Dear Virtual Editor,

Three recent and related events are of general interest, but especially to my fellow Canadians. In late October, shortly before Remembrance Day, Martin Couture-Rouleau rammed a car into two uniformed soldiers in a Quebec parking lot, killing WO Patrice Vincent.  A few days later, Michael Zehaf Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he stood ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Canadians were understandably shocked by these two incidents. Remembrance Day, November 11th, is more important to us than Veterans Day is to Americans.  It is a day when most Canadians wear a red poppy in remembrance of military war dead. I am part of a growing campaign that encourages people to also wear a white poppy in remembrance of the millions of innocent civilians who have died in Canada’s wars.

There was a massive outpouring of grief on Remembrance Day this year, as well there should have been, over the murders of WO Vincent and Cpl. Cirillo.  Crowds jammed ceremonies around the country.

The third event was Canada’s joining of the U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. Reports indicate that the first Canadian air strike destroyed an ISIS dump truck. Later strikes reportedly took out a warehouse.

7321db8128abe2Canada has been forced to use its old F-18 fighter jets. The Harper government wanted to spend $35-50 billion on neat new F-35’s, but a scandal over how it hid the actual cost from the public has delayed the project.  This government is very good at controlling and hiding information about what it is doing.  Secret negotiations with the U.S. to revive the project are apparently underway, but the F-35’s will be too late for this ill-advised mission.

Even if the government is able to pay for the F-35s by continuing to slash vital services to the Canadian people, it will still be a junior U.S. when it comes to spending money on wars.  American readers should know that you guys are spending $300, 000 an hour on the campaign against ISIS.  It is mind-boggling to consider how much higher that total would be if all those fiscal conservative deficit worriers had not been elected this month. Wait… As Gilda would say… “Never Mind”…  war money is not real money.

What connects these events?

To justify the continuing effort to be the junior U.S. military, the Harper propaganda spin is the same as it was for the now-lost war in Afghanistan: (1) The (delete Taliban, insert ISIS) are horrible people. (2) Joining the U.S. to kill some of them in another part of the world will make us safer here.  The first statement is quite true. The problem is that claiming it as a justification for making war violates every principle of international law, never mind that we pick and choose among horrible people, welcoming some of them as allies and friends. (At last count, the Saudis had a big lead in beheadings.)

The second statement is demonstrably false.  Forget the lawlessness for a moment.  Forget the immorality.  Will all this violence make anyone safer?  Will bombing dump trucks, warehouses, and people in Iraq really reduce the numbers of those willing to run down a soldier in a parking lot or shoot a guard at a monument?  The opposite is true. Those actions are an example of exactly how not to make a country safer.  Overlooked parts of the story of the killers helps to explain why.

michael-zehaf-bibeau1Most of the headlines concerned the crime of Michael Bibeau.  The symbolism was stunning. The national capital. The War Memorial.  Bibeau even made it inside the Parliament building where none other than the Sergeant at Arms shot him. It was a hell of a story, fully justifying massive coverage.  That coverage revealed three probable motivations. Unfortunately, two of them have been largely overlooked.

Media attention focused immediately on the fact that the two killers were Muslim and the government promptly tabled legislation to restrict even more of what liberty is left to all Canadians.  Just about everyone began referring to Bibeau as a “terrorist”, and the killing as an act of “terrorism”.   (Props to Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair for at least challenging this and calling it a criminal act, not terrorism.)

Bibeau had indeed been expelled from a mosque in British Columbia and it is likely that a perverted view of Islam was a part of his motivation. Barely examined were two other factors that likely played an equal role.

michael-zehaf-bibeauMore important than his claim to be a Muslim was Bibeau’s life experience. Instead of continuing to cut education and health care, particularly in the area of mental health, and opposing most efforts at addiction services, the government might want to look a little more closely at Michael Bibeau.   He was a crack addict with a long criminal record and a lot of experience with hallucinogens. The addiction tormented him to the extent that he once committed a robbery in an effort to get into jail. Bibeau was indeed influenced by radical religion, but it could easily have been almost anything else. He was so screwed up that he could probably have been convinced that he needed to punish members of a worldwide conspiracy against vegetarians.

Anticipating the backlash from both incidents, a Muslim leader said: Why can’t Muslims have insane individuals?  When these actions are done by others, they say he is insane… Why, as a Muslim Canadian, do we always say it was a terrorist act?  Why indeed.

The RCMP identified another component of Bibeau’s motivation that continues to be studiously ignored.  Canada’s federal police concluded that he was driven by religious beliefs and his opinion about Canada’s foreign policy.  On the day after the murder of Cpl. Cirillo, buried in the avalanche of that story, was an obscure Reuters news release that U.S.-led air strikes had killed 32 civilians, including 6 children and 5 women in Syria.   Martin Couture-Rouleau appears to have been more influenced by religion than Bibeau, but his first effort was to get to Afghanistan, where thousands more civilians have died.

In any event, the most important issue is not determining the exact mix of motivation for these two individuals. The aftermath of their crimes raises a more important matter. What policies might make everyone safer? It does nothing to dishonour Cpl. Cirillo and WO Vincent or to justify the crimes of Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau to ask the hard, practical question: What approach would at least make it less likely that misguided acts of retribution will kill Canadians and Americans?  It is unlikely that continuing to drop bombs and entangle ones self in the Middle East civil strife would come up as the best idea in any rational discussion.  Maybe a bilateral meeting about how $300,000 an hour from the U.S. plus $50 billion or so in Canadian F-35 money could best be spent on improving the lives of ordinary people in the region would be a better one.

No politician appears ready even to discuss that kind of common sense solution, or other alternatives. To do so, would be distinctly un-macho and would require explaining the benefits of the current campaign of violence that seems to be producing a never-ending stream of angry individuals. From an efficiency standpoint, it would require explaining exactly how the great nations plan to kill enough people in that stream to reduce the risk to Canadians and Americans at home. The morality of killing civilians and of acting as international outlaws would never even have to come up in such a businesslike discussion.

So when Canada’s old jet fighters kill some women and children, as they surely will, how much safer will everyone be? Purveyors of violence are always attacking people of my ilk for being sentimental, naïve bleeding hearts.  They would have you believe that it is they that are the strong hard-nosed pragmatists—the efficiency experts. How many more times do they have to fail before a sufficient number of people see through this sham and order a change of course?

Selectively ignoring factors in the crimes of people like Bibeau and Couture-Roleau is part of the guidebook for how not to make people safer.


Facebook Twitter Email

Comments are closed.