Terrorism in Canada: Time to pull our heads out of the sand and attack the terrorist threats

Michael Zehaf Bibeau is shown in this Twitter photo posted an Islamic State media account.
Michael Zehaf Bibeau is shown in this Twitter photo posted an Islamic State media account.

It is impolite (and undiplomatic) to say “I told you so.”

But I will do so anyway: “I told you so.”

The terrorists’ attacks in Quebec and on Parliament Hill are wake up calls only to those willfully asleep for many years.

Ever since 9/11, Canadians have lived an ostrich-like existence regarding terrorism.

Americans (and Canadians) have read and listened to a protracted litany of excuses and explanations.

“It couldn’t happen to us. We’re too nice a people (everybody loves us – really). We need to examine 'root causes' of terrorism. Islam is a religion of peace. We shouldn’t fight ISIS in Iraq. Canada must have failed these nice young men for them to have done something so misguided. These are criminals, not terrorists.”

And more, politely, sotto voce, “The Americans got what they deserved in 9/11.” Implicitly, the United States is reaping the whirlwind from the winds it sowed. We relentlessly support Israeli repression and don’t appreciate the injustices done against Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, and other denizens of the Middle East. We have made war against Islamic-Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. We deny Iran’s legitimate interests.

Indeed, Canadians have deliberately ignored wake up calls that would have galvanized a less complacent society. They viewed the 2006 Toronto 18 as a “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” and were amused by their professed objective of storming Parliament Hill and beheading the prime minister. The anti-Harper chattering class snickered that it would not be the worst conclusion for his deplorable conservative leadership. Less amusing now, eh?

So the thwarted incidents pile up. The Millennial Bomber, Ahmed Ressam, is stopped by a hyper-alert U.S. border crossing guard on the way to attack Los Angeles International Airport. A young engineer designs timers for bombs to be sent to the Middle East. (A “nice young man”  aren’t they always?) An April 2013 effort to derail a New York-to-Toronto train results in a “ho-hum” after a flurry of media attention.

But essentially, Canadian views of U.S. anti-terrorist security efforts have been regarded as over-the-top. We are paranoid when we should merely be neurotic regarding border security.

But now a flock of chickens are circling, looking to come home to roost. There are two dead Canadian soldiers, killed in separate incidents, by individuals clearly influenced by violent Islamic creeds. But some Canadian politicians are still claiming these are “criminal” rather than “terrorist” attacks. Correct by definition all terrorism attacks can be defined as “criminal”, whether one person is slightly injured or 10,000 killed. But irrelevant.

Opposing viewpoint: David Kilgour

Increased national security should not come at the price of our civil rights

The attackers were not muttering Buddhist mantras. They were not chanting Old Testament psalms. Or waving a cross, exclaiming “In this sign, conquer!” Indeed, there is every indication that they were motivated by violent Islamic speakers supplemented by literature promoting hostility to Canada and the West. They may have been mentally disturbed, but their actions implemented Islamic incitement.

One can sympathize with national leaders concerned over instigating or augmenting a global religious war with approximately 1.5 billion Muslims. They seem to believe that if they keep muttering “Islam is a religion of peace,” their words will make it so. But the old adage remains: “It takes two to make peace and only one to make war.” We are foolish beyond redemption to pretend that we are at peace with militant Islam.

Might one want to evaluate the level of commitment by Canadian Muslims to Canada’s societal security? How many Muslims are members of the Canadian Armed Forces? How many Muslims are members of the RCMP or provincial/local police forces? Juxtapose these figures with estimates of how many Canadian Muslims have left Canada attempting to join assorted terrorist groups.

Nobody knows when or where the next shoe will drop. Nor is the “lone wolf” with an old rifle or an automobile the paradigm for terrorism. Think suicide vest in a holiday-crowded train station or a campaign rally. Think fertilizer-diesel fuel truck bomb akin to the Oklahoma City bomber attacking the Edmonton Mall. Think cargo plane seized at an insecure airport hitting the CN Tower.

There is a variety of augmented security legislation being contemplated in Parliament. Predictably, the critics are more concerned with “privacy” for individuals rather than security for the public. They wave the scarecrow that somehow shared intelligence information might be used invidiously against an innocent. Or it will be too easy to get warrants for electronic investigations. For the political opposition, it is always the government that is the enemy.

Canada needs an attitude adjustment.

(Photo courtesy The Canadian Press)

David T. Jones is a retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Career Officer who has published several hundred books, articles, columns, and reviews on U.S. - Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving as advisor for two Army Chiefs of Staff. He has just published Alternative North Americas: What Canada and the United States Can Learn from Each Other.