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 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:

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

General Jack Layton leads the march to Darfur

General Jack Layton has seen the intelligence reports. He's given his tiny army its marching orders.

It's Darfur, men!

And, uh, women, too, of course.

Because women love peace. And Canada loves peace. And the NDP loves peace. And the army loves peace. And Kofi Annan loves peace.

Al-l-l-l-l we-e-e-e ar-r-r-re saaayyyyinnnggg, is.....oh, sorry. Got carried away there.

Darfur it is, says General Jack.

He's read the Strategic Counsel Poll that asked: Overall, would you say you support or oppose the decision to send Canadian troops to Afghanistan? 54 percent said opposed. (42 percent said support and 4 percent didn't care one way or another.)

Strike while the iron's hot, eh? If we're going to undermine the War on Terror, here's our chance, Jack told his troops. Who's against sending peacekeepers to Sudan?

"...I think that Canadians would want us to be in Darfur. That sentiment is found right across the country.'' he told the pliant press. None of whom asked: sez who?

Because The Black Rod can't find a single opinion poll that's asked: Overall, would you support or oppose a decision to send Canadian troops to Sudan? Not one. No poll that says Canadians would prefer Canadian soldiers to be killed in Sudan rather than Afghanistan. Maybe they are internal NDP polls. Or maybe, like Supreme Court judges, Layton is channelling the "ethos" of Canadian voters.

Certainly, the press has certainly been sugarcoating the story. No reporter has linked Layton's call "On to Darfur" with what happened this week. In fact, there's hardly been any reporting anywhere of what happened in Darfur this week. We mean, specifically, that incident on Monday where refugees drove out a UN representative, tried to kill his translator, attacked a peacekeepers compound, killed a translator there, and looted communications equipment.

Their complaint? The 7000 African Union peacekeeprs aren't doing enough to protect them from the Arab militias.

In other words, they want peacemakers. Not peacekeepers. That's something General Jack Layton would like kept hush hush.

Because, this isn't about Darfur. Or human rights. It's what's in the rest of the intelligence reports---voter support for the NDP is dropping like a stone. The three most recent polls have found that the NDP has reached bedrock. After soaring to 17.5 percent of the vote in the last election, the NDP now attracts 13 percent (Leger), 14 percent (Angus Reid), or a whopping 16 percent (Decima).

The NDP is in a battle for its life. As nothing more than a pressure group, it can never dream of winning enough seats to be a government. Labour has formally split from the party. The Greens bleed votes from the left (7 percent, Leger, or 9 percent, Angus Reid, compared to 4.5 percent at election time.) And the Liberals are going home. The only hope is to out-manoeuvre the Liberals who have ceded the centre right to the Conservatives and can only expand leftward.

And leftward means being more anti-Yankee than thou. The NDP cemented their credentials there by marching behind General Jack and voting Monday against continental security and the Norad treaty.

They've shown their support for Canada's forces in Afghanistan by calling for better treatment of the Taliban who are killing Canadians. And now they're going for the brass ring by leading the charge against the War on Terror behind the Americans. Pull out of Afghanistan and move the troops to Sudan.

It won't be any safer, but at least the dead Canadians won't have died supporting the United States.

We'd like to republish two letters to the editor that are more relevant than ever. One is from the father of a soldier who died in Afghanistan and the other from a retired military officer looking at any commitment in Darfur.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Friday, May 5, 2006
Letter From Canada: Grieving dad thanks those who rushed to help son
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davis of Nova Scotia wrote to the Seattle P-I in response to a recent Other Voices essay that ran on this page.
The essay, "Dispatch from Iraq: A tiny bit of comfort," was written by National Guardsman Aric Catron, who is serving his second tour in Iraq. It motivated Davis to write in and share a story about his son.
To read Catron's original essay, go to:

I have no idea who I am writing to. I was just searching the Internet, desperately trying to find information on the four Canadian soldiers who were killed on April 22, and I came upon your Web site. I started to read and couldn't stop.

Assuming I am writing to Americans, I want to share something with you.

My son Paul joined the Canadian Forces in January 1998 and deployed to BosniaHerzegovina in 2000 and 2001.

On Jan. 23 of this year, I was in Winnipeg, Canada, seeing Paul off to Afghanistan.

He was with B Company attached to the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry on Operation Archer in Kandahar. I had taken a red-eye flight from Nova Scotia to Winnipeg and surprised him by showing up at the military airstrip in the morning just before he and his comrades arrived to prepare to leave for their mission.

He was joking and smiling with his buddies, no different than if they were a hockey team preparing to go on the ice.

While standing with him and all his comrades in the hangar at the airport, I noticed a small insignia U.S. flag on his boots. Jokingly, I kicked his ankle and said, "Paul, what's that? ..."
His comrades, hearing me, continued joking, "Yeah, Davis, you better cut that tag off. ..."
Paul's warm smile suddenly turned serious for the moment.

"No, we train with these guys and we fight alongside with them. If we get in trouble over there, they will be the first to come to our aid," he said.

As he started toward the line to board the plane and as I started toward my taxi, we turned to look at each other and made eye contact for the last time.

On March 2, Cpl. Paul James Davis of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was killed.
The first to arrive at the scene was a United States Black Hawk helicopter.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.--

-- Jim Davis Nova Scotia, Canada
(Cpl. Paul Davis was killed when an armoured vehicle he was in crashed into a taxi and flipped over near Kandahar.)

Toronto Star
Peacekeeping not troops' main role
May 8, 2006. 01:00 AM

Shift some troops from Afghan mission to Darfur
Opinion, May 7.

I have unsuccessfully argued for more than two years for NATO's intervention in Darfur to protect the victims of the continuing genocide. During this time, Canada's lead investigators, Ambassador Robert Fowler and Senator Roméo Dallaire assured us "things were getting better" and anyone suggesting Western intervention to solve an African problem was racist.

The latter has now changed his mind and joined the Johnny-come-lately choir calling for NATO involvement.

Considering the above, I support Haroon Siddiqui's call for expanded Canadian involvement to protect the innocents in Darfur but unfortunately his column contains a number of serious factual errors that weaken his overall argument.

Our initial deployment to Afghanistan was not a peacemaking role in Kabul in 2001 as indicated by Siddiqui. The deployment took place in early 2002 to Kandahar as one-third of the combat power of a U.S. Airborne brigade tasked with eliminating remnants of the Taliban and AlQaeda. The unit, 3PPCLI, returned to Canada in April of the same year.

Canadian troops returned to Afghanistan in 2003 as part of the International Security Assistance Force responsible for security in and around Kabul. Siddiqui goes on to say that, "fortunately, most of the American troops are to depart (Afghanistan) soon." That is just not the case. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is on its way from just under 20,000 troops to 16,000. The U.S. will continue to outnumber all the other 30 national contingents, including Canada's, combined.

Finally, what upset me enough to pen this letter was the comment that our involvement in Darfur "would help us return to our historic (peacekeeping) role." A myth and one the media and successive governments have perpetuated, presumably because the majority of Canadians like the idea of letting others do the heavy lifting and peacekeeping doesn't cost as much as a fighting force.

Peacekeeping was always a sideline activity for the Canadian Armed Forces. At the height of our reputation as the UN's lead nation in peacekeeping during the '60s, '70s and '80s, we had at any one time around 1,500 soldiers deployed under the UN flag. At the same time, we had up to 10,000 troops, some armed with nuclear weapons, stationed with NATO on the central front in Germany and France prepared to take on any aggression by the Soviet Union.

Peacekeepers? Not!

Lewis MacKenzie, Major -General (ret'd), Bracebridge, Ont.

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