Punchline of a Bad Joke: Then Shia turns to him and says, “So Sunni”

Sunni versus Shia cartoonRemember the one about the rabbi and priest walking down a street? Well, those days are over. Move over Judaism versus Christianity, we’re getting into Shia (Shiite) versus Sunni territory now. The unfortunate thing is that the jokes haven’t been crafted yet, only the sad punchlines.

Courtesy of International Business TimesThe latest, Saudi Arabia’s (Sunni) execution of a Saudi Shia cleric, Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, on January 3, has lead to the condemnation of the execution by Iran (Shia), the subsequent storming and pillaging of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and the retaliatory suspension of diplomatic relations with Iran, by the Saudis.

Yemen Sunni Saudi versus Iran Shia proxy conflictThis ungraceful dance is being played out in various Islamic national theatres: Syria, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and of course, how could I forget, in Saudi Arabia. It’s the Coke versus Pepsi rivalry with very serious human consequences.

All the prophesying pundits have cast the bones and come up with various predictions for 2016. Not one includes some sort of resolution, let alone peace, in the Mediterranean theatre. And let’s not fool ourselves any longer: it’s no longer a Middle Eastern regional issue but something that is, albeit, an unpleasant and unpolitically-correct truth to swallow, a religious issue.

I know, I know, most Muslims are not supportive of quashing down their brethren who might view Islam through a different lens, and I know that most targets of all these various violent actions are Muslims themselves. The fact that Muslims are targeting Muslims, whether through rhetoric or through a loaded gun, shows that we really have to start using a religious-cultural lens through which to view what’s happening around the Mediterranean basin.

Back to the Saudis and the Iranians. Given that so many of the issues of 2015 – the migrant/refugee crisis, increasing jihadism, the virulent rise of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, Turkey versus Russia leg cocking, terrorist attacks in various countries around the world etc… – stem from the Syrian conflict, perhaps it’s time we not worry about getting the Syrian government and rebel groups to the negotiating table, but start higher up the pecking order, and work on getting the Iranians and Saudis to the table. Perhaps then some sort of resolution might trickle top down.

In the meantime, I’m going to start working on jokes.

Full text of Hilary Benn’s extraordinary speech in favour of Syria airstrikes – Spectator Blogs

I listened to this speech this morning, and Mr. Benn summarized every sentiment that I’ve had about continuing air strikes and military action against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

Hilary Benn is the shadow foreign secretary for the British Labour Party. There was a vote yesterday in the British Parliament seeking support for engaging in air strikes against ISIS in Syria – Britain has already been participating in air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. The Conservative government of David Cameron needed the support of at least part of Labour party in order for the military action to continue into Syria (the final numbers were as follows: Ayes 397: Conservatives 315, Labour 66. Nays 223: Conservatives 7, Labour 152).

I’ve had some excellent debates in the past few weeks on the issue of continued air strikes against ISIS in the Middle East, and have felt that we have a moral obligation to keep fighting against that evil entity. Benn put all those good arguments into a single, succinct, moving speech. It’s well worth a listen, or have a read of the text below.

______________________

 

Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Before I respond to the debate, I would like to say this directly to…

Source: Full text of Hilary Benn’s extraordinary speech in favour of Syria airstrikes – Spectator Blogs

An Analysis of Current Threats to the Security of Canada

Yemen, Houthi, President Hadi, Mansour Hadi, Shiite, Sunni, Wahhabism, Saudi ArabiaThe 2014 establishment of a so-called caliphate in the Middle East by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Syria (ISIL/ISIS) has greatly increased the incidence of terrorist activities aimed at disrupting global security, of which Canada is a part. An influx of foreign-born jihadist fighters has flowed into ISIL territory, creating a hive of terrorist activity that aims to install a extremist theocracy, based on a severe and restrictive interpretation of Sunni Islam. The foreign-born fighters – travelling extremists – stem from various Western, Middle Eastern, and north and central African countries.

