Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday August 20, 2021
Not the Bad Guys Anymore
When the Taliban first sacked Kabul 25 years ago, the group declared that it was not out for revenge, instead offering amnesty to anyone who had worked for the former government. “Taliban will not take revenge,” a Taliban commander said then. “We have no personal rancor.” At the time of that promise, the ousted president, Mohammad Najibullah, was unavailable for comment. The Taliban had castrated him and, according to some reports, stuffed his severed genitals in his mouth, and soon after, he was strung up from a lamppost.
The reports from Kabul are probably more reassuring to those unfamiliar with this history. The Taliban has once again declared a general amnesty, and asked everyone to show up for work in the morning and prepare to unite behind a Taliban government that will rule according to Islamic law—but perhaps, the group has suggested, not in the harsh manner that made it infamous during its rule from 1996 to 2001. Women can continue their education so long as they wear the hijab, and the Taliban will guarantee human rights and freedoms of speech and expression, it said, so long as they comply with sharia. (Spoiler: The Taliban does not believe they do.) A Taliban spokesperson consented to an interview with a female television presenter whose face was visible. During the Taliban’s previous regime, it discouraged depiction of the human form, and would certainly not have countenanced the broadcast of a woman’s face to the entire world.
The Taliban now owns Afghanistan, and its first priority is avoiding anything that resembles chaos. In 1996, the group’s leader, Mullah Omar, told residents of Kabul to resist the temptation to flee, that the Taliban would keep them safe. Omar died in 2013, but his successors—who include his own son, the Taliban’s top military official—are saying exactly the same thing now. They have made sure the police phone number works, and they are calling for workers, including cops formerly loyal to the previous government, to report for duty. The Afghans I have reached by phone in Kabul say the same: Taliban are in the streets, acting not as avengers but as guarantors of public order. They are not executing people on street corners; instead they’re watching for looters and troublemakers. (The Taliban has always returned to this core role, since the movement’s founding: In the 1990s, when the Afghan countryside was beset by highwaymen, murderers, and rapists, the group won its first followers by securing the roads and providing order where the worst kind of anarchy had reigned.) (Continued: The Atlantic)
Meanwhile, in Canada, there may be no better example of the unique and difficult challenge Erin O’Toole faces as leader of the federal Conservative Party than his recently announced policy on mandatory vaccinations.
Mr. O’Toole is against measures that force Canadians to get vaccinated, regardless of what line of work they may be in. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said federal workers must be vaccinated, as well as anyone who wants to fly or travel by train.
The Conservative Leader says he believes in the power and safety of vaccines, but doesn’t feel people should be forced to take them. Mr. Trudeau doesn’t believe people should be forced to take them either, but nor should the unvaccinated have the right to potentially pass COVID-19 on to others. Thus, the mandate.
A majority of Canadians are fully or partially vaccinated. And most of them, polls suggest, support vaccine mandates or vaccine passports that bestow certain rights and privileges on those who have chosen to get jabbed. In his heart, I think Mr. O’Toole believes this also. He just can’t endorse that policy because it would alienate a faction of his base – the libertarians and vaccine deniers – who think the state has no right imposing restrictive measures on anyone. These are voters Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada are trying to steal away from the Conservatives.
Welcome to Erin O’Toole’s world – or rather, his nightmare. While his central challenger in this election, Justin Trudeau, can be many things to many people, the Conservative Leader does not have that option. He is bound, in many ways, to a segment of the population resistant to change and who are suspicious of government intrusions of any sort into their lives, regardless of the reason. (Continued: Globe & Mail)
L E T T E R S to the E D I T O R The Hamilton Spectator, Saturday August 21, 2021
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