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Israel: Decades-old conflict not about to cease

Since 9/11, western powers have behaved more or less like Prince Hamlet, conflicted by doubts and stalemated by niceties that barely register with those who have mounted their version of “slings and arrows” against the West and its allies.

A dozen years following 9/11 should have erased any remaining doubt that Osama bin Laden spoke for many in the Arab-Muslim world who believe Islam is locked in a millennial conflict with the West, and victory will belong to the party that has the faith to take defeats and yet remain on the field of battle as the last man standing.

Bin Laden and his associates might well be described as the crudest expression of this deep-seated conviction of Islamist thinking and practice — that Islam is politics in action, not merely a religion, with the mission to establish its system of government based on the Shariah.

Waging war, engaging in diplomacy, signing treaties, and maintaining or breaking truce are merely means in the pursuit of the end that Islamist doctrine prescribes.

Hamlet’s dilemma was how to act commensurate with the knowledge of the crime given him by the ghost of the murdered king, his father.

The tragedy that unfolds in Shakespeare’s drama is a result of action delayed and ineptly executed by the Prince of Denmark.

The West cannot play Hamlet, while Islamists have mastered the art of exploiting the West’s niceties to their advantage.

It is instructive to note Islamists are most cautious in dealing with Russians and Chinese — that neither Moscow nor Beijing will hesitate in using disproportionate force when needed and will not be troubled by any doubt over actions taken against Islamist terrorism.

But what is worse than playing Hamlet is playing the role at the expense of another.

The West does this with Israel.

Sitting in the shadow of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem one evening when visiting Israel, it became strikingly clear to me, as it is to most Israelis, that the ground zero of the millennial conflict between Islam and the West is right where I sat.

Islamists have made it amply clear, and the vast majority of Muslims support them, that this millennial conflict will not cease until Israel is annihilated.

Those Muslims small in numbers who repudiate such obscenity are in turn repudiated, ostracized, or killed as apostates from Islam.

Israelis are left with no choice but to act with wisdom and courage in doing whatever is necessary for survival. Yet instead of resolutely supporting Israel, many in the West have parked their discredited anti-Semitism inside mosques to appease Islamists.

In an ancient temple located outside of India’s capital are found words inscribed on the wall, “Coincidences, if traced far back enough, become inevitable.”

The recurrent conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, as was 9/11 and many similar, can be traced back sufficiently to see a pattern whose message brooks no doubting.

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The better man lost the U.S. election

There will be scores of books written and words piled up alongside the mounting American debt to fathom the results and consequences of the 2012 U.S. election.

In columns of such limited space as these, one can only suggestively wink at, as I once wrote, the complexity of subjects such as this requiring treatment at much greater length to do them justice.

On Tuesday evening, American voters balked on seeing their republic at a fork in the road — one path sloping towards greater dependency of individuals on the big government welfare state, and the other towards keeping secure the American ideals of individual freedom and responsibility — and voted to maintain the status quo of the past two years.

Republicans remain in control of the House, Democrats in control of the Senate, and the incumbent returns to the White House after an estimated cost of nearly $6 billion spent on the election.

This status quo reflects a bitterly divided America.

The 2012 election turnout was lower than that of 2008. According to the U.S. Federal Election Commission, 131 million Americans voted in 2008; the 2012 election turnout is estimated to be around 119 million.

In 2008, Obama’s share of the popular vote was shy of 69.5 million, or 52.9% of the total vote cast. Though his share of the 2012 popular vote was significantly less at 60.7 million or 50.4% of the total, it allowed him to squeeze a win.

In 2008, John McCain, the Republican nominee, received 59.9 million votes or 45.7% of the total.

Mitt Romney received 48% of the total vote in 2012, and though his share of 57.8 million votes fell below McCain’s, he received more electoral college votes.

The difference in numbers between an Obama win and a Romney loss was approximately the difference in numbers between those who voted for McCain in 2008 but did not vote for Romney. These nominally Republican voters staying home in the 2012 election, whether they were discouraged conservatives or unenthused independents, left the better man as a loser.

The fundamentals of the American economy — the figures for unemployment, people on food stamps, debt burden, depressed income, gas prices, the cost of Obamacare — were indicative of a failed Obama presidency.

But most of us anticipating a Romney presidency misread how greatly the American electorate has changed over the past three decades.

