What About the Wars?

Rex thinks the conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya aren't so much forgotten in this election campaign, as willfully sidelined.

Rex thinks the conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya aren't so much forgotten by the parties in this election campaign, as willfully sidelined.

Please visit our in depth page What the Election Forgot  to see other videos in this special feature from April 11, 2011.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

What About the Wars?

April 11, 2011

I seem to remember we had a ferocious debate on the Long-Form census. There were several question periods about Bev Oda writing N-O-T on a grant application. I believe it was one of the items that led to that Contempt of Parliament motion that – more or less – got us into this much appreciated election.

But now that we're at the start of the third week how many of you have heard the words Afghanistan or Libya, cross the lips of our leaders?   Oda and the Census we can debate - War and Peace - well they're too trivial.

Afghanistan is just the biggest foreign conflict we've been engaged in since the Second World War. We're supposed to leave this year - the conflict still unresolved - after 10 years of sacrifice and combat.

And, only a couple of days before the election was called, we committed along with the French, the British and the Americans, to establishing a so-called no fly zone over Libya. That's right, we joined a second war - bombing Gadhafi defenses - before we finished the one we've already been in for a decade.

Have these issues been forgotten in this election? No, I'd place them more in the category of "willfully sidelined" (Afghanistan) and "deliberately obscured" (Libya).

We've been in Afghanistan - at great cost - as said, for a decade. Our resolve in that war has greatly changed from never "cutting and running," to weariness and estrangement from the whole project.  But, to debate Afghanistan, to discuss why we leave when it is still unresolved, is obviously out of bounds in a Canadian election.

And then there's the "bonus war" of Libya. It is simply amazing that we got into that war with virtually no debate prior to the decision. More amazing that when the subject finally made it to Parliament, days before the election all parties voted unanimously to support it. There was no surer way to guarantee it would not be brought up in the election.

If you want a truly consequential example of "contempt of parliament" how about that? Finessing, by all party agreement, even the Blocs', all real discussion of Libya.

There is a real sense that Canadian politics, and this election certainly, is about everything except what matters.  The parties get to bicker among themselves, we get the 'sport' of a campaign, the polls are a daily roller coaster: our politicos can debate the debates, ejections from rallies, and the rabid mutterings of some fringe supremacist.

But introduce a real issue, a matter of genuine depth and complex reality, even, as in Afghanistan and Libya, matters of life and death: well, why spoil a good election by talking about what really counts, or bore people with what really matters?

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.