Of particular concern to Canadian interests are, of course, those Canadians who have become radicalized, and then made some sort of leap of faith, if you will, into violent extremism. There are approximately 60-120 Canadian travelling extremists currently abroad and participating in a wide variety of jihadi-related activities, including fighting on ISIL’s behalf in Syria and Iraq, participating in Al-Qaida cells in northern and central Africa, and supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The concern is two-fold: what those individuals are wreaking in the foreign state in which they are currently residing, and what they will do upon their return to Canada. Firstly, these individuals are tarnishing the name of Canada abroad, and it is up to Canadian security agencies to identify and follow the paths of these individuals in order to try to stop them from engaging in terrorist activities.

To this end, the Canadian government has established laws that make it a prosecutable offence to travel and to participate in terrorist activities, as well by coordinating the efforts security agencies such as CSIS, the RCMP, CBSA, CSE, FINTRAC et al… through the Building Resilience Against Terrorism strategy of 2012.

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AFP, Paris AttacksMore so than the recent Russian airline bombing, or the Beirut Shia bombing, the Paris Attacks of November 14, 2015, have given Western countries, Canada included, a sober reminder that these travelling extremists have a mandate to return to their home countries in order to create terror. ISIL’s policy has shifted from being domestic – that is to say, establishing a caliphate – to being global in outlook. They want to take the fight to our doorsteps.

Several of the French attackers were EU citizens who had fought in the Middle East with ISIL. It is not known whether they were brought together in the Middle East, or whether they had been put in touch with each other upon their return to Europe, and was their return to Europe mandated by ISIL leadership as the first of a new global policy of terror.

What does this mean for Canada? The act of terror in France is one that could be reproduced in Canada. Canada, as mentioned earlier, has approximately 60-120 travelling extremists abroad at the moment, and 80 who have returned to Canada after having been abroad. It is of vital importance that Canadian security agencies monitor the whereabouts and movements of those jihadists both in Canada and those abroad.

Given that the only way that ISIL seems to view non-believers is through an extremist lens – all non-believers should be killed – it would be naïve to assume that retracting any support to Canada’s allies in the fight against ISIL in Syria and Iraq would somehow negate the potential of a terrorist attack on Canadian soil. One must also remember that Canadians are particularly global themselves, and we are fortunate that there was no Canadian casualty in the Paris Attacks – there easily could have been.

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Black Sea Fleet in SebastopolI have noted earlier that it was the Paris Attacks that struck a particular chord in Western countries. Given that Russia is on the fringe in terms of Western diplomacy, both over its annexation of Crimea and support of rebel groups in Ukraine, and its support of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, Western sentiment was not particularly empathetic to the killing of the 224 people on the Russian aircraft on October 31, 2015. The incident was tragic, yes, but the heart strings were not pulled. People were more interested in finding out whether the incident was a bomb or a malfunction, than concerned with the loss of life (for more than the read of a headline at least).

As for the Beirut bombing of November 12, the Middle East, and all that it entails, is a distant annoyance. Beirut, that city that once was hailed as the Paris of the Middle East, has not been a tourist destination for decades. The country is notoriously unstable and its politicians prone to being assassinated. Unfortunately, Lebanon is just not bad enough to be on the radar, nor sympathetic enough for people to care. 43 people died in these attacks.

I will caveat that the above interpretation of the Russian airliner and Beirut bombings mean that I do not care for the tragic loss of life. I do care, and deeply. I am, however, trying to understand why the Paris Attacks resonated over the other two incidents.

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One thing to note in all this is the Russian variable. Russia’s backing of Assad has been interesting to say the least. On some level, what do you do if Assad were to be taken out of the equation? The moderates only constitute about 10% of the power in Syria right now, and you can’t rule a country with only 10% support. The power is essentially split between Assad and the extremist rebels (Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL being the strongest). The Kurds have the only successful boots on the ground, and Turkey would like nothing more than to see the Kurds put in their place again. I remember reading an article about an underground blogger from Raqqa (ISIL’s stronghold) who noted the evils of ISIL and also expressed a rather strong negative emotion at the Kurds and Shias. There is no guarantee at all that a peace process would hold given the amount of hate that people seem to have for each other in that region.