Open immigration since the mid-’60s has altered America’s demographic profile, as it has Europe’s and ours in Canada. During these decades, multiculturalism, with its attendant political correctness, have also greatly affected, in my view for the worse, the values of work, thrift, freedom and responsibility at the heart of America’s great republican adventure.

I have received my share of vitriolic mail — the occupational hazard of standing in the public square — and likely more will come.

It is a bracing experience to take such mail as bird droppings, to wash them away without any disquiet, and move on with the task at hand.

I also know keeping faith in democracy is not forgetting, as Churchill with irony and given his bittersweet experience in politics observed, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

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The puzzle in U.S. presidential elections

The role of the electoral college in American politics is unique, indirectly electing the U.S. president every four years. The American constitution provides for each state of the union to have a list of electors chosen by the state legislators equal to the number of elected representatives sent from the states to the U.S. Congress.

The electoral college consists of 535 electors, in number equal to the Congressional representation of 435 House members and 100 Senators, plus three electors from the District of Columbia.

The uniqueness of the American republican form of government is the constitutional checks and balances among the three equal branches of government.

Only the executive as the president represents indirectly the entire nation on the basis of popular vote nationally conducted, but the election of the president rests with the electors representing the states.

The candidates for the American presidency engage in a contest that comprises of 50 individual elections, plus one in the District of Columbia, held on the same day. In other words, as James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, “The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters.”

The reasoning behind such an arrangement was simple, to balance or safeguard the interests of minority (small states in terms of population) against majority (large populous states).

It was understood by the framers of the constitution that a majority vote in the electoral college meant the president-elect would be fairly representative of the union both in terms of total population and of states in the federation.

It has been rare — only on four occasions, the most recent in 2000 — when the majority vote in the electoral college went to a candidate losing the popular vote.

The reason for such a discrepancy to occur comes about when a candidate piles up the popular vote count by winning a few of the large and more populous states without winning enough of the smaller states to receive a majority of the electoral college vote.

The pattern of elections in recent years has shown that apart from a handful of so-called “battleground” states, most are locked in support of one of the two parties, Democrats or Republicans.

The coastal states — such as California (55 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20), New York (29), New Jersey (14), — are locked in support of Democrats, while some of the southern states — such as Texas (38), Georgia (16), Arizona (11), Louisiana (8), Alabama (9) — support Republicans.

Hence, the battleground states — such as Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, where neither party has a lock on support of voters — become important in deciding the president-elect.

In the 2012 election cycle, since most observers view the race as tight, the decision will come down to a few key states putting either Obama or Romney over the top.

The 2012 election appears close based on assumptions drawn from the previous narrowly contested elections in 2000 and 2004

It is quite possible, however, this election might surprise most people, as the 1980 election did when Ronald Reagan won a landslide over the incumbent Jimmy Carter.

I will not be surprised with a similar result on election night.

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Bad egg about to roll out of White House

In less than two weeks, Americans will either elect a new president, or give the incumbent a second term.

In following the latest polls, one can observe that since the first debate on Oct. 3, support among likely voters across the country has shifted in favour of Mitt Romney.

The Gallup and Rasmussen polls have indicated Romney presently leads President Barack Obama nationally, and in the battleground states where the election will be decided, either Romney has pulled even with Obama or tending to take the lead. More importantly, Romney is ahead by double-digits over Obama among independent voters, and the gender gap in support of the incumbent has vanished.

Democrats are pretty much in a state of panic. The Obama administration and the campaign team for the president’s re-election appear to be a in a firefight of their own making and, likely for the first time, they are awakening to the realization that this election is theirs to lose.

What happened? The tide that brought the Republicans roaring back in the 2010 mid-term election to take control of the House in the U.S. Congress has not ebbed in American politics. This tide will likely take Romney into the White House.

In the lead-up to the 2010 election, an increasing number of Americans began to slowly recognize that Obama was not the same individual they voted for in 2008. He appeared to be ideologically rigid, fiscally imprudent, bent upon spending as he recklessly added to the national debt already perilously high, and as a man of the left disdainful of his opponents.

The 2010 election was a referendum on the Obama administration’s inept handling of the economy. Yet Obama remained heedless of the Republican majority in the House, failed repeatedly to submit the annual budget or negotiate any compromise on spending. The economy continued to suffer, jobs vanished, unemployment figures remained unacceptably high, and the recovery has been anemic.

