War on Terror

Oh Canada, who stands on guard for thee?

Corporal Matthew Dicks, a Canadian soldier who was injured in the same attack that killed his comrades salutes during ramp ceremonies for Master Cpl. Allan Stewart, from Petawawa, and Trooper Patrick James Pentland, from Petawawa, at the base in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Fri. April 13, 2007. The two soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack two days ago. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

While Canadian troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, a Canadian judge sent a suspected terrorist home to be closely watched by his wife and six children. Meanwhile, a Green Party candidate, Kevin Potvin, “explains” that he was being “symbolic” when in 2002 he wrote:

“When I saw the first tower cascade down into that enormous plume of dust and paper, there was a little voice inside me that said, “Yeah!” When the second tower came down the same way, that little voice said, “Beautiful!”

The column goes on to say “I know lots of people were killed. But then again, I see lots of people getting killed whenever I turn the TV news on, and, frankly, it doesn’t really get me any more.” Mr. Potvin said yesterday he didn’t mean he was dismissing the deaths. “If you read the story that I wrote, you’ll notice that I’m talking about it on a symbolic level,” he said.

I’m sure glad Mr. Potvin cleared up his lack of human compassion for us.

Elsewhere, there are Canadians trying to accomplish something a little more tangible:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Canadians and their allies are hunting for a group of Taliban bombers who have infiltrated the farmland west of Kandahar from neighbouring Helmand province, military officials confirmed yesterday. But the insurgents’ strike with an improvised explosive device in Zhari district this week, which killed two Canadians, does not mean the Taliban’s spring offensive has arrived, said Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker, the battle group commander. Nor does the bombing mean that the security situation in Zhari has deteriorated, he added. “We were just in the process of starting operations to target that particular cell when we had this most recent IED strike,” Lt.-Col. Walker said.

Six weeks ago, patrolling that area was difficult, Major Graham [commander of the reconnaissance unit struck by the most recent bombing] said. “We were getting attacked, we were getting mined, we were getting IEDed. None of the locals wanted anything to do with us, because they were under the belief that we would quickly leave the area and the Taliban would remain.” However, the young officer said he believes their persistence has seen the local residents warming to the Canadians.

“Local people tell us where IEDs are laid in the road, locals come to my shuras [meetings] and talk about security issues in the area and they now work with the Afghan police, which they didn’t want to do previously,” he said.

Major Graham arrived in Afghanistan two months ago and has spent many of his days since sitting down with tribal elders and other local residents. These conversations have left him optimistic, he said.

“We’re going to win this.”

Meanwhile, at the Canadian military base in Kandahar yesterday, the journey home for Master Corporal Allan Stewart and Trooper Patrick Pentland began with hundreds of salutes from their comrades. One in particular served as a poignant reminder of both the bond soldiers share and the perils of war: the one that came from a hospital stretcher.

Corporal Matthew Dicks, his eye blackened and an oxygen mask over his face, braved the diesel and dust of Kandahar Airfield to bid farewell to the men with whom he was sharing a cramped Coyote armoured vehicle when it was flipped over Wednesday by a roadside bomb.

As pallbearers slowly carried the two flag-draped coffins toward a waiting military aircraft, The Canadian Press reported, the bedridden man from Conception Bay, Nfld., pressed his hand to his temple, his index finger equipped with a pulse oximeter, an IV tube running the length of his bandaged right arm.

Despite the courage and sacrifice of Canada’s heroes, those in authority at home cannot seem to figure out how to send a still breathing suspected terrorist back to his home country:

An Egyptian terrorism suspect has been released from years of jail, but the Federal Court judge yesterday expressed strong security concerns and a lack of confidence in the man’s main bail surety, his wife. Mahmoud Jaballah was released from a detention centre in Kingston and will be placed under an extreme form of house arrest. He is the second terrorism suspect freed in two days, after the release of Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub on Thursday.

After being detained for nearly six years, Mr. Jaballah was escorted by officials back to his Toronto home, where he will live with his wife and six children, several of whom are now responsible for watching his every move. “He’s out,” the suspect’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman, said last night. “I’m just pleased he’s out. It’s been so hard on them as people, as individuals.”

Egyptian terrorism suspect Mahmoud Jaballah was released from a detention centre in Kingston and will be placed under an extreme form of house arrest. He is the second terrorism suspect freed in two days, after the release of Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub on Thursday. Since 1999, the Canadian government has been trying to use the federal security-certificate process to deport the terrorism suspect and, after losing its initial case, had Mr. Jaballah rearrested in 2001. He had been jailed ever since as courts, citing concerns about torture in his native Egypt, rejected efforts to deport him.

The release quickly followed a 62-page bail decision by Madame Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson. The judge writes that security-certificate cases rely on “reasonable suspicion,” not criminal standards of proof. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Jaballah was a senior member of [Egyptian al-Jihad] who acted as a communicator among terrorist cells of the AJ and al-Qaeda” during the time of the deadly 1998 al-Qaeda bombings in Africa.

If elected to Parliament, Green Party member Kevin Potvin should propose legislation that overrules Canada’s judges and sends Mahmoud Jaballah home to Eqypt where he belongs. Yet Mr. Potvin does not let people dying at home or abroad at the hands of terrorists bother him anymore so…