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Ruxted’s Response to Lawrence Martin

The Ruxted Group has taken Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin to task for his views on military matters. We respect his right to hold his views, we respect his right to express them – we wish we were able to write as well. We object to his personal attacks on a ‘defenceless’ Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Rick Hillier. Gen. Hillier is a public figure but he is unable – as is proper – to defend himself against public attacks on his personality and views – as Martin did in his 5 April 2007 column. Ruxted objects even more to his misuse of the ceremonies surrounding the Vimy memorial to take partisan shots at the government of the day and its apolitical servant, Gen. Hillier.

The Ruxted Group offers a few points in rebuttal.
First: Lawrence Martin started to make a valid and important point: war can be glorified for partisan political purposes. Canadians should be wary of politicians ‘spinning’ Vimy to justify something else. It’s a pity he didn’t use his considerable skill and well known political judgement to discuss that.

Second: We agree with Mr. Martin that, “The commemorations at Vimy Ridge are important. In a country that is short on defining moments, Vimy certainly serves as a shining one. But the event should not be politicized ...” It’s a pity he decided to politicize them.

He is politicizing the commemorations. He is using them as a ‘hook’ upon which he can hang his well established animus towards this government and towards Gen. Hillier. Many Canadians share his distaste for the government of the day, the Conservative Party of Canada and, indeed, for the CDS. That’s their right, it’s the right for which 100,000 Canadians died in the 20th century in Africa, Asia, Europe and on the world oceans. Gen. Hillier and many, many friends of The Ruxted Group have risked their lives, are risking their lives today, to defend the right of Canadians, including Mr. Martin, to dislike people and parties. We simply invite him to be bold and honest; to say: “I hate Harper and his minions. I think they're taking Canada in the wrong direction. I urge my readers to vote against them. I detest Gen. Rick Hiller because he’s just far too ‘American’ for me. I want him replaced by a more comfortable Casper Milquetoast type of military commander.” That’s fair; Ruxted would take note of such a comment and consider it fair dealing. What’s unfair is to use the Vimy commemorations as cover while he insinuates the same thing.

Third: He says in ‘trashing’ Gen. Hillier that, “He doesn't mention that what he considers darkness included one of the most luminous decisions any of our governments ever made: staying out of Iraq." Mr. Martin forgets the see-sawing in the days prior to that "decision". The MND was in Washington, giving positive signals about joining the "coalition of the willing". The facts are: Prime Minister Chrétien forgot about the unilateral decision to bomb Yugoslavia, a sovereign nation, without UN approval in 1999; we were in Afghanistan for six paltry months in 2002, announcing that we couldn't replace those troops because we didn't have enough resources, only to recommit them in greater strength just eight months later. That enabled the PM of the day to say that we were fully committed in Afghanistan, so even if we wanted to go into Iraq, we couldn't. Only when the insurgency became bad around Baghdad did the government of the day cash in on their "luminous" decision.

Fourth: Mr. Martin says, “After the Second World War, we became the country that stood for peace, a middle-ground arbiter.” This is revisionism of the worst sort. Mr. Martin ignores the facts that Canada had a large army brigade group and an air division stationed overseas as part of a very partisan alliance: NATO. We "fought" the Cold War, and part of that "fight" was to intervene in certain wars in order to keep that alliance from bursting at the seams. The greatest example was in Cyprus. Greece and Turkey, two allies in NATO, nearly went to war over that island. Canada, along with other UN nations, intervened. It also allowed us to keep safe the two UK Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs), locations of some of NATO's nuclear strike force. Hardly a noble "middle-ground" arbiter of peace indeed!

Fifth: Mr. Martin tries to make political hay out of the fact that BQ, Liberal and NDP leaders could not manage their own schedules well enough to join him at Vimy. The Vimy anniversary has been planned far enough in advance that thousands of school children have been able to schedule attendance, are the leaders of Canada's political parties so inept as to be eclipsed by the planning abilities of 9th graders? It is customary for the PM of the day to make room for opposition leaders when (s)he travels to events like the Vimy commemoration; there is no indication that PM Harper did not plan to act in the customary manner. Messers Dion, Duceppe and Layton are, as politicians are wont to do, ‘spinning’ this for their own partisan political advantage. Mr. Martin is helping them. It appears to Ruxted that Mr. Martin is defending the indefensible on the basis that ‘the enemy of my enemy (PM Harper) is my friend.’ Mr. Martin should ask why M. Duceppe, M. Dion and Mr. Layton are afraid to be seen honouring our war dead?

Finally, Mr. Martin says, “Our obligation to the dead is hardly war boosterism. It is finding solutions other than war.” We agree again. The Ruxted Group also consider that our obligation to our war dead means that we do not use them as partisan political props.


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