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Ottawa

I thought I would take a moment to address what occurred yesterday in Ottawa. 

First, and foremost, my deepest condolences to the family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo who was senselessly shot while standing vigil at the National War Memorial. 

Secondly, I would like to commend the actions of Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who was responsible for ending Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s rampage, those that came to the aid of Corporal Cirillo after he was shot, the RCMP, and the Ottawa Police Department.

What took place yesterday was tragic, and I’m sure there are many in Ottawa that are still reeling from it, a feeling that I’m sure is prevalent across the country today. Obviously there are questions we must ask in the wake of what happened, but those questions must be asked when our initial impulse to abandon reason abates. 

To some that might sound insulting. It’s not meant to be. After an event of this nature it’s only natural for feelings of outrage and anger to be prevalent. But what such a state must not produce are reactionary pronouncements that ignore realities in favour of placating our immediate rage. Last night, to my great disappointment, the Prime Minister did just that.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a day and age in which pausing to allow wisdom its full, if not partial, inclusion in our address of such matters exists.

Last night the Prime Minister said…

”We will be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent, but we will not panic.”

I agree with those sentiments whole heartedly. What I have an issue with is the following…

“…it will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with a hope” of attacking Canada.”

While lines are being drawn between Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, one has to examine his criminal past and the possibility that his actions were not those of a man given direct orders from ISIL, but those of a troubled individual that came to identify himself with a foreign organization and acted as he believed they would want him to. That possibility applies to Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau equally.

Radicalization comes in many forms. To say that what happened yesterday in Ottawa was an operation sanctioned abroad is a huge step. For the leader of a nation to respond to such an incident by not merely reaffirming his government’s position regarding foreign military operations, but to increase the significance of the need for this nation’s commitment to them is, to me, very worrisome. 

While the subjects of how the invasion and occupation of Iraq played a significant role in the rise of ISIL, the duplicitous positions of various Arab nations that we claim allies regarding how the exploits of a Sunni based group might actually benefit them, and the protracted realities of engaging Canadian fighting men and women yet again in another asymmetric conflict are all so vast that one could write a doctoral dissertation on any one of them, there is one aspect of all of this that does not require the production of a tome to convey.

The questions surrounding Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau aside, as Oscar Wilde put it - “As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.”

War, in all its forms, and no matter the labels given our enemies, is not something confined to distant lands. To commit to military operations against a foreign group or nation automatically produces the possibility that that group or nation will seek to attack us here at home. For if we feel it within our right to make war elsewhere, the repercussions of that decision must be fully understood by all of us, and so understood to be universal. 

This situation is not one in which the enemy wears uniforms, nor carries out conventional operations. One would think over the last thirty-plus years we’ve learned enough of what happens when we place our faith in the possession of overwhelming firepower. Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan, NATO in Afghanistan, the Americans in Iraq - just to name a few. The possession of overwhelming force means little unless one is prepared to use that force without exception, without moral imputation, without remorse. Victory within its sphere demands the abandonment of nobility. If that wasn’t the case then the allies would have never deliberately bombed civilian targets during the Second World War. 

It is, despite beliefs to the contrary, impossible to enter into the darkness of delivering death while maintaining whole our humanity. It is just as impossible to do it and not degrade those principles that we hold as sacrosanct. 

I say this not to excuse the horrific actions of those we deem enemies. Only to put forth that to enter into the business of dealing with them we must be prepared to come to terms with our own malevolence. For it is a fool that clings to the falsities of nobility when mortality is its currency.