The Canadian Terrorist Incident

Cartoon from the Calvin & Hobbes Treasury
The arrest this week of a bunch of mostly-young Islamic Canadians in Toronto, along with a mosque caretaker who was the nominal leader of the group, has grabbed a lot of international press, and prompted some readers to ask why I haven’t talked about it.

I have. I talked about it a year ago, when I predicted it. I said:

There are conceivably as many as a billion people on this planet who, out of desperation or ignorance, see the West as the cause of their plight (with some justification) and who see attacks on the West as counter-terrorist activity, as necessary to end the terrorism that they perceive they are suffering from. You saw them cheering in the streets of Palestine the day after 9/11. This billion people is neither a ruthless, coordinated and evil group of shrewd schemers, nor are they a billion insane, nihilistic and deranged madmen. No one could organize that broad and intense hatred. And if there’s a billion people all suffering from the same form of madness, we need to think about our definition of insanity.

And, although he showed a deplorable lack of tact, George Galloway also has it exactly right. When you have a billion people who hate you, many of whom live in your midst, and many more of whom hear your Prime Minister with his arm around George Bush making preposterous excuses for attacking Iraq and killing thousands of civilians on top of the hundreds of thousands already killed by Saddam when he was the West’s ally and by the cruel sanctions imposed by the West, on the basis that it posed some kind of imminent threat to the West, some of those billion people are going to do what their Western counterparts, the American conservatives, did: take up arms against the perceived enemy. Any way they can. Why is this so hard to understand?

As many of you know, I live in Canada, a country that refused to send troops to Iraq despite fierce American threats (including some terrorist threats from the US wingnut ambassador), but which did put troops in Afghanistan, a country that outside of its capital city remains anarchic, destitute, and unimaginably brutal. Canada still has troops there. Canada also supported the sanctions against Iraq and has largely supported Western positions on most issues in the Third World including the Middle East. Canada has a large number of immigrants from the Middle East, many of whom are as vocal in their opposition to Canada’s foreign policy as the radicals from whom the London subway bombers came. I believe it is less likely that Canada will be the victim of a major terrorist attack, by anyone, for the simple reason that we are a smaller, less visible and less strident nation in our public policies. I believe, however, that it is absolutely inevitable that Canada will eventually be the victim of an attack of some kind, for precisely the same reason it was inevitable in the UK. After the London bombings the head of the Toronto subway system laughed that it wouldn’t happen here because the terrorists would first have to be able to find Toronto. The idiot should have been fired on the spot for that remark.

I also believe that there is absolutely nothing we can or should do about it. The British have been trying to be vigilant about terrorism for centuries, and are one of the most prepared nations on the planet, but they were unable to prevent either the bombings of two weeks ago or the ‘warning’ repeat occurrences that happened today. Canada is much less prepared than Britain, and we will handle the situation very badly when it occurs. The way we should handle it is not, as a Canadian government minister said after the London bombings, to step up preparedness and work ourselves into a frenzy of higher vigilance, but, when it happens, by showing, as the British did, that terrorism won’t work — by getting on with our lives, and picking up the pieces.

canadianmosqueThe gang arrested the other day were a motley crew of absurdly inept, alienated schoolkids and unemployed college dropouts. CSIS, the Canadian equivalent of the FBI/CIA, had been watching them for ages, including their war games in a forest North of Toronto, and intercepted and substituted their order for three tons of fertilizer to be used in the planned attacks. There is even speculation that CSIS or the RCMP offered the fertilizer, unsolicited, through an undercover operative as part of a sting operation. Most of the ‘terrorists’ were born in Canada, and they met at a storefront mosque in Mississauga (a suburb West of Toronto) and their schoolyard in Scarborough (a suburb in the East end of Toronto). Their scheme was modeled after another amateur homegrown terrorist attack, the Oklahoma City bombing (it used the same fertilizer as the base for its explosives).

I’m glad CSIS caught it (although the evidence suggests it would have been hard to miss). I shudder to think how much money has been spent for such a modest return (over 400 security people were involved in the investigation), and how much more will now be demanded to look for more amateur would-be terrorists. I shake my head to think how many lives could be saved, spared, or made bearable if some of the billions our moron prime minister has diverted to security in the last two months, were instead spent on health, education, social programs, international humanitarian and infrastructure aid, and environmental regulation and innovation. The arraignment was a media circus, with Fox News sending a special contingent and hundreds of reporters trying to jam the courtroom. Canadian police dutifully provided video fodder, posting snipers on nearby rooftops.

