Friday 28 Oct 2016

Terrorism in Ottawa
Bob Stark

Loons to the Left of me, loons on the Right, here I am stuck in the middle again.

Gerry Rafferty, "Steeler's Wheel."

We are still in very early days concerning the 'terror' attacks in Quebec and in Ottawa. In that regard, I and I hope most of us, are still processing these events in terms of their causes as well as their impact on our democracy, including our access to the grounds and buildings on Parliament Hill.

Indeed, there is even a debate in some quarters concerning the use of the word 'terrorism' or even 'terror,' to describe these recent events. Some prefer to call them criminal acts by lone-wolf nut-bars who had spurious connections, if any, to ISIL.

In reading various commentators and experts on this particular issue, I would agree with many that the word "terror" or "terrorism" have no definitive definitions. It all depends, to some extent, as Albert Einstein said, on where one stands in the universe. From where Ronald Reagan once stood, one man's "Terrorist" was another man's "Freedom Fighter." The point being that these words are fluid and, as such, the more important issue is who uses these words, when and for what purpose.

From my perspective, I suggest some acts are those of 'terror,' such as the massacre of fourteen women in Montreal, or the Batman-movie murders in the USA, involved screwed-up lone wolves ,with spurious or murky political motives. The word, "terrorism," we might reserve strictly for highly organized acts of terror, directed against political entities, countries and their citizens. These “targets” are political 'enemies,' of the terrorist. Such attacks have the goal of changing the political landscape either directly by overthrowing the current regime or indirectly by implanting fear throughout the populace.

In past few days, I have politely argued with some of my Leftist friends who abhor President Harper's and the media's use of the word "act of terror,” particularly in reference to our fearless leader who, to be frank, couldn't wait to make the self-serving, direct link of these attacks to ISIS and our 'war on terrorism'.

I have no use for Harpoon's tactics, other than his hugging Crown Prince Trudeau. In the case of the Ottawa attack, we had the premeditated murder of an unarmed soldier standing guard at the War Memorial, a sacred spot for most, if not all Canadians. After committing that brutal and chicken-shit act, the fellow heads to Parliament Hill. His intent is to murder democratically elected politicians in our most sacred democratic institution. The result was the complete lock down of the city's downtown area and all civil servants, in the immediate area, no matter how far from the incident. I counter-argue, what else would you call that, but an act of terror!

Moreover, in the moment of such violence unfolding, when it is not clear whom the attackers are, and given recent world events, one of the first things one thinks of is 'terrorism.” Let's not forget that early and prolonged media reports suggested that there were three simultaneous separate incidents taking place, at the Cenotaph, Parliament Hill and even the Rideau Center, a shopping mall. CBC, in the Chateau Laurier, was in lock down. Who knew, for sure, in those early hours, and given Canada's involvement in Iraq, that we weren't actually under attack by bona fide members of ISIL? No one did.

In the early morning Wednesday, on Clobber landing, Clobber was awaking to the first reports from Ottawa, so he hugged his tattered teddy bears and repeated to them what one commentator had said:  "this changes everything.”

As the day's events unfolded, it became increasingly clear that some reports, such as the alleged Rideau Centre incident, were erroneous. What we were dealing with was one goon-fuck who'd acted alone, armed with one hunting rifle. Yet, many, including the country's 'leader,’ kept using the word "terrorism," in reference to the assailants and their vicious acts over the past week. They continue to do so even now, a few days after all events that unfolded this past week and more information becomes known.

I have a huge problem with that, my fellow Canadians.

A result of repeating these words is an increase in the subliminal red-alert bulletins, as well as causing more fear within, among and between us, where, in the present case, every Muslim can automatically become a suspected terrorist in the eyes of many of the public. Yes, I have friends that think that stupid thought. I have seen related comments on social media about the Ottawa shooter "hiding under a burqa,” or not getting his 72 virgins because there are none in Hell. There are also calls to "send these people home,” an interesting dilemma, since both crimes were conducted by Canadian-born young men with mental health issues; they had their passports revoked or rejected.

In reference to the latter, one of the policies we need to review is the revocation of passports as a way of dealing with 'self-radicalized' Canadian youth chomping at the bit to fly overseas. Even the police seem to suggest such a law may be counter-productive in their attempts to curb these deranged individuals and their tendency towards violence. Such a policy would alienate them which then alienates them further and, thus, their acts becomes not only homegrown, but expressed here. In any case, it is only after the facts reveal, ever so slowly, that proper judgement is possible.