During the 2008 primary season, I wrote about candidate Obama as the Harold Hill of American politics. Harold Hill in the well-loved musical play The Music Man is a likeable flim-flam artist out to hustle the good simple folks of River City, Iowa, and they fall for him.

A significant number of Americans fell for candidate Obama in 2008, seduced by his charm and his slogans of hope and change.

But by 2010, as the mid-term election results showed, enough Americans realized their own responsibility in being misled. Then came the October surprise in September as Americans watched the Obama administration engage in lies and deceptions in informing them about the deaths of four Americans, including the ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya, at the hands of al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists.

Thomas Sowell, the highly respected conservative economist and American of colour at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University, wrote recently, “The full story of what happened in Libya, down to the last detail, may never be known. But, as someone once said, you don’t need to eat a whole egg to know that it is rotten.”

This sense of wrong surrounding the administration, and its failed attempt to depict Romney as a heartless plutocrat, not surprisingly might make Barack Hussein Obama a one-term president.

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Free speech distinguishes the West from the rest

In Crowds and Power, the late Elias Canetti, a wonderfully gifted writer and Nobel laureate, brought a unique perspective in examining the human condition and history under the stress of mobs in politics.

When individuals gathered together turn into a crowd and then erupt into a mob, the transition from one into another is the obliteration, even momentarily, of the individual as a thinking being reduced physically into a mindless atom constituent of a mass set in motion by the wish to demonstrate power.

The crowd as mob, wrote Canetti, “wants to experience for itself the strongest possible feeling of its own animal force and passion and, as means to this end, it will use whatever social pretexts and demands offer themselves.”

The politics of the Arab-Muslim world of late — or at least since the 1979 revolution in Iran that brought clerics with a medieval mind-set to power — has been reduced to the pathology of the mob in politics.

This is not unique in history and, for instance, as it was with the pathology of mob politics during the “reign of terror” in France or the Maoist “cultural revolution” in China, the situation in the Arab-Muslim world may likely pass at some point in the future.

In the meantime, however, it should be clearly understood that there is no reasoning with mobs, and any sign of weakness in terms of appeasing mobs by acknowledging or giving in to their demands amounts to stoking their wild frenzy.

Those religious and political leaders at the head of Muslim mobs, or riding them for their own demagogic ends, sense that they are pretty close to intimidating the West into surrendering on the subject of free speech, and accepting that mocking what is sacred to Muslims — their religion, their prophet and their sacred book — must be deemed offensive and banned.

Free speech is the pulse of a free society, the antidote to the pathology of politics driven by mobs. And, moreover, free speech as the hallmark of individual freedom distinguishes the West from the Rest and, in particular, the Arab-Muslim world.

Yet once again free speech is threatened not as much by the pathology of mob politics, but by the weakness of those in the West who mistakenly believe Muslims might have a point and their demand should be met in some fashion.

This is what President Obama said at the UN this week in responding to the mob frenzy in the Arab-Muslim world: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

When one finishes parsing the sentence, one is left thinking the president of the United States agrees with Muslim mobs, and denouncing those who cause offence by ridiculing what others hold sacred can only mean admitting free speech should be abridged.

On the contrary, what needs to be said to the Arab-Muslim world, irrespective of how mobs there engage in rampaging their own societies, is that the West as a civilization is also defined by something sacred.

This something sacred and universal in appeal is individual freedom, manifest in the principle of free speech in whose defence people have made the ultimate sacrifice and, hence, this principle is non-negotiable.


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PM shows leadership in cutting Iran ties

Canadians of a certain age remember well the exchange between Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and reporters in Ottawa on Oct. 13, 1970, over troop deployment during the crisis then unfolding in Quebec.

Trudeau responded to questions regarding soldiers on Canadian streets saying, “Yes, well, there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns.”

I was reminded of this encounter between Trudeau and journalists Tim Ralfe from the CBC and Peter Reilly of CJOH-TV, when a similar cackle of noise from lots of bleeding hearts in the country rose in unison in opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government’s decision to suspend diplomatic ties with Iran.

The announcement by Foreign Minister John Baird to recall Canadian diplomats from Tehran and expel Iranian officials in Ottawa, in retrospect, could not have been more timely given the spike in orchestrated Islamist violence across the Middle East and North Africa during the past week and a half.