So now we have stepped up security, threats of new border restrictions, and the rest of the usual hysteria when these plots are discovered. It is a virtual certainty that there are more competent and better organized terrorist cells in Canada, some of them Islamic but also Western militia gun-nuts and fanatic separatists and militant nationalists from many countries now living here, like the Air India bombers, believed to be Canadian Sikhs. It is a virtual certainty that some of them will eventually commit acts of terror on Canadian soil, and some people will probably die. The smart ones will choose targets in the US, where they’ll garner more media attention, wreck Canada-US trade and tourism and stir up anti-Canadian hysteria among US conservatives. It wouldn’t take much.

Our warmongering minority prime minister Harper’s inflammatory rhetoric and Bushian ideological pronouncements, and the growing disaster of the botched Afghanistan mission and the government’s pig-headed refusal to get us out of there, have aggravated anti-Canadian sentiment in the Mideast and among sympathizers of their plight. Now we have pictures of Harper and Bush embracing each other, and so the risk that disgruntled social misfits will choose now to garner some publicity through copycat bombings has risen sharply. But even if Harper hadn’t been elected, bombings and other attacks would still, and will still, happen eventually.

And the more publicity they get, the more the politicians and media whip us up into a frenzy about terrorist threats and portray these small groups of losers as larger-than-life, the more these clowns will be provoked to step into the limelight and garner their few minutes, or months, of spectacular, fleeting, grisly fame.

So I’m not going to say anything more about it. Lots more Canadians are dying and suffering now from things that we can do something about, that deserve the attention and investment that is being squandered on overblown fears of terrorism. The media should ignore ‘terrorist threats’, and starve their intended perpetrators of the publicity they love and thrive on. Terror attacks will come when they come, like a million other causes of death and misery — natural disasters, transportation disasters, disease epidemics large and small, domestic violence, preventable ailments and accidents, things that extinguish and destroy many more Canadians’ lives everyday. We should put them in perspective, spend our taxpayer dollars to minimize the death and suffering that is reasonably predictable and affordablypreventable, and otherwise just get on with our lives.

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9 Responses to The Canadian Terrorist Incident

  1. Gary says:

    I’ve heard it and I keep repeating it; In order to have a better world we must have better humans. I have come to the conclusion that we are fighting the wrong ‘battles’ for the right reasons. The desrires , when realised, will serve us yet the battles saddly will not. If we can only come together in the best of all battles, to becopme better humans!!

  2. Overworm says:

    Hopelessness is the real culprit here. When people have nothing and no hope of every attaining a meaningful and/or enjoyable life, they will do anything.The kids in Columbine didn’t shoot because they were bullied. They shot because they saw no hope for their futures. When someone kills a person who has directly wronged them, that is out of anger. When someone kills a person they don’t know, that is a symptom of feeling hopeless.What can we do to decrease the vast number of humans living in dire, hopeless situations? That’s the answer I would like to read.

  3. Mariella says:

    My country (Perú)lived 20 years of brutal terrorism : the mad actions of the terrorists, the mad publicity given to it by the media and the mad response of the military actions. Terrorism is fed with our fear…. As the economic and cultural gap is growing deeper, i feel it will be hard to scape from it in one way or another… so …What we say and how we say it, when speaking about it is vital for our emotional health, MAINLY FOR THE HEALTH OF OUR CHILDREN. The media acts in a terrorist way too… it elicits our fear, and plays with our need to listen to more, to try to find a safety way….. just take a deep breath and choose what to read, what to listen to, what to say about it… DON´T TURN INTO A PART OF IT BY GIVING THEM YOUR FEAR, AND YOUR INDISCRIMINATED ATTENTION.. fear spreads fast beyond the real needs. Mariella

  4. Janene says:

    Hey –Right on, Dave. This is exactly how I have felt about all of the hysteria/psuedo-hysteria here in the states since 9/11. A favorite fantasy novelist of mine rights about a professional assasin with the repeated phrase ‘ANYONE can be assassinated.’( *Steven Brust, Taltos series — highly recommended if you like the genre)____________Gary… you keep repeating that refrain… but I have to disagree. There is nothing wrong with humans. If there were, how did we ever evolve in the first place? We would be the only species on the planet that is simply, fundamentally broken. However, there is obviously a problem… so I suggest you turn your attention to the system within which we live. On analysis it becomes quite clear that the system itself is designed to facilitate ‘bad’ behavior while punishing ‘good’ behavior.So the answer? Look to societies and systems that were NOT broken, and try to find ways of adapting those systems to the current world. I think that’s basically what Dave tries to do every day here.:-)Janene