Let's start with police report on the rifle used in the Ottawa incident. By the time, the fellow headed into the Parliament buildings, he apparently was down to five bullets. Does that sound like a well-panned 'terrorist' attack? The London Bombings and other such mass assaults, as in Spain and Bali, took advance planning, by many people.

Members of ISIL did not commit the attacks this past week. These attacks were perpetrated by wackos; 'converts' to Islam that became 'radicalized' reading or viewing ISIL propaganda on-line. They were acts of 'terror' but I would not call them acts of 'terrorism,’ at least until more evidence comes forth showing a more direct link/connection to, and direction from, ISIL.

Let's not the use of the word "terrorism,” anymore; neither attack on Canadian soldiers was an act of 'terrorism.’ In that regard, the opposition leaders, including Elizabeth May, whom the media seems to forget is also the leader of a political party in this country, seemed to understand that. For whatever self-centered political reasons, did not go jumping on board Harper's Ferry, singing "hallelujah brother Stevie.”

Whether or not one agrees with the government's decision regarding Iraq or Syria, no one should be naive enough to be in shock when such incidents taken place, or will in the future, by wannabe crazies or real deal ISIL terrorists, due, in part, to that decision. Nor should we be lead down any path that, in the guise of further protecting our freedoms, further erodes them.

Early indications are that the government is rushing to enact legislation, which many consider dangerous in timing and possible content. The police say they need more resources, not necessarily more laws. Even if new laws are required. Even if former laws are revised or resurrected, how about that gun registry folks, we need a long, long analysis of such laws. I, for one, am not reassured by previous tactics used by the Cons. This includes its ongoing battle with the Supreme Court of Canada, including its Chief Justice. The right balance between security and civil rights is what we need. That takes discussion and review.

I have many times walked upon the grass of Parliament Hill; to protest, well, notwithstanding one night sitting by the eternal flame, with Teresa Peters, against many different political concerns, both national and international, from Selma, Alabama, to Domestic Violence in Canada, or watch the end of cross-country women's parade against poverty.

I have sung political songs on Parliament Hill, that, if I had done so in many other countries would have, at the very least, led me to drawing the card about going directly to jail, "Do Not Pass Go,” as did Pussy Riot, in Russia. Ideally, new legislation won’t impinge freedom to protest, peacefully. In this regard, we must also maintain our vigilance.

This is the time for the whole country, metaphorically, to appoint ourselves to the Senate, the place of second, sober thought and on all sorts of issues, from the political to the social. Yep, the Crown Prince is right about looking at root causes, something our doorknob leader 'couldn't care less' about, as he has shown re the murder of native women in this country. In the current malaise, let's focus, as well, on our constant ignoring of mental health issues in his country, including those cases involving soldiers who often suffer from PTDS, lest we forget. We send our soldiers overseas, but the ones, which return as damaged goods, we shuffle off to Buffalo.

As I try to let the loony emotions expressed from both the Left and the Right ends of the spectrum pass over me, I also am incorporating Andrew Coyne's harsh realism that we're just getting started here folks. Brace yourself for more violence.

In that regard, we lost our innocence years ago. We are part of a western world that does not, never has, understood the Middle-East and we keep going back for more, no longer as peacekeepers but to fix some of our own created problems, and the internal conflicts between political or religious entities that do not seem to want to resolve their own differences. Now, we're in a fight with radicalized Islamists who grew up watching their country blown apart and loved ones, killed, in part, by George W Bush and company. Should we be shocked and surprised that such groups have risen from the ashes and threaten us?

I don't condone these clowns; pondering causation does not equal providing 'justification.' I yelled at the TV screen the first night they showed those poor people stranded in the mountains of Iraq with ISIL bearing in on them, for the slaughter, "Somebody do something.” If ever I thought there was the need for Western Intervention, it was then.

That is not an endorsement of the current and ongoing military action by the 'coalition,' a word, in this case, which, ironically, President Harper endorses. Again, whether one agrees or not in sending any military help, the cold war fact is that we are at war. At the same time, I also find some of the emotions and responses, as expressed, though heart-felt and normal given the circumstances, getting to be a little bit over the top.

