially many in the Canadian Lebanese community in this country as well as Arab/Muslim groups as well. So there was a clear need for damage control.

If Harper had not taken his staff photographer and communications staff I would have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that humanitarian motives were foremost and political considerations second. Still, I was willing to admit that maybe I was being overly cynical. That ended when I found this article at Cathie from Canada's from the Globe and Mail. After reading it several things became brutally clear. First off, there was no real consideration last week that a major evacuation plan would be needed this despite the actions of Israel in the first 24 hours taking out the airport, bridges, ports, and roadways throughout the country by our PM. That it does not appear there was serious action started until right before or right after the deaths of those Canadians. That this was run out of Ottawa under a very tight command and control operation from the PMO. That instead of immediately going to a 24/7 operations pattern they stayed in standard working hours, which given the time zone difference of six hours complicated things enormously. That Sandra Buckler, Harper's press manager ordered information about the crisis and the evac need to be kept under wraps which is why there was the appearance of nothing happening for several days. That even once they finally started moving on this matter they were days behind other nations, indeed not until Saturday was even a working group put together at Foreign Affairs to start planning and executing the evacuation.

Indeed, it was not until Monday that there was any contact made to get the ships needed to bring our citizens out while other nations had been contracting ships since Saturday. By Tuesday night it became clear that the publicly stated promise of seven ships doing two trips daily was not going to be met, not even close. Then it suddenly is realized that Cypress cannot manage the influx due to vacationers tying up lodgings and airplane seats already so it is decided to shift to Turkey leaving things that much more confused. Now, up to this point I am merely disappointed with how slowly Harper and company recognized the need to get the ball rolling and resources deployed to deal with the coming evacuation madhouse. Still, it is their first major incident of this type and the largest one this country has faced in many decades now, so a certain amount of this is understandable and forgivable. This is after all a logistical nightmare to have to deal with even with everything moving/operating smoothly. Aside from being slow to recognize the need and micromanaging things adding more sand in the gears and not delegating the needed authority to those onsite as should have been done this wasn't something that I could really castigate and hold against Harper. Fair is fair after all, especially since there was no warning that this was going to blow up like it did in Lebanon let alone with such speed.

Now we come to the matter which infuriated me, even though I had already assumed the Harper plane trip/pickup was as much a photo-op and damage control what I have found in this article truly surprised me even given my cynicism. Harper decides to pick up Canadians stuck in Cyprus and give them a ride home, he bails out everyone except his wife and the aforementioned staffers to maximize the seats for the evacuees. The Canadian mission in Cyprus realizes they need to get Canadians there for that pickup and end up asking the Brits for help in getting some to them for the PM to be able to greet and take back with him. Then it turns out the Brits don't have anywhere near enough to fill up the plane with which causes Harper to sit waiting for close to three quarters of a full day for his passengers. His involvement, while certainly nice for the privileged few that ended up on his plane ended up complicating the logistics of this evac at a time when his micromanagement of this matter had already seriously complicated the logistics of this operations. So for the sake of a photo-op and looking like he was "doing something" Harper ended up throwing that much more sand into the logistics machinery of the evacuation.

Imagine, the PM asking for British help to get enough Canadians to fly home. If Harper really was thinking first and foremost of the need to get the maximum amount of evacuees out of the region he would have emptied his plane, sent it without anyone but the pilot, called for a Challenger to take him home instead and then greeted those returnees when they got back to Canada. Instead he puts himself and his inevitable security complications in the middle of an already messed up situation and for what exactly? To look like he is doing something to help the poor Lebanese Canadians that Israel's "measured" response was forcing out of the country in this manner. To look like he was on top of things, to look like he was "in charge". To make up for his less than well received actions to date in this matter. That this was clearly about political calculation and partisan purposes and not simply to "help". Nor was it "brave" of him to do so, after all Cyprus is not exactly being attacked by military assets unlike Lebanon and terrorist/militant rockets and missiles like Israel. This was about his image and to be more concerned with that in the face of a crisis as serious as this one is something NO PM should do and is something that seriously disrespects the office that he holds and indeed in the nation itself IMHO.

I have deliberately toned down my anger over this because otherwise I would be inclined to call him some fairly harsh and personally negative characterizations. It is enough that he has shown yet again he is more concerned with looking like he is doing something than actually doing that something well. This is a very dangerous trait in a head of government, and it showed yet again that Harper does nothing without considering the political advantages to himself and towards gaining his much desired majority by its appearance. Worse, he has shown himself yet again to be more concerned with the interests of other nations and nationalities than he is with his own country and countrymen as witnessed by his refusal to require apology from Israel's killing of those civilians. That he places his own political ambitions before considering the ramifications of making fundamental changes to long standing foreign policy. That once he realized he was in a bad spot because of that he rides into the rescue to look dashing and decisive despite the reality being a total lack of decisiveness when it would have actually done some good last week. This is a really disgusting thing Harper has done here, and something I would not have necessarily believed if someone had told me he would act like before having seen it for myself. I say may have, my expectations from him combined with my cynicism about him might have allowed me to buy into it, but I doubt I would have thought it probable before witnessing the last nine days.


Anonymous Frank Thom said...


Peace be Unto you, i am frankthom from Canada but i stay in nigeria due to the taking care of the unjust such as the blind, the disabled one, the handicapped and all the challenge people. this congregation was found in the year 1987 located at Ibadan Nigeria for the taking care of the unjust people.

i Establish this congregation so that to find an helping hand to those people i have mentioned above.

So all this people are increasing everyday and as they are increasing they need to meet up with those that are complete.

So i urged your congregation to assist me with fiancial support so that all this unjust people will not be thinking and loosing hope in any way. so pls i need your reply very soon.

Mr. Frakthom
Founder of the congregation

Sun Oct 28, 01:13:00 PM 2007  

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