Taranto: Blame Canada?

Canada’s flag at half staff stop the Parliament Building in Ottawa. Getty Images

“It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country,” the leftist writer Glenn Greenwald observed yesterday. “A country doesn’t get to run around for years wallowing in war glory, invading, rendering and bombing others, without the risk of having violence brought back to it. Rather than being baffling or shocking, that reaction is completely natural and predictable.”

This would be completely unremarkable except that the country to which Greenwald referred is not the U.S. or Israel. It’s Canada.

Greenwald was responding to a Monday attack in Richelieu, Quebec, in which, as Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported, a man “used a car to run down two Canadian soldiers, killing one and injuring another.” The suspect “had been on an RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] watch list for months as a possible Islamic extremist and his passport had been revoked when he tried to fly to Turkey in July.”

After his screed drew criticism from “multiple conservative commentators,” Greenwald posted an update insisting he didn’t mean anything by it: “The difference between ‘causation’ and ‘justification’ is so obvious that it should require no explanation. If one observes that someone who smokes four packs of cigarettes a day can expect to develop emphysema, that’s an observation about causation, not a celebration of the person’s illness. Only a willful desire to distort, or some deep confusion, can account for a failure to process this most basic point.”

We suppose it’s possible that Greenwald imagines he was engaging in dispassionate description and is unaware of the snide and hostile tone in which he lectured the Canadians. But there is also a disjunction in the substance of his observations. Consider this passage: “The right-wing Canadian government wasted no time in seizing on the incident to promote its fear-mongering agenda over terrorism, which includes pending legislation to vest its intelligence agency, CSIS, with more spying and secrecy powers in the name of fighting ISIS.”

Here Greenwald makes his sympathies clear. A dispassionate analyst would acknowledge that the pursuit of countermeasures in response to a terrorist attack is “completely natural and predictable.” But Greenwald disparages it as “fear-mongering.”

Shortly after Greenwald wrote—that’s post hoc, not propter!—there was another attack, this one in Ottawa. A man with a gun “murdered a soldier at a war memorial before entering Ottawa’s parliament building where he was shot to death,” Bloomberg reports. “It’s very clear why terrorists wanted to strike against Canada,” observes American political scientist John Tures on the Puffington Host:

Canada was a key part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations in Afghanistan. Though that participation ended earlier this year, America’s neighbor to the North was a key player there, providing a great deal of assistance.

Canada is also hardly some socialist, anti-American critic. Since 2004, it’s been led by Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. It’s [sic] policies on the Keystone pipeline and taxes (leading to the Burger King “inversion”) are more in-step with America’s Republican Party moderates.

And most importantly, Canada has been a strong ally in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Canada’s role in the war on terror (despite its having begged off on the Iraq war in 2003) would certainly suffice to explain why terrorists would make it a target. But that middle paragraph is a head-scratcher. Does Tures really mean to suggest that anti-Canadian terrorists are motivated by Ottawa’s energy and tax policies? Or does he mean to suggest that these Canadian policies somehow create a confluence of interests between anti-Canadian terrorists and North American leftists?

Vox.com put out a piece yesterday summarizing “what we know and don’t know” about the Parliament killer, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. The last item: “Two US officials told Reuters that he was a convert to Islam, but there’s no public evidence to that effect nor any indication that the shooting was related to his faith.” (The Reuters report also mentions that he was born Michael Joseph Hall.)

The Voxers were right (hey, it happens) to caution their readers against jumping to conclusions. But man, do they ever belabor the point. From a follow-up article this morning by Amanda Taub:

[Media] reports imply that because Zehaf-Bibeau was Muslim, jihad is the likely motivation for his attack. But at this stage, without any actual evidence, it makes no more sense to come to that conclusion than it would to assume that he was motivated by Quebecois separatism, just because he was from Quebec. . . .

If we applied the same logic to people from Quebec that we apply to Muslims, then today we would see media reports suggesting that their shared Quebecois heritage likely explains this attack. Or perhaps we would imply, with no evidence, that Quebec’s active Francophone-nationalist separatist movement, radical elements of which have also been responsible for terrorist acts in the past, had inspired or possibly even ordered Zehaf-Bibeau’s attack. And we would point, as a smoking gun, to the fact that he had apparently changed his name from the Anglophone “Michael Joseph Hall” to the much more French-sounding “Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.”

We checked with a French friend, who agrees with us that Zehaf sounds Arabic rather than French. (She doesn’t think Bibeau sounds French either, but acknowledges it “looks French” owing to that eau.)

At any rate, if you want to know why people might suspect that the killer was motivated by jihad, just ask Glenn Greenwald or John Tures (though Greenwald, in an update after the shooting, was careful to stipulate he doesn’t know either).

The URL of Taub’s piece ends “ottawa-shooter-muslim-religion-does-not-matter”—surely itself an unwarranted conclusion. (As Taub acknoweldges in her conclusion: “It is of course possible that we will discover evidence that . . . Zehaf-Bibeau is linked to Islamist terrorism.”)

It’s not clear if that “. . . Religion Does Not Matter” was originally the headline, which now reads: “Our Obsession With the Ottawa Shooter’s Religion Reveals More About Us Than About Him.” Given the way Vox goes on about the subject, that headline is true if the “our” and “us” refer to the Voxers rather than, as one suspects is the intent, to Americans as a whole.