Now, to the actual substance of this post. According to Harper and his Minister of Defence the reasoning behind this restriction of cameras at Trenton is to protect the privacy/dignity of the families of the fallen soldiers. Let us look at this official reason for a minute. First off, according to various family members both from the side that agrees with the Harper decision and from those that disagree one common thread did emerge. That thread being this policy was not discussed by the Harper government with any of these or as far as we know any other military families, indeed Minister O'Connor specifically said he did not speak to any of the families involved this time prior to the announcement of the change in policy. So this is a unilateral policy shift by the Harper government. It was not the result of any requests by the families, it was not the result of any outcry from other families that have gone through this claiming the media was obtrusive and disrespectful of their grief, it was not the result of anything other than the sole desire of the Harper government. Which is their prerogative as a government, but that is not the issue here, the issue here is that the reason this government gave for this unprecedented policy change has no actual connection to reality, as in there is absolutely no evidence to support this premise as having any connection to any desire by families for this change.
Now, why would this government provide a reason that has not got any evidence to corroborate that there was any need or desire from those supposedly being protected by this new policy? On the surface of it this makes little sense. However, when one considers the tendency of this party and leader to lift lock stock and barrel political rhetoric, tactics, and strategies from the Bush/GOP then this explanation makes much more sense. For it is EXACTLY the same official reasoning provided by the Bush Administration when it implemented the same policy to block media access to repatriation ceremonies for its fallen soldiers from Iraq as noted by Dave and Dana at Galloping Beaver here. Consider for a moment just how often we have seen the same rhetoric used by Bushco and the GOP against their liberal opponents that the CPC and Harper specifically has used since gaining office against any of his opposition. The first visit to Afghanistan he claimed Canada would not "cut and run" despite domestic opposition that desired such, except for the reality there was and so far is no such opposition in the Parliament from any side wishing for such an action. Then the very next day he tells PM Karzai that the Canadian commitment is contingent on the survival of his minority government, which given his hard line there at all costs line the day before was really twisted. It contradicted his own rhetoric of the prior day, yet again used for domestic political aims, just like Bushco and the GOP have used the Iraq deployment to cast their opposition as untrustworthy and disrespectful (even disloyal/treasonous) to those in uniform.
Take also their arguments about the "Liberal media conspiracy" against the CPC and Harper. This is lifted from the GOP playbook as well, and there is far less evidence to support this contention in the Canadian media than there ever was in the American media, which given the paucity there is really saying something. However it is very useful to discredit any voices that may show elements of your party/government you do not want to see out there because they could be used to harm your electoral chances, something the American right has exploited to great success and we see Harper and the CPC mimicking at every turn. All the new restrictions on media access including blocking the media from covering Cabinet meetings from the third floor overturning decades of history, restricting the knowledge that a Cabinet meeting is even scheduled/happening, and other restrictions going beyond the usual in the case of a new government. Not to mention the constant refrain about how the media is out to destroy the government, biased against the government, etc. One thing a media is supposed to do is be skeptical of anything a government tells them regardless of party affiliation and ask hard questions, Harper made good use of this when in Opposition yet he wants to not have to face the same as a government unlike all other prior governments?!? Classic media control a la the GOP/Rove playbook.
I could go on chapter and verse with various examples of the CPC and Harper lifting language and rationales in many cases literally verbatim from the GOP/Bush playbook. Trying to dismiss this as an unfair and unreasonable attempt to "smear" Harper with the antipathy many Canadians have towards GWB appears to be the sole defence to this argument, which may sound good does not hold up well when those advancing this argument can provide multiple examples of this copying of the GOP/Bush playbook. Harper has made clear on many occasions over the last decade for his admiration of the success and the means by which it was achieved by the GOP, he in 2002-03 set forth both a policy speech (props to Canadian Cerberus) and paper while acting as the leader of the CA the argument that Conservatives in Canada needed to change directions towards fighting a culture war instead of the more traditional conservatism of Canada. He made clear that social conservatism must be at the heart of this new Conservatism and if this costs them some older/traditional Conservative support and voters so be it. So we know from throughout his political lifetime Harper has on many occasions admired openly and desired to emulate the means by which the GOP has done so well electorally in America the last decade or two, and we know his party has had contacts with their American counterparts (props Canadian Cerberus) including the last election. So trying to argue this is an argument without substance is clearly unsupported by the facts in this matter. Trying to claim this is "Harper derangement syndrome" incidentally is just further evidence of CPCers lifting GOP rhetoric instead of made in Canada rhetoric since this is clearly linked to "Bush derangement syndrome" This being something Charles Krauthammer "diagnosed" in one of his columns a few years ago to explain the antipathy many Americans feel towards Bush instead of accepting the possibility that it is Bush's own policies and actions which created this antipathy. Something I see too many Canadian Conservatives doing the exact same thing with, as well as blaming anything on the Liberals, just like Bush blaming 9/11/01 on Clinton's government. Then there is the automatic and repeated use of the argument that Liberals cannot offer any criticisms with any credibility, again something used by Bush and the GOP against the Dems to sidestep actually having to answer uncomfortable questions.