The decision itself, as Baird explained, reflected the carefully drawn assessment of the untenable relationship with the Iranian regime bent upon a destructive and lawless course of behaviour in the region and internationally over many years, going all the way back to its revolutionary seizure of power in 1979.

The Iranian regime founded by Ayatollah Khomeini and his radical Shiite Muslim followers is boastful about exporting the Islamic revolution, and its intent to destroy Israel.

It makes no attempt to hide or deny its role as the fountainhead of Islamist terrorism, as the principal backer of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Asaad, and its refusal to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions relating to its nuclear policy.

Iran is a rogue regime both by choice and as a deliberate policy set forth by Khomeini. It is committed in opposing the United States, as the “Great Satan,” and its allies, including Canada, for the values of freedom and democracy they represent, and to weaken and diminish their presence in the Middle East.

But, most importantly, Harper came to recognize with a stunning clarity that is just about unique among leaders in the West of how utterly depraved and hell-bent on rogue behaviour is the Iranian regime of Khomeini’s followers, and that Tehran needs to be isolated by self-respecting western democracies and their allies.

The recall of Canadian diplomats from harm’s way in Tehran is only the first essential step of many needed to bring at least the Western powers, including Japan, to effectively squeeze the regime economically to such an extent that Iranians may succeed in bringing a regime change of their own that they were unable to do in 2009.

The support among Canadians for Harper’s decision is wide and deep.

The opinion survey by Angus Reid shows a whopping 72% in agreement with the government, and over 80% of Canadians have an unfavourable view of Iran.

It might well be said Canadians have a keen understanding of the problems and threats emanating from the Arab-Muslim world, and with such support our PM can provide leadership at a time when it is sorely missing in Washington.


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Islamist jihad against West rages

As Americans stopped to mark the 11th anniversary of 9/11, and ponder how much the world has changed during these years, an ocean away more terrorist attacks were mounted on American interests in the Middle East.

The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya resulting in the murder of Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador, with three members of his staff and several Libyans, was an act of war by men indoctrinated with the same ideology of those who carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Osama bin Laden is dead and so is Ayatollah Khomeini, but the war they declared against the “satanic” West continues. The West, on the other hand, has opted to be an ostrich.

The result is more than a decade after hijacked jetliners plowed into tall buildings in New York, Islamists are ascendant across the Middle East and hoisting their Shariah-based totalitarian ideology. The U.S. under the Obama administration stands instead as having reverted back to the pre-9/11 mentality.

The American election is barely seven weeks away and the Islamist jihad against the “Crusaders,” in the language of al-Qaida’s founder, will very likely get obscured in the fog of political debates and recriminations in the U.S.

But there is no mistaking that an apologetic West, as represented by President Obama, emboldened the Islamists, resulting in the manner in which the so-called Arab Spring unfolded.

The abandonment of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt accompanied by the embrace of Muslim Brotherhood is turning out to be a repeat of Iran in 1979 when Khomeini swept into power.

It is extraordinary that an apologetic America, as President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo symbolized, and Europe with its appeasement mind-set cannot get their act together in compelling a third world rogue state, Iran, to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons capability or face dire military consequences. This failure to disarm Iran while embracing Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — the political grandfather of all the various Islamist offsprings in the greater Middle East and beyond — makes the present situation eerily similar to the 1930s.

What needs to be done, and should have been done by the previous Bush administration, is to take a page from George Kennan — the architect of President Truman’s policy against the Soviet Union — and update his strategy of containment for the Arab-Muslim world. The Arab-Muslim world deserves to be isolated and contained, as was the former Soviet Union. An Iron Curtain, in Winston Churchill’s memorable words, should descend separating the West and its allies from the Arab-Muslim world until the latter has exhausted itself of its own demons.

The situation America, and by its default the West, finds itself in relation to the Arab-Muslim world is to a large extent, ironically, the result of its own guilt-ridden attitude and political correctness. This state of mind, or multiculturalism, gravely inhibits a realistic assessment of 9/11 and what has followed.

The explanation on offer that this new wave of Muslim rage was ignited by a crudely amateurish docu-drama about Islam’s prophet, and the individual responsible must be severely punished, is pathetic in describing a guilt-ridden West seeking to placate the Arab-Muslim world.

