Reading between the lines of Harper’s statement on bin Laden

A hasty speech glosses over some key points

Stephen Harper’s statement on the killing of Osama bin Laden was written in haste, obviously – but it was an important moment, and Harper felt compelled to speak, so let’s take a look.


On September 11, 2001, twenty-four Canadians were murdered in the Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre. The death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, reported today by President Obama, secures a measure of justice for these Canadians and their families.

There are old jokes about how the Toronto Star would report on a global apocalypse: “Armageddon snarls Metro traffic!” That’s how Harper comes off here. It’s all and only about Canada. He couldn’t maybe slip in an “among thousands of others” after his reference to the 24 Canadians who were killed?

Bin Laden’s death does not end the threat of international terrorism. Sadly, others will take his place.

I understand that Harper has built his campaign on reminding us the world is scary, troubles lapping at our shores, laplaplappitylap, etc. And he’s right of course that others will rise. But this seems to rather minimize bin Laden’s practical, strategic and symbolic value, no?

But, this does remind us why Canadian armed forces personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan: to deny al Qaeda and organizations like it, the use of Afghanistan, where the 9/11 attack was conceived and planned. Through their operations there to cut off terror at its root, our men and women in uniform have made an enormous contribution to Canadian security abroad.

And now they’re leaving, even though the place remains highly unstable.  Hope you enjoyed that security, everyone!

At home, dedicated security officials work tirelessly and with success, to prevent similar attacks in Canada. Protection of the public is the first and most important duty of government.

Look – rhetoric about security is by its nature quite powerful. But it still has to kind of make sense. If protecting the public is Harper’s MOST IMPORTANT duty… and if Afghanistan is where terrorism, which THREATENS the public, is taking root… and if others are going to be taking bin Laden’s place, emboldening yet again the threat of global terrorism… then you can’t really go around crowing about your efforts when your next major operation in Afghanistan involves packing up your suitcase.

Canada receives the news of the death of Osama bin Laden with sober satisfaction.

Good line.

We will continue to stand firm with our allies against the threat of global terrorism.

In the sense of abandoning the part of the world that is the epicentre of the threat of global terrorism.

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