The other night, 'The National' started with a replay of the video released by the police of Mr. Nut Bar's activities, from the War Memorial entry to his rushing up to and into the House of Parliament. That's fine. The video had released a few hours beforehand, but what was with the Law and Order soundtrack underneath it. "Tune in tomorrow night for another exciting episode of 'CBC Cops' starring Peter the Great.” Honestly, how many times do we need to see the footage of a dying soldier? I have no words.

Now, to really piss off some people. Let us, rightfully, celebrate the actions by Kevin Vickers and those who tried to save the life of Nathan Circillo. Alas, spare me the "Ottawa-Strong" signs and the pictures of our flag bearing mottos like "These colours do not run.” In fact, quite a few people, that day, and understandably, ran like fuck to get away from one fellow carrying a gun. Who among us would not have done the same?

I do not wish to make light of our own tragedy. We should all grieve, reflect and join. Still, in reference and comparison to other world events, during the bombing and destruction of Gaza, when the smoke cleared, stores and markets reopened; people got on with their day, albeit for the gathering of necessities, not sure when, but knowing, more bombs were coming; that and the burial of their all too numerous and mostly innocent dead. Israelis have survived throughout constant missiles launched by Hamas. Now that's bravery.

Strange is the world or community under duress, but can we now please tone it down a bit on the proud, strong, and free shite. Of course, we will go on. We are not unique human creatures in that regard. Some of the rhetoric in that regard is quite silly. This was not 9/11.

As I myself struggled with these issues, I noted a Face Book posting that quoted Malala Yusafzai, who a few days ago opined, "To fight terrorism, don't send weapons, send teachers.” Hard to argue with her 'street creds' being a survivor of a political act of terror, but I couldn't help but think at the time, that although that is a noble goal, it may also be a tad naive. Still, it is more positive and embracing than the rabble on the Right suggesting, as one did on Sun News Channel, that all Muslims are jihadists. Yep! That'll help! Japanese concentration camps again, anybody.

We are a nation of 'immigrants.' Let us not turn against one another. As the Crown Prince said, let us walk forward side by side with Muslim Canadians who abhor these recent acts as much as other Canadians do. Let us not allow fear of the other to become our internal enemy.

The better example is one of the residents of Cold Lake, AB, a military town from where our jets left to go to Kuwait, who helped clean up the mess after local yahoos vandalized a mosque. The people of Cold Lake put up signs saying "This IS your home,” and, as one said, "This is the land of the free.” Amen. Thank you to the people of Cold Lake. That is a reflection of our better selves.

Shall we abandon all efforts to 'de-radicalize' Canadian-born wayward souls who fall under the spell of ISIS and other radical groups? In one case this past week, it seems such efforts, including those by the police, failed and led to the loss of live. These are tough, but serious, choices. There are no guarantees of the success of new draconian legislation rushed through by the Harper-ites, in stemming further violent attacks.

In the coming weeks and months, let us have a calm but very serious debate about all this, as well as our role in the world and current events.

ISIL, Ebola and Climate Change

Do we have our priorities straight? Do we act in our best interests?

One last, very harsh fact for some to consider, if one of our aircraft ends up being responsible for 'collateral damage,’ that is, better known as the death of innocent civilians, are you okay with that? No matter how many pre-cautions taken, including turning back on any individual mission, accidents will happen. I'm not convinced we've thought this one through completely, and ya can't make any such decision of engagement, based on a one-day debate in the House of Commons. Let's not bury our heads in the desert sands of Iraq or Syria.

The loss of our soldiers, under any circumstances, is a grim tragedy. Respect and honour are essentials parts of their burial. They do stand on guard for thee, as do the police, at all levels. Every one of them serves their country, because they choose to do so, and in doing so, all are willing to die for it and us; in Ottawa, that poor kid, a reservist for God's sake, died guarding the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

For those in Ottawa, who haven't done so, you should walk to the Cenotaph, if not soon, then on Remembrance Day. One can still be against War but one should never forget the ones who serve and die, so young, so terribly young.

RIP Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent.

Let's leave on a lighter note. Ya must love Canadians and their politeness, even in the face of tragedy. In that, the Ottawa police clearing the streets, asking people to move away "please" and "sorry" and "thank you.” Then the cops, with guns, running down the streets of Halifax to deal with another potential incident. At one point, they go whipping past some dude strolling along, shopping bags in hand, who didn't even flinch! "Must be a sale on at Tims.”

Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.

More by Bob Stark:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.

Please report typos or corrections
to the editor