Back to Russia. Their support of Assad has forced the Allies to come to terms with a reality that they initially rejected: Assad will have to be part of any peace process and transitional government. The recent Paris Attacks even brought France’s President Hollande to the Russian table looking for support in bombing the bejesus out of ISIL, something that the Americans are more cautious about committing to. And Hollande moved on the idea that Assad maybe can stay at the table a bit longer, something that a few months ago Hollande never would have entertained. This means that there is perhaps a better chance of peace for Syria, which means a reduction on possible threats to Canada, vicariously.

The Turkey-Russian confrontation may have thrown a bit of a wrench into the mix, and though NATO supports Turkey on paper, it is interesting to note that NATO is not condemning Russia either. I suspect that after some grand-standing for another week or two by both leaders, the whole issue will settle down and some meaningful conversation occur on how to move forward on the Syrian crisis, which is of course in Canadian security interest.

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The knee-jerk reaction of Western powers to the Paris Attacks has been to throw blame on the refugee crisis through which Europe is currently suffering. Many countries have moved to throw up further restrictions on refugee movements through the various entry points to the continent. One of the more positive outcomes of the Paris Attacks has been the renewed efforts by Western countries to try to find a solution to the Syrian civil war, and there has even been a softening of the stance against Assad as participating in any solution.

Alan Kurdi, Syrian refugees, refugee crisisBack to the refugees. Canada will be accepting 25,000 refugees by March of 2016. This is a laudable effort by Canadian government to help desperate people fleeing a horrendous situation. For those anti-refugee voices, I will remind that many of those refugees will be Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Mulsims. ISIL followers are Sunni. Not all Sunni’s are extremists. Security checks are being carried out by the UN and by Citizenship and Immigration Canada at the refugee camps in Lebanon from whence the 25,000 refugees are to come.

Pro-radical Poster North Vancouver Oct 2014The only possible issues I foresee with the Syrian refugees that Canada will be accepting are issues of integration if some of those individuals do not receive the support necessary to integrate into Canadian society. Some of the young men and women, if they have difficulty integrating into Canadian society, may become radicalized to a political or ideological objective, perhaps joining Hezbollah or whatever fringe party will likely be born of the fires of any Syrian peace process, but I do not believe that will necessarily mean that they would become jihadists.

shooting_CBCNo, the threat to the security of Canada remains in those Sunni Muslims who have become radicalized, who travel abroad to follow an extremist path and who participate in terrorist activities, and who return to Canada to propagate their twisted world views. Canada needs to remain focused on identifying these in-house threats.

An important tool in identifying threats to the security of Canada is social media, and more should be invested in monitoring social media feeds to identify those individuals who are in conversation with extremists, or even just following extremists on social media. Lone wolf attacks, like the ones that killed Patrice Warren and Nathan Cirillo in 2014, may still occur.

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Oddly enough, I think that the climate change conference in Paris may actually potentially stir an activist in Canada to become an environmental terrorist, in the Weibo Ludwig stream, for reasons that either Canada is not doing enough to stem climate change, or that Canada is implementing climate change action plans too slowly. We have several oil and gas pipeline projects proposed in BC: the Northern Gateway Pipeline (crude oil transported from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, BC), the liquid natural gas (LNG) pipelines (terminating in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, and Squamish, respectively), and the expansion of the extant Trans Mountain pipeline (crude oil transported from Strathcona, Alberta, to Burnaby, BC). There is a potential for a terrorist incident of this critical infrastructure should the pipelines be given the green light by the federal government.

