President Barack Obama signed a slew of bills into law during the lame-duck session of Congress and was dubbed the "Comeback Kid" amid a flurry of fawning press reports. In the hail of this surprise bipartisanship, though, the one issue over which Democrats and Republicans always agree, war, was completely ignored. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history, and 2010 has seen the highest number of U.S. and NATO soldiers killed.
White poppies. Sometimes something rings a little bell amid the gloom, like a bird singing after a catastrophe, or a light in a raging storm. It's a symbol of peace, first introduced in Britain by the Co-operative Women's Guild in 1936. The notion that hope for peace might live, however, is apparently so outlandish that the symbol is little known and only makes rare appearances, as it did in P.E.I. this Remembrance Day, and always seems to upset someone.
Just days away from crucial midterm elections, WikiLeaks, the whistle-blower website, unveiled the largest classified military leak in history. Almost 400,000 secret Pentagon documents relating to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq were made available online. The documents, in excruciating detail, portray the daily torrent of violence, murder, rape and torture to which Iraqis have been subjected since George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished." The WikiLeaks release, dubbed "The Iraq War Logs," has been topping the headlines in Europe. But in the U.S., it barely warranted a mention on the agenda-setting Sunday talk shows.
John le Carré, the former British spy turned spy novelist, has some grave words for Tony Blair. More than seven years after the invasion of Iraq, the former British prime minister, now out of office and touring the world pushing his political memoir, is encountering serious protests at his book signings.
"I can't understand that Blair has an afterlife at all. It seems to me that any politician who takes his country to war under false pretenses has committed the ultimate sin," he told me when I sat down with le Carré recently in London. "We've caused irreparable damage in the Middle East. I think we shall pay for it for a long time."
The ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States should serve as a moment to reflect on tolerance. It should be a day of peace. Yet the rising anti-Muslim fervour here, together with the continuing U.S. military occupation of Iraq and the escalating war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), all fuel the belief that the U.S. really is at war with Islam.
September 11, 2001, united the world against terrorism. Everyone, it seemed, was with the United States, standing in solidarity with the victims, with the families who lost loved ones. The day will be remembered for generations to come, for the notorious act of coordinated mass murder. But that was not the first Sept. 11 to be associated with terror:
In her epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Guns of August, historian Barbara Tuchman detailed how the First World War began in 1914, and how the belligerence, vanity and poor policies of powerful leaders led millions to gory deaths in that four-year conflagration. Before people realized world wars had to be numbered, the First World War was called "The Great War" or "The War to End All Wars," which it wasn't. It was the first modern war with massive, mechanized slaughter on land, sea and in the air. We can look at that war in retrospect, now 100 years after it started, as if through a distant mirror. The reflection, where we are today, is grim from within the greatest war-making nation in human history, the United States.
In this skill-testing exercise, see if you can spot the one who doesn't belong:
- Patrick Brazeau
- Mike Duffy
- Douglas Roche
- Pamela Wallin
Long-time Ottawa observers will have figured out that Douglas Roche is the one least likely to appear in an RCMP line-up. Certainly he has few of the behavioural traits we've come to associate with Conservative senators (even though he was one from 1998 to 2004).