Liberals need to save party from neoconservative "Iggy"

The federal Liberal Party of Canada will elect a new leader on December 2, 2006 in Montréal.

One candidate, Michael Ignatieff, has spent almost his entire adult life in the U.K and U.S. When asked whether he’s a dual citizen, "Iggy" as he now known, told the Toronto Star, "No. I’ve never been a citizen of any other country. Nor was I a green card holder in the United States."

Ignatieff, 59, received a Ph.D. in history in 1976 from Harvard. From 2000 to 2005 he was director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

Since then, the rich and powerful of Canada’s federal Liberal party have worked hard to convince the University of Toronto (Canada’s largest academic institution) that Ignatieff should leave Harvard and accept an academic position there, presumably to be more geographically convenient for their political agenda.

It is not easy for academics to leave tenured university positions. When they do, it is usually for one of two reasons — the lure of money, or power. Both motives are generally glossed over by the phrase "new challenges."

So far, the Liberal movers and shakers have been successful in their plans for "Iggy." They convinced him to leave academia for the "new challenges" of running as a Liberal candidate in a Toronto riding, then as an MP, and now as one of the party’s leadership hopefuls. And it appears that Ignatieff has believed the Liberal power-brokers and is willing to ride along with their plans.

The rich and powerful among the Liberals must have pulled some very major strings at U of T to arrange an academic post for Prof. Ignatieff in a hurry — in spite of knowing that "Iggy" is not really interested in a teaching career there, now that he’s being groomed to lead the Liberal Party and maybe even the country.

What does this mean to Canadians? There is abundant and growing evidence (most of it from the man himself) that Michael Ignatieff is about as neoconservative a candidate as the Liberals could ever hope to attract.

On September 22, 2001 he wrote, "Allah’s Fighters are Godless Nihilists" using the same type of rhetoric that comes from the mouth of George W. Bush.

That’s not surprising. He supported Bush’s war on Iraq (even when Canada’s Liberal Party decided it would not), but has offered only thin George Bush- style platitudes as justification for that support.

"[You] have to understand what I saw in Iraq in 1992," he pleaded dramatically. "I have been a human rights reporter and you get scorched by what you see. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds in 1992 and I decided there and then that I would stand with these people no matter what happens. And I’ve done so ever since."

"[You] can think what you want about the Americans, but you must not give up on all those women who came out of those polling booths holding those purple fingers up … You must not give up on those brave Iraqi democrats that I see all the time who put on body amour and go out to try and work the politics that will drag this country out of the ditch."

Earlier this year, MP Ignatieff voted in favor of extending the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan under NATO for three more years, until 2009, despite there being no parliamentary debate on the issue. It is abundantly clear where he stands — he did not abstain, he did not vote no; he voted yes.

Further evidence is shown in how he answered a recent Toronto Star question about his benchmarks for Canadian success in Afghanistan:

"The Taliban offensive will probably run out of gas as the winter season comes. These things are seasonal. One benchmark of success is if we don’t get a resumption [of attacks] next spring. If it comes back gangbusters in April ’07, we do have a problem. The second benchmark is just intelligence co-operation. Are villagers helping us? Our moral legitimacy depends on us believing we are their friends and the Taliban their enemies. If we start to lose intelligence co- operation and help, that’s a pretty good benchmark that something has gone badly wrong in our relationship."

"We’ve got to sustain the Karzai government. We have to have some benchmarks about police training and Afghan army deployment. We are not noticing that a lot of these missions are dual missions (with) the Afghan army. So the military has got to give us an assessment of whether these guys are standing up or running."

On the Israeli war against Lebanon he told the Canadian Press on August 12 that he had miss-spoken when he told the Toronto Star earlier that he was "not losing sleep" over civilian deaths in Lebanon. But the words and the attitude behind them were not the least bit hesitant at the time. In the Star interview — where he was asked to comment on the Israeli bombing of the village of Qana, where at least 28 Lebanese civilians were killed –” he said dismissively:

"It wasn’t Qana. Qana was frankly inevitable in a situation in which you have rocket launchers within 100 yards of a civilian population. This is the nature of the war that’s going on …This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that."

And on Canada’s traditional peacemaking and peacekeeping role, "Iggy" declared that it "died in Rwanda" and now our troops should have "a peace enforcement type of role."

Here at home, "Iggy" is just as eloquent and scary. On Quebec, he has said he will try to "avoid civil war." Campaign director Ian Davey responded to Ignatieff’s ominous Quebec remark by saying that his candidate is changing the way politics is done in this country.

Yes, he certainly is –” for the worse!

Canadian Liberals have a fighting chance on December 2 to save their party from the neoconservative "Iggy" and his powerful friends. But if they do elect "Iggy," it could also sideline the Liberals for the next federal election. Canada is not ready for a neoconservative Liberal –” whatever that may be — to become Prime Minister.