Thursday, November 03, 2005
UPDATE - Canadian Embassy Responds to Warner Todd Huston
I am heartened that Mr. Etzinger, from the Canadian embassy in Washington, took the time to respond to some of my points on the security problems between our two great nations. It shows that they are paying attention, as I am sure they were all along, and that is certainly admirable. But, I believe some of his criticisms were overstated.
Mr. Etzinger started his criticism with an attack on the "logic" of my position stating that saying there are Al Qaeda members in Canada amounts to "urban legend". But, that doesn't seem to square with the many easily found reports in the media. Even Canadian officials have announced that one Canadian national or another is an operating Al Qaeda member, confirming my claim.
Aside from Ahmed Ressam, whom I mentioned in my original Op Ed, Canadian officials have arrested several more citizens over the years since 1999. For instance, in 2002 officials arrested an Ottawa resident, Mohamed Harkat, who was involved in Al Qaeda. Even British officials recently arrested Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a Canadian citizen accused of planning bombings in England. And in 2003 top Al Qaeda terror suspect, Adnan El Shukrijumah, was in Canada attempting to get the materials for a "Dirty" nuclear bomb, it is reported.
Both the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have confirmed that Canadian citizens who are suspected of operating terrorist cells in Canada and are members of Al Qaeda have been arrested or are currently under watch since 1999.
... well, I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Further, I am not the only commentator who is making this connection between the obvious presence of Al Qaeda in Canada and a threat to US security. Just for one example, a former Canadian ambassador, James Bissett, recently wrote that there is, indeed, a problem here. He wrote in a recent Op Ed, that there is "... a serious threat not only to Canada but to the United States."
All this seems to point to something other than the "urban legend" theory Mr. Etzinger wants us to believe.
Next, Mr. Etzinger made the analogy that Virginia is a danger to North Carolina because Al Qaeda suspects have been discovered in the Tidewater State. He seemed to want to use this example as a joke, a way to downplay the fact that Canada is a danger to the US. But Virginia IS a threat to North Carolina for the very reason he states. Of course, both states are within the USA and the analogy isn't perfect, but the point he thought was so funny is quite serious, really.
Etzinger chastised me for "cherry picking" a "couple" reports of Al Qaeda cells in Canada and over blowing those few reports to an absurd degree. But, I gave five different reports in my piece and then went on to state that there are many, many other easily found reports. I certainly couldn't include them all in a simple Op Ed. If I made an "error of monstrous proportions" by over blowing the reports in Mr. Etzinger's opinion then he certainly erred as monstrously the other way by downplaying the same!
Mr. Etzinger certainly is correct to remind us all that there are problems inherent in a war against insurgents and covert operatives in a nation like Canada -or the USA, for that matter- that is an "open society". I couldn't agree more strongly. It is not easy to reconcile an open, democratic society's intense desire for due process under the law and fairness for all concerned with a fight against a hidden, secret enemy within. We see the issue writ large in our own debate over the Patriot Act in the USA. But that point is so obvious as to be prosaic. Such an issue is far too large an issue to be discussed in as short an Op Ed as was my original, more narrowly focused piece.
Now, I certainly believe that the Canadian government is working with the US government to improve security and I know that the Canadian armed forces are champing at the bit to get in this action, if the remarks of General Rick Hillier are any indication. Hillier, the top General of the Canadian Defense, was reported to have been excited over the inclusion of Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan. Even Prime Minister Paul Martin backed up his tough talking Top General last July.
So, please let it be known that I welcome and appreciate all the Canadian government has done to date in conjunction with the USA with the Global War on Terror. I don't want to be construed as saying that they are doing nothing. But, with the prevailing anti-war fever in Canada so infesting the Canadian government, it strains credulity to believe that Canada is doing ALL it can.
All in all, I do not believe that I "distorted" any facts, as Mr. Etzinger contends. Admittedly, I did not go into the things that Canada is doing and Mr. Etzinger did a good service to let us know of some of the things that they are doing. But, my piece was not about that issue and I really did not have the space in the form of an Op Ed to explore that line of discussion. I just do not feel I gave anyone a "false impression about Canada" or US security.
What I did do was bring some specific problems to light in hopes that a solution is forth coming. And it's a solution Mr.Etzinger is in a far better position to effect than am I. Instead of simply dismissing my criticisms of Canada's efforts it would be nice if he spent some time trying to solve the problem.
Our collective security is certainly an important issue and I join Mr. Etzinger in working to that end.
By Warner Todd Huston