In a week that saw US warships sent to North Korea, increased tensions in Syria following a US missile strike and the American military drop, for the first time, the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on Afghanistan, the most ominous story came to light yesterday. President Donald Trump really wants to ride in the Queen Elizabeth’s gold-plated, horse-drawn carriage when he visits England.

While foreign leaders hitching a ride to Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty is occasionally a thing that happens, American Presidents generally take a different vehicle because of security concerns. A police source told the Times of London:

“The vehicle which carries the president of the United States is a spectacular vehicle. It is designed to withstand a massive attack like a low-level rocket grenade. If he’s in that vehicle he is incredibly well protected and on top of that it can travel at enormous speed. If he is in a golden coach being dragged up the Mall by a couple of horses, the risk factor is dramatically increased.”

I’m not sure of this source’s name or rank, so let’s just use Captain Obvious. Security concerns are heightened when it comes to this President in  particular. There are supposed to be massive protests and even the British Parliament is refusing to let him address them.

Instead of taking the safer route, the Trump team is doing their best to insist on the gold-plated carriage ride. It’s a pretty safe bet that this approach goes right to the top. And that is why this otherwise trivial piece of nonsense is downright scary.

Trump wants to ride in something gold sitting next to royalty. Putin got to do it. That peasant Obama slummed it when he visited the Queen. Slummed it in a super-fast grenade-repellent limousine driven by a chauffeur with more real-world military training than most fictional action heroes.

Maybe if the hyper-secure car was also gold on the outside Trump would ride in it. But then he would be in a competition with the Queen for opulence. Come to think of it, the main reason he probably wants to ride in the carriage is to be on equal footing with the Queen.

Why is that something he cares about? Being on equal footing, or even a dominant footing, when meeting with Xi Jinping, Justin Trudeau, Vladamir Putin or Theresa May makes sense. You don’t want to negotiate from a position of weakness. But what on Earth could President Trump possibly hope to negotiate with the Queen?

She is technically a Head of State, sure, but that is purely symbolic. Symbolism matters to this President. Celebrity, though, matters even more. The Queen is a celebrity, way more than Prime Minister May is, you might say she is THE celebrity.

Riding in the Royal Carriage means, to Trump, that some people may see his celebrity on par with hers and that he is one step ahead of Obama in looking important. It’s all about proving that he is important. The fact that he achieved, perhaps by fluke, something that only forty-four other people have done in a country of millions doesn’t seem to be a factor.

If Obama took a secure limo, Trump wants to ride in the same carriage as the Queen. If other Presidents dropped bombs, Trump wants to drop the Mother of All Bombs. His bomb is bigger.

Some have suggested, and I tend to agree with them, that launching sixty missiles at an airfield in Syria was a PR stunt:

A distraction, most likely from the persistent allegations that he is a Russian puppet. But he didn’t just give us one distraction, no, that’s something a standard politician would do. Trump has the most distractions, the best distractions. Bigly.

Three distractions so far. If this is a case of the tail wagging the dog (as in the 1997 film Wag the Dog which many have referenced in the past few days), well, this dog now has three tails and might grow more.

The Trump team can’t even do deflection right, because their boss is only focused on looking bigger and badder than anyone else. Meanwhile, the biggest, baddest dog in the yard, the US military (along with its defense contractor allies) has been unleashed, or at the very least, is now connected to a real long bendy leash that no one is pulling on to reign it in.

These distractions could turn into full-blown wars. When it comes to North Korea, it’s now up to Kim Jong Un to be the restrained, responsible one if the world is to avoid the start of World War III.

If Donald Trump was taking the actions of the military he now commands with the gravity the situation warrants, then he wouldn’t be telling reporters about the chocolate cake he was eating when ordering a strike on Iraq, only to be corrected that it was, in fact, Syria he had sent missiles into. He also wouldn’t be ordering military actions from a golf course.

He also wouldn’t care if he got to ride in the carriage with the Queen, or, for that matter, whether or not he got to meet with the Queen at all. This focus on image and who looks more famous, bigger and more important, may be laughable, but it also may be what dooms us all.

 

 

Ilhan Erdem was arrested in Istanbul on Monday over alleged links to the alleged masterminds of the failed coup attempt in Turkey July 15th. He is the second Canadian national to be swept up by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sharp retaliation against the Gulen movement. Canadian authorities are unsurprisingly scant on details.

Erdem has worked for years as an Imam in Ottawa, where he was also a member of the Anatolian Heritage Federation (AHF). A friend of the family says that he has been working as an education consultant in Turkey for the last three years.

He was arrested on Monday in Ataturk airport on what the AHF calls trumped-up charges. According to Turkish press, he is accused of leading the Gulen movement in Ottawa.

The Gulen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, is a world-wide network endorsing the teachings of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is a former ally of Erdogan who turned into one of his most popular critics.

The president wasted no time in blaming him for the coup attempt that left 246 people dead earlier this month. This claim provides the government with a justification to crack down on the dissident group – a suspiciously convenient one, according to some. It is nonetheless accepted as accurate by the majority of officials, including the Trudeau government.

The Turkish population has demonstrated both against the coup and against Erdogan’s authoritarian response (namely the imposed emergency state).

AHF has stated that Erdem’s views are “simply aligned with those of Hizmet.” According to the Federation, the Canadian is victim of Erdogan’s persecution of all his detractors, “including peaceful Hizmet participants.”

