In a contest between extremism and global warming, we all lose

In a contest between extremism and global warming, we all lose

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John Nuttall and Amanda Korody haven’t turned out to be exactly helpful poster children for the “be afraid, be very afraid” school of thought in the interminable arguments Canadians like to have with one another about terrorism. The ongoing trials of the Canada Day bombers, whose hilarious cock-up of a jihadist mass murder plot was to be carried out at the legislative assembly in Victoria in 2013, was exhaustively videotaped and audio-recorded almost from start to finish. It will have you in stitches.
Nuttall and Korody have already been convicted of terrorist conspiracy to murder. But the recovering junkies were so idiotically malleable in the hands of undercover operatives posing as their Islamist brothers, and so melodramatically accommodating with their self-incriminations during questioning by the RCMP, that a dismissal of the convictions remains a possibility. It’s come down to whether the self-declared Muslim converts are such morons that the whole enterprise can only be understood in law as a case of police entrapment.Not even evidence that Korody was toying with the idea of insinuating herself into a synagogue to murder Jewish children in order to save them from hell has been enough to completely silence the laughter that the court proceedings have induced. And fair enough. Laughing at terrorism is not necessarily such a bad thing. It does tend to foil terrorism’s whole point, after all.
Neither is it a vice to laugh at what is widely held to be a Conservative campaign stratagem of exaggerating the menace of jihadist lunacy. “In Canada, you’re way more likely to be killed by a moose than a terror plot,” some junior advertising-jingle wags pointed out to amusing and viral effect earlier this year. Around the same time, celebrity pseudo-journalist and stolen-files trafficker Glenn Greenwald was pointing out that Canadians are more likely to die from being struck by lightning, or from a random intestinal bug ingested during a restaurant meal, or by falling down in a bathroom, than from a terrorist attack.
All of which is true. But if you’re the sort that thinks these vaudeville talking-points situate the phenomenon in its only sensible political context, here’s the point you’re missing: it’s not always about you, or your personal safety, or the sophisticated aversion to fearmongering you no doubt believe you possess.
It’s about Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria, Bangladesh and quite a few other places where hundreds of millions of people, particularly women and children, are obliged to live every day under the threat of both organized and random Islamist terror. It’s about Canada, true enough, in a small and direct way, in several foiled terror plots and in the separate murders of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, coinciding with an armed assault on Parliament Hill, last October.
There is also the matter of the roughly 145 Canadians who are known to have left the country to fight for terrorist groups, and the several dozen who have returned, and the challenge facing the Canadian Border Security Agency in the 100 million annual border crossings they supervise every year and the CBSA’s daunting task of ensuring that no bad guys get across, in either direction.
It’s also about the obsequious cringing that was the preferred response of so much of the Anglophone elite to the massacre of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last January. It’s about a toxin that has already badly torn at the fabric of Canada’s multicultural ideal and condemned hundreds of thousands of Canadian Muslims to tolerate life under a foul black cloud of suspicion and mistrust. It is emptying the Middle East of its Christians in pogroms and ethnic cleansings of a ferocity unseen in more than 1,000 years.
Among the people of the industrialized world, just the ISIL iteration of it – the Al Qaida mutation that has metastasized into an oil-rich, Portugal-sized nightmare state where the borders of Syria and Iraq used to be – haunts the sleep of a great many people who are not easily frightened. Just two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released the results of a massive global polling effort revealing that the menace of ISIL occupies a rank higher than even global warming as an issue of grave concern among the citizens of Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, Korea, Jordan, Lebanon, Australia, Indonesia and Palestine.
Terrorism is a greater threat to us than global warming? Please.
Laugh all you like about this, but those will be cheap laughs, because these anxieties cannot all be chalked up to fearmongering. And the closer you look at the Pew poll’s numbers what you notice is that respondents were not asked to pick a contest winner. It’s quite possible to be deeply concerned about both ISIL and global warming as profoundly difficult challenges to the global order – and to be also concerned, as most poll respondents indicated, with the Iranian nuclear program, Russian and Chinese belligerence, cyberattacks and global economic stability.
“The great struggle of our generation is terrorism and radical extremism. It’s more than just one country or two,” former Foreign Minister John Baird told me last August. Earlier this month, British Prime Minister David Cameron echoed those words, calling his government’s strategy for subduing extremist ideology as “the struggle of our generation.” This is unquestionably the sort thing Canada’s Conservatives will be saying the closer we get to the October federal election.
Cameron’s speech was assailed in a way that will be familiar to Canadians. Worried about Islamist terrorists killing you? You’re more likely to die from such killers as “smoking, alcohol, loneliness … child poverty, air pollution, traffic accidents, lack of exercise, even the wrong kind of bedroom slippers,” the Guardian’s George Monbiot, who is otherwise no fool, complained. You may also hear this kind of thing from New Democrats and Liberals as the federal campaign polemics gather froth.
It’s all good for a laugh. But if we’re all just going to line up according to our partisan dispositions and pit the greatest challenges to global and national security in a kind of competition with one another, there will come a point when it’s not going to be funny any more at all.
Terry Glavin is an author and journalist. – World News Report

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