Saturday, April 14, 2007

It will be interesting to see how this develops:
A federal Green party candidate in British Columbia said the media have mischaracterized the meaning of a column he wrote in which he appeared to cheer on the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the column, he said that "when I saw the first tower cascade down … there was a little voice inside me that said, 'Yeah!'

"When the second tower came down the same way, that little voice said, 'Beautiful!'

"When the visage of the Pentagon appeared on the TV with a gaping and smoking hole in its side … I felt an urge to pump my fist in the air."

He added that "whenever I passed a TV or newspaper with a report on the ensuing U.S. war to capture Osama bin Laden, I secretly said to myself, 'Go, Osama, Go!'"

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Potvin said 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.

National Green party Leader Elizabeth May said she found his statements "shocking," adding that she would not sign his nomination papers if "those reflect his real views."
The ambiguity of the last sentence makes it difficult to predict what will happen. Note that the green party is Canada is less marginal than its American counterpart, polling close to %10 recently. The full text of the column is here.

What strikes me about the column is how monstrous it is. Potvin first frames terrorists as fighting against "corporatism and militarism." As for their methods, he argues terrorism not war, waged by those who can't afford tanks and airplanes? If someone wanted to wage war on the US, with all its satellites and drone bombers and smart missiles, what other form could it possibly take besides terrorism?
The obvious moral distinction between terrorists and the American military is that the former deliberately target civilians, while the latter do not. It is true that many civilians have died as a result of the Iraq war, but the US government has not been targeting them. Note that civilian casualties were fairly low during the fight between Saddam's army and the US military. If they have increased since it is due to the propensity of insurgents to blend into the Iraqi population, making it difficult to figure out who the civilians are. Moreover, the Pentagon has invested a very large amount of money over the past few decades to develop extremely accurate weapon systems which can hit military targets without causing as much damage to the surroundings.

None of this is to suggest that the US military has been flawless as far as civilian casualties are concerned. With over 100,000 US troops in Iraq, its plainly impossible that no slip ups will occur on the part of the individual commanders. And yet the moral difference remains - either we accept that certain things are beyond the pale, or everything is permitted and one can massacre at will.

Note how Potvin's column slides this difference under the rug, describing both sides as simply at war, ignoring the massacres on one side and the restraint on the other. The equivalent of Potvin's view on the right would be those who argue that we should nuke anyone who threatens us. This complete disregard for civilian lives is what I mean when I say that Potvin's column is monstrous.

I've had no warm feelings for the Canadian greens previously. But if this guy continues as a candidate - well, how much respect can you have for a party where this view is considered within the realm of reasonable discourse?

Update: CBC - "Green party drops controversial journalist as candidate"


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