The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Buzz says cut-and-run; Military says cut and train

We were just about to post the latest edition of The Black Rod when the Liberals sent us back to the keyboard.

Just when you thought the Liberals couldn't possibly get any sleazier, they showed Canada that there was no gutter too deep enough for them to wallow in.

Monday, the Liberals decided it was a good idea to play politics with the deaths of four soldiers in Afghanistan.

They couldn't blame the Conservatives for sending troops to Afghanistan. They did that.

They couldn't blame the Conservatives for improper equipment. They were responsible for that.

No, they decided to go after the Conservatives for refusing to lower the flag on Parliament Hill to half-staff after every death in Afghanistan.

They plan to make a motion in the House of Commons on that, hoping to embarass the government. They think they can score a few political points, with the help of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

It doesn't matter to the Liberals that this puts them at odds with the military, former servicemen like Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, and veterans represented by the Royal Canadian Legion. These all agree with the Conservatives who have returned to the 80-year-old tradition of lowering the flag on Parliament Hill only on Remembrance Day to honour all military personnel who died in the service of the country.

The Liberals know they've burned their bridges with military voters.

Whether its years of neglect, underfunding and disrespect for Canada's armed forces or the attack ads that suggested soldiers would patrol city streets if the Conservatives won the election, there's no love lost for the Grits in military homes.

So the Liberals are willing to sacrifice the military for votes elsewhere by pretending they care about the dead soldiers and the feelings of their families.

On Countdown, Mike Duffy's show on politics, Liberal National Defence Critic Ujjal Dosanjh dismissed the Conservatives' return to tradition by saying the government should accept the new tradition on flags created by the Liberals. He mocked the Conservative guest by raising Stephen Harper's decision to scrap a tradition of letting reporters wait for government ministers outside the cabinet meeting room.

So in one fell swoop he equated four soldiers killed in Afghanistan and reporters with their noses out of joint.
It's hopeless to point out that Dosanjh did it without a trace of shame. We all know the Liberals have no shame.

The NDP's representative, Peter Stoffer, thought he would do the Liberals one better. He said the flag on Parliament Hill should be lowered following the deaths of RCMP officers, who are, after all, federal police.

But why stop there?

Why not Coast Guardsmen, park rangers, and prison guards? As long as your're willing to play politics with the deaths of servicemen, why not go all the way. These people are voters too. And they're unionized, which means they support the NDP with their union dues already.

But it didn't take long for the cut-and-run choir to start singing, did it?

The bodies of the four soldiers weren't cold yet before Buzz Hargrove, president of the big, brave auto workers, wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling for a free vote in Parliament on withdrawing Canadian troops.

So far he's been singing solo. His usual partner, NDP leader Jack Layton, blew his voice in the non-debate on Canada's role in Afghanistan held two weeks ago.

Layton, who had been screaming for a debate, wound up trying to outdo the other Party leaders in praising Canada's soldiers but distinguished himself by demanding kid-glove treatment for the Taliban fighters working to kill Canadian soldiers.

The Opposition parties are hoping to make hay in February when the current Afghanistan mission runs out. They're planning on opposing any extensions. But it may turn out to be a moot point.

By then, Canada may be forced to scale back its commitment to Afghanistan if the government intends on expanding the armed forces by 13,000 full-time troops and 10,000 reservists as the Conservatives promised in the last election.

The current commitment of 2,000 troops in Afghanistan is actually tying up almost 10,000 soldiers when training and recuperation is factored in, according to Alain Pellerin, of the Ottawa lobby group Conference of Defence Associations.

Many of these soldiers will be needed to train the expanded forces and will not be available to support an overseas mission. Pellerin anticipates Canada will keep about 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, freeing up enough troops to start the rebuilding of the army.

By February, the British will have 3,300 soldiers in their bases in the Canadian zone of Afghanistan and they'll have to take up the slack from the departing Canadian forces.

If other accounts are accurate, expect the fighting in Afghanistan to get fiercer throughout the summer.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, bureau chief of the Pakistan Asia Times Online, wrote recently that the Taliban has successfully tapped into a new pocket of recruits. The United States has been successful in getting Pakistan to restrict Muslim jihadists in India-adminstered Kashmir. Thousands of these fighters who fought U.S. troops in 2001 have re-joined forces with the Taliban for the spring offensive already underway.

Shahzad says as many as 27,000 fighters have grouped in the Pakistani province of North Waziristan, bordering on Afghanistan. The plan is to recreate Taliban rule there, and expand the base into neighboring provinces of Afghanistan.

These fighters will handle the attacks on NATO troops in the mountains, leaving the terror suicide bombings to Jihadists from other countries. The Toronto Star's Rosie Dimanno quotes an interior ministry official telling her that of all the suicide bombers in the past six months, only one was a native Afghan.

Which isn't to say there haven't been successes on the allied front in recent days. Many of them have flown under the media radar.

It's too soon to say how significant they will prove to be, but don't be surprised if they lead to some spectacular announcements in the near future.

* On April 12, a Pakistan air strike involving cobra gunships killed a top Al Qaeda terrorist wanted for the bombings of American embassies in Africa. He had a bounty of $5 million on his head.

* The next day, American-led forces launched Operation Mountain Lion in Afghanistan's Kunar province, where Osama Bin Laden has been rumoured to be hiding. The offensive involves about 2500 American, British and Afghan troops sent in to disrupt the activities and supply lines of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

A B-52 air strike supporting Operation Mountain Lion killed one of Bin Laden's bodyguards. He was the Palestinian son-in-law of al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. His family was notified a few days later and accepted condolence visits in his home village near Jenin in the West Bank.

* The former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan was arrested with two colleagues the same week. A raid on an al-Qaeda safehouse in Peshwar netted four al-Qaeda fighters, two of whom were disguising themselves as women.

And a day or two after that, Pakistani soldiers shot and killed the head of al-Qaeda operations in Waziristan after he fled when they stopped a minibus for a spot check. He had recently fled Kunar province one step ahead of Operation Mountain Lion forces.

Pakistani forces managed to seize laptop computers in several of these incidents, which may provide valuable information on other targets.

* One of them is obviously Osama Bin Laden. It may be coincidence, by another alleged Bin Laden tape surfaced this weekend. In it, Bin Laden, if it is his voice on the tape, called on jihadists to go to Sudan to fight any United Nations peacekeeping force.

That will certainly come as a blow to Jack Layton who has been touting a peacekeeping mission to Sudan as an alternative to fighting alongside Americans in Afghanistan.

What was especially significant about the latest Bin Laden tape was what was not mentioned.

Meanwhile, to see how the anti-war far left has reacted to the Afghanistan casualties, you have to check out this thread on the union-supported

The acting moderator shut down the thread to check the policy on celebrating the deaths of Canadian soldiers and encouraging more.

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