Islamists are at war, and the West needs to respond accordingly.


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Arab Spring now a Christian nightmare

In the 1990s, western democracies stepped forward to stop ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia by dispatching NATO forces in support of UN peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia precipitated ethnic strife, and like all such struggles anywhere in the world, the Balkan conflict was complex and layered with history of grievances, identity politics, and religious bigotry. If one reaches back to the early years of the last century, this region was a cauldron of ethno-nationalism that ignited the First World War.

Some 16 years later, the so-called Arab Spring mirrors the conflict that ripped through the Balkans.

The rotten structures of Arab states were primed to crash once the people set aside their fear of despots. But not unlike the Balkans, the death knell of Arab dictatorships has been accompanied by predictable conflicts among people divided by religion, sect and ethnicity.

There is one stark difference, however, between the Balkans and the situation in the Arab-Muslim world. In the Balkans, the minority most seriously hurt by the conflict were Bosnian Muslims.

It was in part to protect Bosnian Muslims that the West intervened with force and, eventually overseen by President Clinton’s administration, the parties agreed to abide by the Dayton Agreement of November 1995 reached in Dayton, Ohio and formally signed in Paris a few weeks later.

In the Arab-Muslim world, the so–called Arab Spring has hurt most seriously the dwindling Christian minorities of the Middle East. While Arab despots in the name of secularism paradoxically provided some protection to Christians, the situation has worsened with Islamists taking power.

William Dalrymple, the well-respected historian and author of From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (1998), recently wrote, “Wherever you go in the Middle East today, you see the Arab Spring rapidly turning into the Christian winter … The past few years have been catastrophic for the region’s beleaguered 14 million strong Christian minority.”

The decline, probably disappearance, of Christians from the Middle East is an ominous sign of a tragic future for the region.

And such an eventuality has precedence.

Jews of the Arab-Muslim world from the pre-Christian era, with their rich heritage and long historical presence in ancient cities across the region — Alexandria, Algiers, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Constantine, Damascus, Fez, Oran, Sana’a, Tripoli, Tunis and more — were compelled to leave lands conquered by Arabs in the name of Islam following the establishment of Israel in 1948.

There have been numerous anti-Coptic riots with attacks on Christian churches in Egypt. From Gaza reports have come of forced conversions among Christians reduced to a miniscule presence.

Iraqi Christians fled in large numbers following post-Saddam sectarian strife, and they found refuge in Syria.

This safe-haven for Iraqi Christians is in jeopardy as the sectarian conflict in Syria has intensified, and Syrian Christians are endangered.

While Christians flee from their ancient homes in the Arab-Muslim world, the West’s failure to respond effectively, unlike its response in the Balkans, is more than an immense moral failure.

It is another sign of the West scandalously appeasing Islamist totalitarianism that might well be as catastrophic as when Europe’s major democracies appeased Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930s.

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West refuses to read old warning signs

In an interview ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, speaking with Charles Moore of the Telegraph, discussed the unfolding reality of the Middle East.

Blair admitted after 9/11 he underestimated the bad “narrative” of Islamists that the West oppresses Islam and Muslims.

Any objective reading of recent history indicates, however, the extent to which the West in accommodating both has leaned perilously in appeasing the enemies of freedom and democracy. Among all western leaders, Blair is the most clear thinking on Islamism and Islamists.  This is strikingly evident from his memoir, A Journey: My Political Life (2010), in which he devotes considerable space to the subject.

Blair confided in his interview with Moore that Islamists seek “supremacy, not co-existence,” and that the “West is asleep on this issue” even as it poses the greatest challenge in our time.

The extent to which the West is asleep, or unserious, about this subject is symbolized by the Huma Abedin flap in Washington. This flap is the portal through which we can take measure of how the West has been lulled into embracing the Muslim Brotherhood, and how multiculturalism has become a tool for Islamists to disarm the gullible westerners choking in guilt over their past history of colonialism.

What is not new — and Blair is well aware of this — is that the West has a record of being willingly lulled by its enemies into a false sense of security. The decade of the 1930s stands out as the West’s most ignominious period of appeasement in the past century, of wilfully ignoring the rise and consequences of Nazism.