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Lastly, espionage. The world is focused on the Middle East and the terrorist threat emanating from that region. This is the perfect time for an interested foreign power to try to undermine any weaknesses in Canadian cyber security and get at our data. This data could be private or government, and it is valuable. Economic reasons propel much modern espionage, whether human or cyber based. Canada is a wealthy nation with much successful innovation in various sectors, and that innovation, and the information relative to, is worth billions of dollars to very interested parties. We should be particularly vigilant, when all eyes are focused on a particular topic, when public opinion is pressuring government for action, and government reacts with programs and policies that are more tactical than strategic. This is the time when our security will be tested. Cyber isn’t glamorous, and when we read that a worm has infected millions of computer, most of us just think passingly, glad that wasn’t me, and think nothing more. We forget how much of our own personal data is stored in our computers and in our online accounts. That amount of data multiplies exponentially for businesses and government, and data is oh so valuable.

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lady-justice1Threats to the security of Canada can take many shapes, from the obvious to the less so, and it is important for us to be vigilant, in whatever ways we can, and to take stock that there are many people out there, in that grand world, that envy Canada, that seek to directly and/or indirectly harm Canada, and that would like nothing more than to see Canada’s constitutional democracy compromised in some way.

#ParisAttacks

AFP, Paris AttacksWhen I first heard about the Paris attacks today, I was listening to the radio and the hourly news headlined with the attacks: 18 dead the report said, multiple attacks, explosions and shootings. When I arrived home for a late lunch, I tweeted out the BBC article on the attack: 120+ dead.

I feared the worst and that fear has, unfortunately, been realized.

My second thought was that France seems to be a more viable target for these extremists than any other country outside of the Middle East. What is it about France that draws these kinds of attacks? I’m not just thinking of the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier in January of this year, but the subsequent attacks:

JANUARY JUNE Lyon – a lone wolf attacker beheaded his boss and tried to blow up a gas plant;

AUGUST Oignies/Arras –  train attack foiled by passengers;

NOVEMBER Toulon – plot to attack France’s largest naval base foiled (and now I wonder whether the Toulon plot is potentially linked to these Paris attacks).

Is it because of the significant Muslim population (4.7 million, 7.5% of the French population – Pew Research Centre)? But then, Germany parallels France in these statistics. Is it because of some de facto internal socio-cultural practice stemming from France’s colonization of northern Africa? Is there resentment against old colonizers? Is it because many individuals amongst France’s minorities are not, or have not, integrated into French society and live in certain ghetto-ized arrondissements around Paris, and in ghettos in other major French cities?

It is easy in these kinds of moments to experience a knee jerk reaction to such atrocities and to wave the anti-migrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim banner, and brush all Muslims – and I would even add all people who are from the Middle East and look Muslim (as there are many non-Muslim refugees and migrants from the Middle East) – with the same brush of tarring and feathering. We cannot. I do believe that, on some level, that is exactly the kind of reaction that these kinds of ISIL/ISIS militants look to solicit from the West; a racial reaction would help the ISIL/ISIS propaganda machines justify any negative actions carried out on the West.

But that sentiment of Islamophobia is for a different time and place (for an good overview of Muslims in France, see Adam Taylor’s article from the Washington Post on the topic).

My question still remains: why France? Why not the United States, the more obvious target for a terror plot? Is it a simple matter of security, and that US intelligence and security are more robust than that of France? What is the disconnect in France that elicits these kinds of attacks? There will be more attacks, and I wonder whether these brazen attacks will inspire other cells in other countries to do something similar.

It’s funny, funny in a peculiar and frustrating kind of way: about a year ago, after the attack at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, someone plastered a pro Taliban, Alghaeda (Al Qaeda), Hamas, Bokuharam (Boko Haram), Hezbollah, Ekhvan Moslemin (Muslim Brotherhood), and ISIS poster all over my apartment complex. I notified the RCMP but was essentially told that this incident was irrelevant and meant nothing. In the light of these attacks in France, I do wonder whether more effort should be made in investigating these kinds of incidents, because who is to say that the perpetrators of today’s Paris attacks didn’t start out by plastering their arrondissement with similar posters?