So that there is plenty of evidence to show this is yet a further adaptation of the GOP/Bush playbook by Harper and the CPC. How does this all show disrespect though to both Canadians and those in our uniform as I state in my headline you ask? Ah, now that is actually very easy to explain. First off, how does this show contempt to Canadians generally? The contempt is in the apparent underlying motive for this change, which is to limit as much as possible the negative imagery of death coming from the Afghanistan mission, especially since Harper went out of his way to adopt the mission/issue as his own from the outset of his time as PM. That motive relies on the premise that the more Canadians see fallen Canadian soldiers returning the faster they will stop supporting this mission and the use of force in Afghanistan. I find that very contemptuous indeed. I happen to have more faith in my fellow Canadians than that. I believe that as long as the public is kept fully informed as to the state of the mission and how it is achieving it's goals, kept fully aware that the mission stays the one they were told it was, and that the reason is a good/moral/legal/righteous one (to quote Cathie from Canada) Canadians will continue to keep strong support even in the face of mounting casualties. Only when Canadians feel these deaths are in a dishonourable mission, or when the government is playing partisan games with the mission and/or is hiding things/lying to them about the reality of this mission would I believe that this effect would occur. To believe Canadians are so weak minded, so cowardly and so afraid of casualties even the service of a just mission shows just how contemptuous this PM and his party is towards Canadians generally. Which when one reads older Harper public appearances like that policy speech/paper I refer to earlier is entirely consistent. After all we are in his words a third rate socialist welfare state, a country one can have so little pride in, a country that is all mouth and no guts on human rights and such, etc.
As for the contempt to the soldiers, that is also simple to see. These men and women are in a profession where they place their bodies in harm's way to protect our nation and the values and systems of law it believes in. They accept that not only are they risking their own deaths but that their profession requires them to be able to kill, with all the psychological and spiritual costs killing other human beings carries with it. They operate in some of the most ugly and depressing environments in human existence, and not just on the battlefield. Being deployed to clean up after a major natural disaster isn't usually a pretty place either. They do all of this so we can live in the country we do. To not be able/willing to face the reality of this when the reality is negative, which death certainly is, shows a degree of moral cowardice that is contemptuous of the sacrifices these men and women make for us. Is it too much to want Canadians to face the bad along with the good, to accept and pay our respects when these fall doing the mission we sent them on? I do not think so and neither do several of the military people I know and have spoken to about this issue. This was also why I was so strongly in favour of lowering the flag, it costs little and yet carries with it great symbolic value and while Remembrance Day is a good thing it is only one day in the year and these deaths and horrors happen on any day of the year. Yet instead of solemnly repatriating our fallen and allowing all Canadians to see it when the body is returned (incidentally for those relatives that are elderly, far away or disabled these broadcasts may well be the only time they see their family member being so honoured) this government wants to minimize it as much as possible. To argue the ceremony in Afghanistan when the plane is loaded is sufficient sounds good, but I also know that it is the repatriation ceremonies on Canadian soil that tends to get the main coverage by the networks and the visual media, and that appears to be what Harper wants to hide from the Canadian public and not protecting the families.
Now, I can accept a change in policy where the media is say restricted from asking questions of family members at these ceremonies unless they come to them to do so, but I strongly believe these ceremonies need to be covered for the Canadian people. After all, the military does this not just for the families but for themselves as well, so to argue this is a totally personal/private/family matter is also inherently incorrect. This is something that should be covered by visual media, one can restrict the media from talking to family members at this ceremony and I wouldn't be upset about it. They could even ask each family member what their feelings are on their loved one ceremony being televised and go case by case that way. This though is something else entirely, it is arrogance and moral cowardice by Harper, and he is using families of soldiers and the fallen soldiers themselves to score political points to further enhance his chances of a majority next time out. In other words it is his partisan political aims that are driving this decision and he is willing to politicize the Canadian military repatriation ceremonies to do so, as well as reversing the flag lowering.