Concerns for two Canadian Detainees

On Monday, while Erdem was being arrested, the Canadian government was meeting with the Turkish ambassador to discuss the case of Davud Hanci, a Calgarian recently arrested under similar circumstances. Hanci was visiting his sick father in Ankara with his wife and two children when he was arrested for allegedly having a hand in the coup attempt, according to his family.

His relatives expressed concerns over his safety to Radio-Canada, especially after seeing photos of people arrested in connection to the coup being beaten and mistreated on social media. They said Hanci’s wife was able to see him for a few seconds. He reportedly only had time to say that he was okay and anxious.

No one has been able to contact Ilhan Erdem to date.

Canadian officials have been tight-lipped about both cases. In fact, they only confirmed that a second Canadian citizen has been detained in Turkey, but refused to identify him, citing privacy concerns.

They had adopted the same stance in the case of Homa Hoodfar, a Montreal Professor currently detained in Iran, even advising the family against speaking to the media. The information came from relatives in Hoodfar’s case and from the Anatolian Heritage Federation in Erdem’s.

A source not authorized to speak publicly confided to Radio-Canada a few details about the meeting of Canadian authorities with Turkish Ambassador on Monday. They said that the government was trying to know more about the specific motives of Hanci’s arrest and wanted to express official concerns the Turkish government’s increasing resemblance to a military dictatorship.

Late on Wednesday night, Global Affairs Canada assured that they are providing consular assistance to Erdem’s family and that they are in contact with the Turkish embassy.

Yesterday, the Conservative government put their ‘money’ where their words were, and officially joined the new coalition of the willing. As I write Canadian fighter jets have joined the mission in Syria and Iraq. The Conservative government is leading Canada into a war that they deem is a moral imperative, a war against the horrific evil of ISIS and their genocidal tendencies, and a war to uphold the values of humanity.

Given the razor thin lines drawn by this Conservative rhetoric, either you are for war, that is, in favor of a military intervention against ISIS, or you’re giving a free pass for human rights to be trampled, or perhaps even worse, you are a de facto ”ally” of the ideology which drives ISIS.

In Bushian terms either you’re part of the ”Free World” or you’re part of the axis of evil.

I couldn’t contain my profound amazement, uncomforting disbelief and utter bewilderment (and yes, I went through all of those states of emotion in merely five minutes; it was one heck of an emotional rollercoaster ride), as I heard our beloved Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, making the government’s pitch for a military intervention, address the House of Commons the other day.

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The centerpiece of his argument was, believe it or not, women’s rights. Yes; women’s rights. During his fiery intervention, John Baird said that ‘his’ Canada didn’t sit on the sidelines while people were being massacred, blatant disregard for human rights was being done, and innocent women and children were being purposefully targeted.

In his words, it was Canada’s ultimate moral duty to intervene, in order to prevent such things from happening. At the end of the speech, you got this feeling that this was a moment John Baird had long dreamed about. Surely, he had dreamt as a child that one day he would be the champion of the oppressed, of the marginalized, and the champion of those ”lost causes” and that he heartfeltly would rise to the occasion and save Canada’s honour, and in doing so also that of the world.

That would be great story, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, this is not a dream, this is a nightmare. The Conservative government so far has been a nightmare instilling terror into the hearts of thousands of Canadian citizens. When it comes to upholding human rights, women’s rights, and minority rights, the Conservative government has done Canada, or at least the idea people once had of Canada, a huge dishonor.

No matter how imbued with beautiful lyricism the rhetoric is, mere rhetoric cannot change facts. The Conservative government may paint itself as the Fidei Defensor of women and women’s rights all it wants, but that won’t change the fact that more than 1200 Indigenous women are missing or have been murdered, and that the Conservative government has done nothing to prevent this systemic problem, because, in their words, it isn’t a systemic problem whatsoever. If we were to apply Conservative logic here, than the Conservative government would be siding with criminals, rapists and murderers.

As the Conservative government stood-up, shouted, cheered and celebrated their mission in Iraq by high-fiving each other, what were they really cheering for? Were they cheering for the innocent lives would be saved, or were they applauding this historic decision, and the fact that, now, in some deranged egomaniac way, their names would be forever in books of Canadian history? Maybe they were applauding the idea that, after an awful summer and few months, this war would be their saving grace?

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One thing is certain: this Conservative government will go down in infamy. If any of the joyous Conservatives thought that the vote on the war was ”their historical moment”, don’t fret about it guys, you already have that covered! For hundreds of impoverished and marginalized communities, and the cuts this Conservative government have made to essential social services, will continue to strike terror in the hearts of many, even after this Conservative regime is long gone. For Indigenous communities, the blatant discrimination of this Conservative government has exacted upon them, will be a wound that Canadian society will have much difficulty in healing. For women, the assault Harper’s administration has launched indirectly against their fundamental rights, is a terrorizing reminder that the misogynist ghosts of Canada’s past are still alive and well.

So this is my little advice to this Conservative government. If you’re really hell-bent on stopping ”terror”, in upholding human-rights, then you have two options. Either vote yourselves out of office or declare a war on yourselves. How can a government that has created such an environment of terror, claim to fight terror effectively on the other side of the world? The war on terror starts by looking at the person in the mirror. It starts right here on home soil.

A luta continua.