Media cheerleaders miss story

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To listen to the media tell it, Canada scored a victory last week at the NATO summit. We got the extra 1,000 troops that the Harper government said were needed to continue our involvement in the Afghan war.

So the fact that we're going to continue to fight in Afghanistan — which most Canadians oppose, according to the polls — has been transformed into a victory. We did it! We got the extra troops for a war Canadians don't want! Bravo!

Actually, the media have confused the Harper government achieving its own objectives with the national interest being advanced.

Yes, the staunchly pro-Washington Harper government cleverly manipulated the weak Liberal opposition into supporting the Afghan military venture, largely by presenting it as an international duty mandated by NATO.

In fact, the countries that make up NATO have no more interest in fighting in Afghanistan than the Canadian public does, which is why the 1,000 extra troops are coming from the United States — the one country that is keen to fight over there.But our media turned the situation into a mini-drama: Would Harper succeed at NATO or wouldn't he? It was easy to lose sight of the real story: The U.S. has succeeded in getting Canada to be its lead partner fighting an unpopular counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan.

In fact, the Harper government has recently made two agreements that have quietly moved us into deeper co-operation with the U.S. military and U.S. foreign policy.

Canada and the U.S. have signed a military agreement, called the Civil Assistance Plan, under which troops can cross the border to help out during an emergency, such as a terrorist attack.

The prospect of U.S. troops in Canada wouldn't sit well with many Canadians, which explains why Ottawa decided not to publicly announce the agreement, signed by U.S. and Canadian generals in Texas on Feb. 14. (The U.S. military issued a press release, however, and Canada followed a week later with an announcement in an internal military publication.)

Commander David Scanlon of Canada Command notes U.S. troops in Canada would be under the "tactical control" of the Canadian military, although they'd remain under the ultimate command of the U.S. government. In other words, Washington would ultimately be in charge of them.

Scanlon insists no U.S. troops would cross into Canada without Canada's permission. But he acknowledged there are some wording differences in the U.S. press release and the Canadian announcement.

This suggests the U.S. might have a different understanding of what the plan permits. There's no way for Canadians to know what it does permit, since the agreement is secret.

In another move that brings Canada closer in line with U.S. policy, the Harper government last month signed a wide-ranging agreement with Israel establishing co-operation in "border management and security" — even though we don't share a border with Israel.

Does this mean Israel will become involved in intelligence gathering about Canadian Muslims or other Canadians supporting Palestinian rights? Does it mean Canada will help Israel with its military operations in the West Bank or Gaza?

It's striking that Canada would sign a security agreement with Israel only months after a Canadian Forces board of inquiry concluded that an Israeli bomb killed a Canadian peacekeeper manning a well-marked UN post during Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

Given their controversial nature, the Harper government has played down both these recent agreements — and the Canadian media have obliged by ignoring them.

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