Incidentally, if Harper had only reversed the flag lowering I expect it would have blown over fairly quickly aside from hard core partisans. However having this one-two setup with the flags yesterday and then restricting media access to repatriation ceremonies Harper has guaranteed much greater coverage, and a much greater chance of this being seen in a negative manner by more than just partisans, as well as by being so blatant in copying both action and rationale from the Bush playbook on the Trenton restrictions makes it far easier for non-partisan Canadians to see this as Harper acting like GWB. After all the coffin controversy in the USA has been so extensively covered over the last several years that the general public cannot miss the identical nature of both act and reasoning. Harper is very vulnerable to being seen as too much an admirer of America and the American political process, which is not something the clear majority of Canadians has ever felt was a good thing in their PM's. Indeed, this is why Harper and the CPC kept using the phrase America is our neighbour not our nation in the last election to combat this problem. Which given that Harper governs like he is an American, indeed in some respects he is acting like an American President as opposed to a Prime Minister, is one of his biggest weak spots, so why does he reinforce it so strongly in this matter?
What is really sad is that the Liberals are the ones that sent the troops to Afghanistan. They are the ones that started the policy of flag lowering for deaths in Afghanistan. They are the ones that were quite willing to accept media coverage of returning military bodies with all the potential negatives that could go along with it. The Liberals supported this mission from the outset and also trusted in the Canadian public far more than it appears Harper is willing to. Yet it is Harper and the CPC that have told Canadians time and again how contemptuous of the military and anything to do with it the Liberals are, and how it is only the Conservatives that respect the military and can be trusted to properly support them. Well we are seeing the reality of that here, and it is clear that for all their faults and underfunding of the military the Liberals still had more respect and more moral courage in facing the returning military fatalities than Harper is, and Martin was also a minority PM that wanted a majority next time out. This shows which man is more inclined to play politics with this issue, and yet again it turns out that the rhetoric of Harper and the CPC turns out to be based on their projections of their own faults and failings onto their opponents/enemies instead of reality based.
Incidentally, I live in a military city. I was raised around many that wore the uniform or had in their past. Even my father had if only reserve. I was a cadet in my teens. I was getting ready to shift to reserves while I considered joining the Navy as Reg forces when I ripped apart ligaments in my right knee. By the time that was healed up I was again about to submit my application forms when I started throwing blood clots for no apparent reason. That permanently killed my military career aspirations. So I tend to take military issues seriously, and I do not automatically look at them first through a politically partisan lens. This government/party has spent its entire life going on and on and on about how much more respect they had for the military, how they would restore its honour and self dignity. Yet so far at almost every turn they have instead done what they can to politicize the mission in Afghanistan, used the troops as photo-op pieces while manufacturing phony opposition (cut and run), and done what they can to minimize the coverage of military deaths in Afghanistan with first the flag lowering cancellation and now the media blackout on the repatriation ceremonies.
I would also point out that using WWII comparisons as to why we don't do something doesn't apply on any issue regarding repatriation of bodies since we didn't do so for that war. We left them where they died then. It is only in the last few decades we started repatriating the bodies so the protocols that have been in place until Harper altered them about how they were covered by the media have been consistent since visual media/TV became a significant media source. We also have not been in a serious ground combat environment since Korea, so we have gone three generations almost with no significant military casualties because we have not been in true war zones since then. So the idea of Canadian troops dying in any significant numbers is something most Canadians did not grow up with. The flag lowering allowed a way to remind Canadians of this, and it was a way to remind the soldiers and especially the families of the fallen that their sacrifices have been noticed and acknowledged by the Canadian public. We can lower them for the death of an unelected federal senator, are we saying that we feel the service of a politician is more significant and important than the death of someone in a Canadian uniform? Seems a lot like that to me. However, the flag issue can at least be argued on the grounds of tradition, as flimsy as I may personally find that argument. The closure of repatriation ceremonies to the media though is truly unprecedented in our history AND there is not valid argument presented to date. As I said at the outset the family privacy claim is unsupported by any facts that such was desired by anyone other than the government itself. Harper is placing his own political aspirations for a majority government ahead of respecting the troops and their families with this action. Harper is also showing his contempt for the wider public in both his regard for their ability to accept casualties in a legal/honourable mission and in their ability to see this as a politically driven move remarkably identical to something Bush did to hide the deaths coming from the Iraq war.