Anyhow, why France?

Lest We Forget (and with thanks)

To date, to Canadians, to Commemorate:

Remembrance Day, poppy, Canada, veterans, peacekeeping, ISIS, ISIL, WWII, WWI, Korean War, Yugo, Yugoslavia, Somalia

The Great War, the War to End All Wars, the First World War, World War I: 1914-1918
17 Main Players, et al…

This War started out one foot at the end of the Napoleonic period, and ended with the other firmly striding into modernity.

Note there were three empires – British, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman – this was their last knell.

But it did not end all wars, and merely set the tone for the next.

The Second World War, World War II: 1939-1945
35 Main Players, of whom many asserted their nationhood on the world stage, out of the shadow of their parent empire.

It was during this War, in Poland, that one grandfather was killed by the Nazis, at the age of 24. The other grandfather fought with the Polish partisans, and watched his best friend’s head get blown off by a sniper.

No more empires, but an attempt at empire-building, thankfully waylaid.

Attempts at extermination.

Affirmations that humans can be superbly evil; affirmations that humans can also be sublimely good.

The Korean War: 1950-1953
The UN had its first command at this particular theatre. The UN, sprung whole out of the minds of war-weary leaders, like Athena from the head of Zeus.

The Koreas are still at war; North Korea put a cross on the old Armistice a few years back anyhow. Air raid sirens toll periodically throughout Seoul to remind diligent citizens to be on edge.

We sent out sons and daughters as UN Peacekeepers, to Kashimir (1948), Cyprus (1974 to date), Congo (various, 1960 to date), Somalia, Yugoslavia (1992-2003) and Somalia (1993), making them live the horrors of war without being able to keep the peace.

The UN Peacekeepers were honoured with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Recognition, in the face of flying bullets, that can only be dodged, not returned.

Then there were the Iraq Wars, first (1990) and second (2003-2011), and then the Afghanistan War (2001-2014).
What does one say to something so recent. We always thought that our modern world was too civilized to have to deal with War, and, indeed, modern Wars seem far removed from our doorstep, here in Canada, in North America really.

We are not Europe, forced to deal with a wholly new kind of refugee crisis, one where the refugees are empowered by information and globalization.

And yet, I am so proud to support Canadian soldiers who are sent to deal with the kinds of people (can you call ISIS/ISIL that?) who think it perfectly acceptable to stone people, to hurl individuals from the roofs of multi-storey buildings, to decapitate persons, and to condone slavery. Somewhere, out in ISIL territory, some secret clan is gathering, trying to find out new ways of instilling fear and horror in the local populations and around the world.

I am glad that there are Canadians, and others, who are doing their damnedest, on our behalves, to stop the spread of such rabid fanaticism.

Lest we forgot the past, so that we can understand why we are doing what we are doing in the present, in our best effort to stave off potential horrors in the future.

And this it is that I say to all Canadian veterans, old and new, and to those Canadians still serving: thank you.

Taking the ‘-stan’ out of ‘Albertastan’

“It was like a morgue,” MacKay said of the atmosphere at caucus. “Someone said it was like, ‘It’s Albertastan now.”

Above is the quote that Canada’s Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, said, earlier this week. He was commenting on the success of the NDP (New Democratic Party) in Alberta’s provincial election.

Alberta is Canada’s Texas: oil and steers, and throw in a good measure of wheat to boot. Alberta is hot in the summer, and frigid in the winter. The provincial breed are a hardy bunch, as such, and very friendly and hospitable. The only bull crap that Albertan take is the kind used to grow vegetables. And, for the past forty-four years, the province has been decidedly conservative.

