Thursday, July 20, 2006

Oh, How Dramatic

Readers should always be suspicious whenever a news reporter uses the word "dramatic" in his dispatch. It either demonstrates a lack of imagination or skills on the part of the writer, or simply represents an attempt to put thoughts in other people's minds. Drama occurs in the unfolding event, as it happens; not in its retelling.

Thus, nevertheless, was Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to fly from Paris to Cyprus, rather than return to Canada as originally planned, characterized. Dramatic. Aware that his hard-line, pro-Israeli stance on the ongoing crisis in Lebanon risks damaging his image back home and in the world, the PM decided to risk it all, to play hero, by flying to the hot zone to, well, "help" with the evacuation of Canadians. Not the hot zone per se, mind you, but neighboring Cyprus. Safe Cyprus, where hundreds of Canadians have fled, where Israeli missiles are unlikely to rain down—unless, that is, Hezbollah is hiding there, too.

Most of the press corps that had been traveling with the PM have stayed behind in Paris, leaving more room in the Airbus Harper has been using. At most, a few hundred people will have a chance to fly back to Canada on Air Harper, with the PM's advisors—and perhaps the PM himself—serving refreshments and sandwiches during flight.

Hurray for the few hundreds of Canadians stranded on Cyprus. But in the grand scheme of things, that's only a very small fraction of the odd 40,000 Canadians who make Lebanon their home. Maybe I'm being unfair; after all, help, whatever form it takes, is welcome and needed.

Now if there ever were such a thing as PR, this would be it. This is the Canadian Prime Minister, whose position on Israel's "measured" response remains unchanged, laying a hand in the bleeding of Lebanon. This is a Canadian PM being given all forms of assurances by his Israeli counterpart that Israel's military is doing its utmost to limit civilian casualties in Lebanon—which have now climbed to over 300, with as many as half a million people displaced—in servitude of a country has forced the evacuation of civilians.

If Harper really cared about how people in Canada, and in the world, perceive him, if he honestly cared about the fate of the Lebanese, or if he were more even in his assessment of the situation, he wouldn't be in Cyprus helping evacuate people who shouldn't have had to be evacuated in the first place. He'd be in Ottawa, in Paris, or in Jerusalem itself demanding that Israel's criminal aggression against a sovereign state, along with the latter's obvious disregard for the lives of Arabs, end. Now. He'd also be doing his utmost to push for the deployment of a peacekeeping force. Only then could we perhaps excuse a reporter's unfortunate use and abuse of the word "dramatic."

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