  5. Martin-Eric says:

    Just a thought: heavy-handed undiplomatic actions that Canada takes at home and abroad have severely dramatic consequences for Canadian citizens living abroad. This also applies to Canadians living in allegedly friendly countries. My findings, after 8 years of living in Europe, is that while USA might be the proverbial highschool bully who beats unconscious other kids to steal their marbles, Canada turns out to be USA’s skinny sidekick who laughs at the agonizing victims and spits on them while chuckling a self-compleasant “Looser!”.In a nutshell, moving out of Canada was not enough to dissociate myself from the Canadian government’s actions. I still suffer from Canada’s discrete and relenteless punking of several European states by Canada’s representatives abroad. By the time we add Canada’s participation in the American Empire’s war of terror, well… Let’s just say that Canadians turn out to be far less welcome in Europe than the traditional “smiling inoffensive backpacking Cannuck” stereotype might suggest.Canada’s actions at home and abroad cause irreparable damage on the diplomatic front. Those actions result in retaliation by other countries and that creates collateral damage: myself and other Canadians living abroad, who quickly witness door after door closing themselves and opportunities becoming unavailable to them.Enough is enough! I want out of this pointless Canadian citizenship. Unfortunately, Canada forbids someone from relinquishing their citizenship unless they have acquired another… Which is impossible in a context where other countries want to make a point, by ostracizing Canadians living on their territory, in hopes that Canada might change its mind about the way it treats that country and its citizens.Yet, the question remains: Why should I keep on suffering the consequences of the actions of a government I don’t beleive in and over which I have absolutely zero control? Why should Ibe forced to carry the passport of a state whose citizenship I have never even acknowledged?

  6. Raging Bee says:

    Dave: the last time you tried to address this issue, I asked you who, exactly, those billion people were who hate us so much. You failed to answer the question then, and you have failed to answer it again. This leads me to conclude that your figure of a billion is, at best, suspect, if not completely contrived. If you can’t specify who they are, how can you possibly know what their agenda really is?As for your saint “Georgeous George” Galloway, you and your readers might want a better picture of how clueless and self-important he really is: quote: Like the self-absorbed radical leftists of generations past, and the terrorists of today, Galloway has looked out from his position of relative comfort, found an oppressed people in a part of the world of which he knows nothing, appointed himself to represent them (without consulting them in advance), and now labels those of his new-found “comrades” who dispute his credentials “collaborators.” I have no doubt that at least some jihadis — those who aren’t laughing their asses off at least — will take his purplish-brown prose as encouragement to continue a violent course of action that one high-profile elected official is excusing.And as for your statement that “I also believe that there is absolutely nothing we can or should do about it,” well, if you explicitly have no solution, and don’t believe in finding one, then why should we bother reading your posts on the issue? You’ve proven that you didn’t care enough to get your facts straight, and now you’ve proven you don’t care enough to offer or support a positive solution. As one of your respondents said, “Hopelessness is the real culprit here.”

  7. Why spend so much on anti-terrorism when we could save so many more lives in other ways (education, humanitarian aid, etc.)? Perhaps it is because terrorism isn’t simply about taking lives; it is about taking security. Western growth (esp. American) has occurred largely in a insulated environment provided by military dominance. When the safety of that insulation is broken, will America still able to drive its economy with unbridled spending? Can we continue to respond to terrorist attacks with flag-waving and SUV purchases?

  8. Jon Husband says:

    Yup.And a great way to encourage more of this crap is to stay in Afghanistan, and carry water for the Americans.

  9. Gary says:

    Janene, you will note that I did not say there is anything wrong with humans – and in that I agree with you. There is nothing wrong with us. But, don’t you think we can be better, do better with what we have to work with? Humans did evolve or erect the systems, the ones that work better than others and the ones that do not. My idea of a better human is one who has figured out that harmony really does serve us, one who has figured out that judgement does not serve us. So I look to see a time when we improve/better the systems and stop trying to ‘one up’ on each other we will be better humans and will have a better world.

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