Tuesday, January 05, 2010

One Damn Yankee Who Should Take A Good Long Walk Off A Short Pier.

Bruce Rolston indicts a certain nuisance to the cause of responsible journalism and exposes in exacting detail the silliness of the claims of a Canadian "cover-up" in the recent deaths in Kandahar of Michelle Lang, George Miok, Kirk Taylor, Zachery McCormack, and Garrett Chidley. You'll need to read this Torch entry, and follow its links, to get a full sense of the rubbish involved.

While we're tossing around words like "cover up," it's worth remembering that embedded American reporters are bound by a little-known Defense Department regulation titled "Release of Photos and Information Pertaining to War." It prohibits journalists from taking photographs of the "ramp ceremony" at Kandahar Air Field whenever a brave American soldier is killed and his international comrades honour him in parade as he's being delivered into the airplane to be brought home in a box.

If you're a Canadian journalist at KAF, the Canadian military would wonder what the hell was wrong with you if you did not cover the ramp ceremony for a dead Canadian soldier with a full accounting, and photography, too, and film at 11.

When dead American soldiers arrive back stateside, their homecoming tends to be all quiet-like, behind the wire, within the confines of military airfields. When dead Canadian soldiers arrive back at Trenton, Ontario, their homecoming is a solemn and very public event, and the funeral cortege is witnessed by hundreds of wellwishers who brave the wind and the rain and stand on the overpasses of the King's Highway, which we've renamed in their honour. The procession then runs straight through the heart of Toronto, Canada's largest city.

The French, meanwhile, prohibit disclosure of the last names of their fallen soldiers because, well, I don't know. Perhaps it's because they're just being inscrutably French. No matter. Those are their rules, and they warrant our full respect.

Not saying we're better. Just different. But not given to covering up these things, thanks.

There are now at least as many American soldiers as Canadian soldiers serving under Canadian command in Kandahar. So when a fine American dies in battle, Canadians follow American protocol. If one of our allies expects us to pray kaddish at the passing of their dead soldiers, then we bloody well pray kaddish and be right smart about it.

Operational security rules require another order of obligation altogether. They're intended for operational security. Sometimes the rules seem daft. When I was in Kandahar recently, I was gently but firmly instructed against describing in any great detail or taking photographs of the insides of those weirdly-named "Light Armoured Vehicles" where so many of our people have died. Is the public ill-served by this minor fact-reporting bother? I hardly think so.

It's quite right and proper that journalists report the facts and tell the truth about what our soldiers do in Afghanistan, without any regard whatsoever to the degree that their work might cause pants-wetting among the military brass or its legion of public-affairs officers. But the purpose of journalism is not to endanger the lives of the men and women who guard us while we sleep, or to disrespect those who die while doing so.

As for operation-security quarrels journalists might have with the Canadian Forces, they can be settled in two ways. We resolve them quietly and by civil conversation and adjudication, now, or we set them aside entirely, and revisit them later, when we bloody well win.

This is war. Get used to it.

Update: Nix pier-walk notion. Damn Yankee can't even walk back into his own country properly.


Blogger EBD said...

"I...don't know what's worse: the chance of Canada slipping a few notches on the global Index on Censorship rankings, or just sitting back and allowing the Canadian state to facilitate and support the circulation and dissemination of such filthy, toxic and dangerous libels."

Don't underestimate or ignore the extent to which the state, in one or other of its phalanges, promotes and enforces an entirely different perspective than your own, or the extent to which the unelected state apparatus - here and abroad - provides fertile ground for "filthy, toxic and dangerous libels" by giving them purchase under a generalized, sanctioned, touchy-feely rubric of a faux "multiculturalism." As Vlad noted, the HRC's and their like have - in effect only, I'd like to think - been acting the as political helpmates to baldly anti-Semitic perspectives. One of the HRC's arms, for example, rendered a decision that ordered a Christian minister to refrain in perpetuity from expressing his views on homosexuality (views I utterly disagree with, I feel compelled to add) not just in publicly-disseminated forums but in his private emails as well, whereas a filed complaint about far, far, stronger, er, proscriptions coming from an Islamist quarter - which included statements that homosexuals should be "exterminated", that Jews "spread corruption and chaos on earth," and that "anyone who leaves Islam, cut his neck" - was summarily dismissed on the grounds that the targets were "general, broad and diversified categories that do not constitute an 'identifiable group' under Section 13 of the Act," and that the passages "do not seem to promote 'hatred' or 'contempt' according to the criteria set forth in the...." etc., etc.

The "willful blindness" you noted can easily be enabled and writ large, under the radar, by state employees who hide behind generalized, commonly-accepted buzz-words terms like "equality" and "multiculturalism," in direct - and sneaky - opposition to saner, more widely-held views. Dr. Dawg, as a notable example, is an aggressively statist, former state-employee who foments particular, commonly-held, well-embedded views. Put differently, unknown bureaucrats, given the opportunity, are more than eager to commence to administering, fostering, and abetting entirely different viewpoints than your own. We'd like to think not, but the evidence is otherwise. Whenever the state is called in to intervene, and to limit the parameters of a particular cultural dispute - and that's what this is, a cultural dispute - a whole lot of twiddle-thumbed bureaucrats of unknown provenance might heartily concur with the official creation of such a process, and jump gleefully to assume the position, but we shouldn't necessarily trust them; at the very least, it would be a fatal mistake to assume that they hold the same view.

"I am content in the knowledge that in the real-world struggle against bigotry and prejudice and antisemitism and misogyny, our friends are far more numerous, and more brave."

That's a far stronger reed to hang your hat on. Speech, welcomely, is the final arbiter, because rationality takes its opponents out at the ankles like nothing else does. Engaged and energized speech will have far more effect in the long run than the proscriptions of an anti-Western bureaucrat who's been appointed to monitor and, er, limit and steer the speech of the toothless proles. You speak; "Dr. Dawg" and others make a constant, hammering case that their ilk should be, and must be, the arbiters of speech. Never forget the nature of the ilk who support government restrictions on speech

I understand that you're not necessarily suggesting that government-directed proscriptions on speech would be an effective weapon against global anti-Semitism.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Thanks for your articulate and well-argued commentary, EBD (even if does appear under the wrong post).

One thing I don't think adds up, if you're referring to antisemitism, is this: "and that's what this is, a cultural dispute."

True, some cultures at various periods in their history appear to have antisemitism (and other forms of racism, and misogyny) almost hard-wired into them. But that is no reason to think these pathologies are permanent or defining cultural attributes (although in some cases, it may well be so), and neither are these pathologies unrelated to power relationships within various cultures. This is true perhaps especially in "Arab cultures" at the moment, cultures with deeply engrained weaknesses for xonophobic and antisemitic tendencies, where the ruling regimes work overtime to blame Israel (and the Jews, and the Americans) for social and economic problems, thus keeping everyone's eyes away from their own rancid place in the scheme of things, and their own primary culpability.

My reading of history, such that it is, suggests that it usually takes a hell of a lot of hard work - propaganda, discriminatory laws, the strict enforcement of religious or social codes, and so on - to make people hate and fear one another.

of course that might not have been what you meant, in which case . . .


11:44 PM  

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