When historians look back at the Harper Government -- remember, that is its chosen moniker -- I suspect they will point to this summer's hunt for "War Criminals" as a defining moment. As Carol Goar writes in this morning's Toronto Star:
For law-and-order enthusiasts, this is a welcome new chapter in Ottawa’s quest to ferret out undesirables.
For those who believe in the rule of law, the importance of evidence and the presumption of innocence, there is something chilling about this summer spectacle.
None of the 30 individuals whose mug shots are posted on the Canada Border Services website has been charged with any crime in this country. “There is reason to believe that they were implicated in such serious crimes as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Kenney says.
The Harper Government's calumny against its political opponents is deeply disturbing -- but it has become common practice here and in the United States. However, to find an analogue to what is happening now, one has to go all the way back to Tail Gunner Joe. It was Joe McCarthy who began the Great Witch Hunt, by claiming that he had a list of government employees who were Communist moles. In a speech delivered in Wheeling, West Virginia, McCarthy said:
I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.
Sound familiar? Two presidents -- Truman and Eisenhower -- refused to call McCarthy out on his lunacy. It was a journalist, Edward R. Murrow, who finally took on McCarthy during a famous broadcast in 1954:
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."
This is no time to buy what Vic Toews and Jason Kenny have been selling their fellow citizens. Like McCarthy, they seek to retain power by sowing fear and hatred. The last decade should have taught us where that leads.