But it was not only with the Nazis, there was also the woeful gullibility in dealing with Stalin and the Soviet Union. The KGB files smuggled to Britain by Vasili Mitrokhin and disclosed in his book co-authored with Christopher Andrew, The Sword and the Shield (1999), reveal how deep and far went the penetration by Soviet agents inside governments in western democracies.

Klaus Fuchs, a German physicist and Communist, for instance was, as Mitrokhin points out, the most valuable Soviet spy recruited in Britain in 1941. He would be the most important Soviet asset as a member of the British team of scientists sent to work on the Manhattan project in Los Alamos, and his contribution to the Soviet bomb as Moscow’s spy was invaluable.

Then there was, among others in the U.S., Alger Hiss in the State Department. Whittaker Chambers — an American Communist and Soviet agent who defected — divulged all he knew about Soviet espionage in America to Adolf Berle, assistant secretary of state and president Franklin Roosevelt’s adviser on internal security, on the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939.

When Berle briefed Roosevelt, according to Mitrokhin, the president “seems to have dismissed the whole idea of espionage rings within his administration as absurd.”

Hiss remained in government and went to Yalta in February 1945 for the Big Three conference.

There Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill discussed post-war Europe’s future and, as KGB files disclose, Stalin came out smiling, having been briefed ahead of time courtesy of Hiss.

The West seems destined to repeat its folly.

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SALIM MANSUR: Stain on Canadian democracy removed.

Salim MansurIn voting 153-to-136 in support of amendments removing sections 13 and 54 from the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Conservatives in Ottawa under Stephen Harper’s leadership took a historic step in defending free speech.

Section 13 has the Orwellian clause of the human rights act, which reads “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” is prohibited.

The weasel word here is “likely” and, by invoking it, authorities have shut down freedom of expression, as the University of Ottawa did when it cancelled the appearance of Ann Coulter, an American conservative author and political commentator, in March 2010.

In times to come, historians might likely note that with this vote Canada turned a corner in its long downward slide into the bog of multiculturalism and political correctness, and began its climb back to once again becoming a robust liberal democracy.

The idea of protecting free speech by placing limits on it, as Section 13 did, in a democracy such as ours, was retrogressive.

Yet this idea was sold to the public by the country’s political-intellectual elite as a policy indicative of Canadian exceptionalism.

Canada’s Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, speaking to an American audience in April 2004, told them forthrightly that “we in Canada are more tolerant of state limitation on free expression than are Americans.”

Instead, Section 13 represented an elite consensus around the opinion that Canadians could not be trusted with their freedom.

Increasingly disconnected with the general populace, Canada’s ruling elite seemed to forget ordinary Canadians went abroad twice within a generation in the last century to protect the freedom of others.

Ordinary Canadians helped defeat the Nazis — possibly history’s worst offenders of freedom — and yet, ironically, the ruling elite considered they could be corrupted sufficiently by some fringe political club or lonely misanthrope to pose a threat to individuals or minority groups in a liberal democratic society.

The temptation of those in power to control or censor free speech, however good the intention, is indicative of the totalitarian instinct lurking inside many of us.

It is a slippery slope that once taken has ended too often, as history illustrates, in some of the worst excesses committed against freedom of individuals.

“The origin of freedom lies in breathing,” wrote Elias Canetti, recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature. In other words, free speech is the foundation upon which all other freedoms rest.

And we forget this at our peril, warned Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese human rights activist, political prisoner, and the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Peace.

While denied permission by the Chinese leadership to receive the Nobel Prize, Liu Xiaobo sent the following message to his well-wishers: “Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.”

Once Bill C-304 — the private member’s bill moved by Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth — receives royal assent and comes into force repealing Section 13, a stain on Canadian democracy will have been removed and free speech made more secure.

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Tunisia just one Arab regime going stale

The hasty departure of Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali for a life in exile reveals how brittle and lacking in public support are most of the Arab regimes.

The swift collapse of Ben Ali

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Beware of China’s meteoric rise

For the past several years, the buzz among those who take more than passing interest in world affairs has been about the meteoric rise of Communist-controlled China as the new global power.

There are those around the world who view China

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Ugly fight against a death-cult ideology

At the year end, and this year also brings to an end a conflict-ridden decade, we are ritually inundated with reviews of past months and predictions for the future in magazines and journals from around the world.

On my desk, for instance, I have the Economist cautioning us about the

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It's a question.