The Progressive Conservatives have, however, stepped in a deep pile of manure, and the NDP’s success is a measure of just how deep that pile of PC dung was. Between misspending, arrogance, and the proverbial flipping of the bird to Albertans, the very people who loyally voted in the Conservatives, year after year, the Conservatives were served a healthy slab of humble pie and sent packing with their tails between their legs: they aren’t even the official opposition.

This defeat is akin to that of the federal Liberals in 2011, and equally surprising.

My brother called this morning, ranting about the indignity of MacKay’s comment, in which MacKay insulted Alberta by calling the province “Albertastan.” My brother was virtually livid that the federal Justice Minister had the nerve to insult the people of Alberta in this way, that the comment was an affront to the democratic process, and how could MacKay have called the people of Alberta, ‘terrorists’.

Albertastan, Peter MacKay

Being an occasional fact-checker, I looked up the quote to see the extent of MacKay’s insult.

Firstly,  just as it is my brother’s democratic right to feel insulted (albeit incorrectly) about MacKay’s comment, it still is MacKay’s democratic right to make the comment. You might not agree with someone’s perspective and, unless they are actively propagating hate, that person has the right to free speech (see my two bits on free speech here).

Secondly, MacKay did not call Alberta, “Albertastan.” As the quote at the top notes, MacKay had said that someone in the federal Conservative caucus had referred to Alberta as “Albertastan.” Certainly making a comment of this nature to a journalist is on the ignorant side, as such comments should be kept in the privacy of the caucus and amongst friends (unless you are former Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, in which case, even your friends will tape your conversations, apparently). This comment, made by some anonymous member of the caucus, was second-sourced by MacKay.

The reason why should not make these kinds of comments in public is for the very reason that these kinds of comments are so easily misconstrued and taken out of context. The social media crowd latched on to this comments, whipped it up through the Twitter feeds, and came out with the conclusion that MacKay was calling all Albertans ‘terrorists.” This misconception is where context comes in.

Stans at a glanceAdding ‘-stan’ to a proper noun, typically means that the proper noun (place, typically) is a poor, Communist backwater. This context obviously stems from the Cold War, during which many of the countries ending in ‘-stan’ were (pseudo-) countries under Soviet rule and were (and still are) incredibly poor: think Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan (have most people even heard of these places?) etc…And, of course, amongst others, Afghanistan.

How is Afghanistan currently perceived? Most people today associate Afghanistan with terrorism. Many people even conflate the conflict in Afghanistan, the Taliban, and ISIS/ISIL in Syria/Iraq. It’s all kind of the same place and angry people, after all.

As such, the context of what a ‘-stan’ is, has changed. For a particular demographic, the socially media-savvy demographic, and I am referring to the under-40’s, the Generation X and younger, a ‘-stan’ has a terrorism context, because of Afghanistan, not a Cold War context any longer. Many people wise in the ways of social media weren’t even born to know what the Cold War was, except perhaps as a war between GE and LG for a corner of the refrigerator market, or Bud versus Coors spat for which brew was better on a hot summer’s day (for an interesting slice of demographics, scroll down to the Twitter stats on the Pew Research Center’s website).

MacKay’s context, I would hazard a guess, was of the Cold War variety, not of the terrorist variety.

The NDP are a left-leaning, socialist political party, which many (older) people equate to communism, perhaps as a leftover from the McCarthy era in the 1950’s when all things socialist were viewed with deep suspicion. I will also reiterate here that MacKay did not call Alberta ‘Albertastan’ but was echoing something that someone else had said.

However, the Twitter crowd has now jumped on the bandwagon of distributing misinformation (in the form of the misquote) and have taken that poorly chosen word, “Albertastan,” out of context, or, rather, shown that ‘-stan’ now has a new context. Also, given that the under-40 demographic has a hate-on for the federal Conservatives, and that the under-40’s are the dominant users of social media, it’s no wonder that this gaffe has people (the under-40’s, like my brother) frothing at the moment, misinformation and all.