Oh yes, before someone leaves a comment about how actions speak louder than words and what do I do to show my support for the troops other than take shots at Harper, don't go there. Since the day we deployed to Afghanistan right after 9/11/01 I put a poppy in my hat, a hat I tend to wear almost everywhere year round. Last year I added a pin commemorating our veterans that Andrew at Bound By Gravity mentioned on his blog last year as well as how to get one. I have on many occasions been told by those in and out of uniform how much they appreciate the fact I wear a poppy to remember that we have troops in a dangerous place and that it is likely to cause many deaths before it is done. Whenever I go to the NS Tattoo I always look for the veterans and go up to them to thank them for their service to our country, and I occasionally see tears in their eyes in gratitude. I always have some symbol of our fallen military dead when I go out, it is not much but it is what I can do in my circumstances so I do it. I also watch all repatriation ceremonies I can to acknowledge these deaths to both pay my own respects as well as to not avoid the ugliness in the reality of warfare while acknowledging the beauty in sacrifices motivated by duty, honour, and a willingness to place our country/society ahead of one's own life/interests. That kind of self sacrifice is something I have a very high regard for. So I tell people now that anyone that tries to claim I am all talk for partisan politics on this issue had best not expect any response.
I would also add this last point, we are not officially in a war. While yes we are in a conflict, and yes it is de facto pretty much a war, we never actually declared this as a war. As Dave at Galloping Beaver points out in the comments at this thread at Canadian Cynic's this is officially a Contingency Operation, not actually a formally declared war, at this is not a minor nit pick despite what I expect some CPCers will argue. So trying to cite examples from prior wars to support this policy shifting with flags and repatriation coverage is also inaccurate because of this. It also puts the lie to anyone claiming this is a "war" and therefore "wartime" rules apply. This is inherently untrue until and unless a formal declaration of war is passed in Parliament and to date this has not happened. So trying to use the "shut up its wartime" defence of this government only further demonstrates the inherent ignorance of those making this argument and their inability to check their own information instead of repeating what their party leaders have told them to think. Not to mention their preference to silence opposition instead of refute/rebut them. The CPC claimed this was how the Liberals operated, yet there was far more internal dissent within the Liberal party when they were governments than we see to date in the CPC, and that according to CPCers those that supported the Liberals worked only from Liberal talking points while the CPCers actually knew their issues and were speaking from an informed and principled position. Well, here is one way to tell just how principled and thoughtful Conservatives are, if they declare this is a war then they know far less about this mission and military matters generally than they are trying to portray themselves as. War is something too serious a term to abuse so easily when we are talking about actual use of military assets/forces.
Well, I could keep on going on this issue, it really has irritated me more than almost anything since the Grewal fraud and Harper's cover-up of it and who was responsible for it. Incidentally, I noticed Grewal is under RCMP investigation again, this time for his practice of collecting and cashing checks made out in his name instead of his riding association account for purposes of reelection. Not to mention the failure to provide tax receipts, here are some examples. If he is charged expect the whole Grewal fraud of last May/June to resurface, and given the massive defence Harper gave Grewal as an honest, honourable man being persecuted unfairly by the media and the Liberals to protect the Liberals from their aledged "scandal: of selling Senate seats for MP votes. Which as all my regular readers know is a lie, a lie created by Grewal and whomever edited the recordings released May 31 05 as the full pristine and uncut recordings by Harper and the CPC after having the recordings in their custody for 12 days after Grewal initially played an 8 minutes segment of the recordings and accused the Liberals of offering a Senate seat to his wife for her and him to cross to the Liberals. If anyone is thinking I am looking forward to this happening if Grewal is charged, you are right. I consider the Grewal fraud last year to be the most serious dirty tricks operation in our political history, and the fact that it was covered up as well as it was at the time by Harper and the CPC one of the most serious miscarriages of justice as well. Not to mention it showing beyond any doubt that Harper's famous person honesty was pure myth, because no one of any honour and/or honesty could have been a party to a cover-up of a potentially criminal offence of fraud and slander let alone aimed at a PM and with the intentin of bringing down a minority government, and Harper wais most certainly a party to that.