September 23rd 1968  (Age 53)

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Random Thots is brought to you by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist at the Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Website:

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Measured cartoon

A letter to the editor regarding last Thursday's cartoon:

Re: Editorial cartoon (Aug. 4)

Harper's poll numbers dwindle, seemingly due to his outspokeness on the Middle East conflict. But I wonder — if Canada was attacked by a terrorist group, if some of our soldiers and civilians were killed and/or kidnapped, how we as Canadians would feel if our friends the British or the Americans refused to "take sides" in order to keep "impartial."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a principled stand; as far as "neutrality" goes, it has been said that "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." Harper-bashers would prefer that he use the old Liberal tactic of sitting on the fence, never doing or saying anything even remotely controversial, lest it cost him votes. Thankfully, he is above that.

— Garry Barankin, Hamilton

Hey, I'm with the letter writer on this. All I was illustrating in the above cartoon is the news that Conservative fortunes in the polls are taking a dip, and blame is being put on Harper's pretty clear stance that Israel is right to agressively defend itself (in a measured response) by going after Hezbollah terrorists. My July 21 cartoon illustrates his second paragraph:

I'm very much in the camp of the letter writer and very confused about the stance my newspaper is taking on the current situation in the Mideast. Two editorials written less than 2 weeks apart from one another seem to condradict each other.

On July 18, the Spectator wrote an editorial which clearly put the blame on Hezbollah with the headline "This isn't just a border clash":


Pity Lebanon and its people. Here is a nation, ravaged and recovering from decades of civil war, now in the centre of the Middle Eastern firestorm and suffering terribly for the sins of others.

Israeli attacks have devastated Beirut, seat of a government struggling towards a true democratic state. Throughout the country, civilians -- including, now, seven Canadians -- have been killed or injured.

The blame for the conflagration has to be laid at the feet of Hezbollah, whose constant provocations (aligned, not coincidentally, with Hamas provocations in Gaza) were meant to force Israel's hand. Hezbollah's goal is the extermination of Israel and, like Hamas, it has no interest in peace.

Hezbollah's killing of eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of two others was a last-straw provocation, prompting Israel to act in self-defence against a sworn enemy. Hezbollah effectively controls Lebanon's south, and Beirut doesn't have the capacity, and perhaps the will, to force it out.

Syria and Iran have financed and armed Hezbollah, supplying increasingly long-range missiles that have caused deaths in Haifa, and threaten Tel Aviv. This isn't just a border clash; it is Syria flexing its muscles. It is very clear that, for all the peace efforts over the the past decades, there are still a great many people in the Middle East -- in government and out -- who believe Israel's very existence must end.

Israel has reacted with force in its war on Hezbollah, consistent with its long-standing policies that military efforts must be forceful, even overwhelming, to defeat enemies. It has not been indiscriminate in its attacks, but innocents have died nonetheless. There is never any good excuse for civilian casualties, but Hezbollah must share the blame for sheltering in residential neighbourhoods.

Yesterday, Israel offered a cease-fire in return for Hezbollah moving out of the border area, returning the kidnapped soldiers and ending rocket attacks. That's a strong start to ending this deadly escalation of violence.

The insertion of a UN peacekeeping force is not feasible and would be dangerously premature. But the UN can persuade and mediate -- and bring weight to bear on third-party nations such as Syria and Iran. As long as they use terrorist organizations as their proxies, there will be no peace to keep in the Middle East.


So, 11 days later an editorial appears July 29, 2006, crapping on Stephen Harper for simply stating in essence, what the Spectator wrote in a previous editorial:


This week has been an eye-opener for Canadians, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped any pretense about moderate conservative values and swept Canada further into the hard right-wing orbit of the Bush administration.

As the world cringed at the slaughter of innocents in Lebanon and Israel, people in this country expected to see Ottawa play its traditional collaborative role of supporting international calls to stop the bloodshed first, then trying to facilitate more substantial solutions.

What they saw instead was Harper undoing 50 years of Canadian reputation in the Middle East by abandoning all sense of neutrality on this latest flaring of a deep-rooted conflict. In doing so, he seriously harmed Canada's credibility to interact with Arab nations as a distinctly independent peace broker.

The uneasy history of Israel and its hostile neighbours has enough complexities to fill a library. While it is obvious that the current violence was provoked by the terrorist organization Hezbollah, this week's urgent issue is not one of taking sides, but of achieving a ceasefire as quickly as possible, and stopping the destruction and killing.

In recharting Canada's foreign policy for this particular theatre, the PM has been sternly intransigent. He refused to revisit his early controversial assessment about Israel's "measured response" to Hezbollah -- even as voices in Canada and around the world howled at the spiralling intensity of death. And Harper's grudging response to Israel's bombing of a UN peacekeeping post -- presumably taking the life of a Canadian soldier -- left him looking like a man caught between loyalties.

But it was Canada's position at the Rome conference on Wednesday that stunned many. While 15 European and Arab countries called for an immediate ceasefire and a UN-mandated stabilization force to intervene, Canada lined up behind the U.S. and Britain in refusing to agree. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, parroting Condoleezza Rice, said a quick-fix ceasefire is not a good idea because it can't guarantee permanent peace. There's more politics than logic in that reasoning.

Stephen Harper, minder of a minority government, is not fazed by years of opinion polls showing most Canadians oppose the policies of Washington. This week he took Canada in a direction Lester Pearson couldn't have imagined when he won the Nobel Peace Prize 50 years ago for resolving the Suez Crisis through the United Nations.

Mr. Harper is wrong.


Mr Harper is wrong? I guess the Spectator was wrong, too? I'm very confused, but what I do know is that the letter writer ought to lash out at the editorial writer, not the cartoonist.

Posted at 10:52 am by Graeme_MacKay

Commuting Hamiltonian
August 10, 2006   02:44 PM PDT
I don't see the letter-writer as lashing out at the cartoonist. I see the letter-writer using the cartoon as a springboard to provide his thoughts on the issue.
Graeme MacKay
August 10, 2006   11:39 PM PDT
I know. I just used the letter writer's point as a springboard to point out the hypocrisy of the Spec's mideast editorial stance.

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