Ultimately, the error is MacKay’s in that he should be more careful of what he publicly says, and definitely more social media savvy. I don’t believe for a minute that he was accusing Albertans of being terrorists.

Equating the quote to terrorism smacks of a new variation of Godwin’s Law (the moment someone brings up Hitler and/or the Nazis, then an argument is made moot). I think we’re headed in the same direction with terrorism: the moment someone starts to grotesquely hyperbolize and make unfounded parallels to terrorism, their argument is moot, which is exactly the point at where this social media maelstrom about Albertastan is.

The Yemen Conundrum

Yemen, Houthi, President Hadi, Mansour Hadi, Shiite, shia, Sunni, Wahhabism, Saudi ArabiaI’m a bit perplexed at recent reports that the US will be providing intelligence and logistical support to a coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia. The rebels in Yemen are of the more ‘moderate’ (and I do use the term ‘moderate’ loosely in this context, as I’d likely be stoned by one side as much as by the other, in these orthodox countries) Shia variety, to the Saudi’s Sunni. In the past few weeks, I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion the conflict in the Middle East is really a theological civil war between Sunnis and Shia.

What perplexes me, however, is that the US is allying itself with the very branch that spawned Al-Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL. It’s no secret that there is some illicit link between the Sunni militant groups and the Saudi leadership, which in and of itself subscribes to Wahhabism, a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam.

Shouldn’t the US be staying out of the Yemeni domestic conflict and shouldn’t the US be hoping that the Houthi Shia rebels win? There’s a good chance that the third party in the Yemeni conflict, an off-shoot of Al-Qaeda, likely has some ties to ousted President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, at least to some in his party.

I suppose the US has to, on paper, support the Saudis, as the Saudis sort of own them, at least in OPEC terms. However, relations between the two are not so tight, given the purported slight to Obama when he was left hanging when trying to shake hands with some Saudi dignitary, and then the new King Salman turned around and left with his entourage, leaving the President of the United States awkwardly standing with his wife, trying to figure out what to do next while saving face.

It seems that Yemen is becoming a pit fight between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Canadians – Not So Pacifistic, Eh?

Last week I attended a focus group on federal policies, namely on the state of economy (choose three words from the list in front of you, or write down your own, to describe Canada’s economy: mentally, unstable, rubber boots); agreements with other countries (so we’ll be getting European cheeses much cheaper, but our own Canadian dairies will have to compete with the new products? How much cheaper will those cheeses be? This sounds like a gouda deal); and our involvement in fighting ISIL/ISIS.

A Canadian Armed Forces CF-18 Fighter jet in Kuwait is armed and ready for a combat mission over Iraq during Operation IMPACT on November 7, 2014. Photo Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND, from National Post.

A Canadian Armed Forces CF-18 Fighter jet in Kuwait is armed and ready for a combat mission over Iraq during Operation IMPACT on November 7, 2014. Photo Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND, from National Post.

For those of you who may not know, Canada has sent six hundred troops and ten planes to aid the US-led coalition against the nut jobs attempting to set up their own Little Shop of Houris in the Middle East. From my outsiders perspective, the impetus to start to wage war against ISIS (and war it is, even if the word isn’t bandied about yet and is the obvious elephant in the proverbial) was when that group made a move on Kobane, a small city on the northern border of Iraq and Turkey, and nestled in the semi-autonomous region of Western Kurdistan.

Again, from my perspective, we were perfectly happy to let ISIS grow like a cancer while the group appeared to be fighting the Assad regime in Syria, and even when they crossed into Iraq and started taking large swathes of that country hostage. For better or for worse, the Iraqi army was, and is, completely impotent, and the only force with any hutzpah in the area are the Kurds, who fought, and who are fighting, ISIS, tooth and nail. The Kurds have worked hard to try to re-establish a homeland and damned if they will let some rabid dogs try to take it.

Anyhow, the West seemed rather content to let the petty parties duke it out amongst themselves, but the siege of Kobane really seemed to resonate with the Western media, and hence the public, who in turn started to put pressure on Western governments to do something about the festering situation with ISIS. ISIS at this point seemed to have turned from a haphazard rabble into a quasi-organized army, who were not only taking over large swathes of Syria and Iraq, but putting all sorts of people to the sword or slavery, and of course, shackling the newly conquered areas under a completely biased and culturally imbued interpretation of  Sharia law (oh, dear ISIS, you will be surely very surprised when you find out that God really doesn’t endorse the imposition of your will in his name…just a tip, you don’t own the rights to God).

To make a long story short, the US pulled itself up by the bootstraps and put together a coalition to help the Iraqi army (or what is left of it) and the Kurds fight off ISIS, mostly through the medium of air strikes. Canada joined the bandwagon, because that is the way our Conservative government rolls.

It’s interesting though, I’ve always thought of my country as being more pacifist, and certainly, when you read the news here, there does seem to be a strong bias against taking any sort of military action unless it is peacekeeping (of which we are the originators of that idea, and,  although a beautiful concept on paper, like Communism, peacekeeping has been shown to be, time and time again, completely ineffectual). In fact, words such as ‘army,’ ‘war,’ ‘troops,’ ‘fighting,’ often are said with the disdain that one uses when mentioning dog turds.

As such, I was pleased to see that a strong majority of the twelve people (and we’ve come back to the focus group full circle now) were in favour of Canada’s military involvement against ISIS, regardless of the reason why ISIS was aggressing in the first place, and of how Canada got caught up in ISIS’ anti-Western sentiment.

A few people tried to wave the pacifist banner under the argument that we shouldn’t be involved against any military action, even if in a purely supportive role, because that would just goad ISIS into attacking Canada.

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law (when a reference is made to Nazis or to Hitler, an argument can then be considered finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress), I see that sort of attitude not unlike saying that well, because Hitler was only targeting non-Aryans and only taking over Poland, but not directly affecting Canada, Canada never should have joined the Allied forces in the Second World War; that sort of distasteful behaviour happens in other countries and Is Not Our Problem as such.

Good lord, people, what kind of an attitude is that to say that a group like ISIS is somebody else’s problem? I just don’t fathom the sheer ignorance of ignoring the power that the hate and fear mongering of these kinds of radical groups creates in our societies.

A poster I saw put up in my building's elevator. Apparently the complex was plastered with this particular poster all day, and the moment one was taken down, another was put up in its place. I did send this to our local RCMP but was basically given the brush off. Caveat emptor, RCMP.

A poster I saw put up in my building’s elevator. Apparently the complex was plastered with this particular poster all day, and the moment one was taken down, another was put up in its place. I did send this to our local RCMP but was basically given the brush off. Caveat emptor, RCMP.

One reason why ISIS is our problem is because we’re all globally connected. There are both positive and negative consequences of being so interconnected. Most of us in the West live under the shroud of positive consequences, which are often spoofed as ‘First World Problems.’ However, our tolerance for all sorts of things has caused us to becoming overly sensitive to trying to not insult anyone, a sensitivity that radical groups (who are not in any way, shape, or form, sensitive to trying to understand somebody else’s perspective) take advantage of to propagate their skewed messaging to the disenfranchised both in their home countries and in all of our countries.

How can you expect to rationalize with someone who thinks it okay to drop people from the rooftop of a high building simply because the person is gay, or to stone a woman to death because she was seen outside her home without a male member of her family to accompany her, or who thinks that slavery is okay and a just a way of providing everyone with work?

Whew. I think I’ve covered the gamut here. At the end of the day, my people see ISIS as a very dangerous element in the world, and we’re very supportive of our government sending our military out to fight ISIS in the Middle East. We’re also okay with our troops having to return fire if they are being fired upon by ISIS militants, because our troops have the right to defend themselves when trying to help make things right in that part of the world.

Like I said, pleasantly surprised.