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December 8, 2010

The ugly neocons

The Canadian Charger

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Last week on CBC TV, University of Calgary political science professor Dr. Tom Flanagan called for the assassination of WikiLeaks director Julian Assange.

Born and educated in the United States, Mr. Flanagan - the former chief of Prime Minister Harper's staff - has been a longtime Canadian political operative.

At the invitation of Preston Manning, Mr. Flanagan went to work for the Reform Party of Canada in 1991 as Director of Policy, Strategy, and Research. After some differences with Mr. Manning, Mr. Flanagan resigned his position at the end of 1993; but Stephen Harper revived his political career, hiring him to manage his 2001 campaign for leadership of the Alliance Party.

After serving as Mr. Harper's chief of staff for one year, when he was Leader of Opposition , Mr. Flanagan then managed Mr. Harper's leadership campaign for the newly founded Conservative Party, in 2003.

In 2004 he was Mr. Harper's campaign manager for the 2004 Canadian general election, when the Conservatives managed to make inroads, whittling the Liberal government of Paul Martin down to a minority government.

At Mr. Harper’s request, Mr. Flanagan stayed on as campaign manager, commuting between Calgary and Ottawa to prepare the next campaign. After the Conservatives failed to force an election in the spring of 2005, Mr. Flanagan retired in favour of Doug Finley, but returned to work as a war-room communications adviser in the eight-week campaign leading up the election of January 23, 2006.

Speaking on CBC's Power and Politics Mr. Flanagan said:

“I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. (laughs) I think Obama should put out a contract or use a drone or something.”

When CBC news host Evan Solomon confronted him, saying incredulously, “that's pretty harsh stuff,” Mr. Flanagan replied: “Well, I'm feeling pretty manly today. ... I wouldn't feel happy, uh, unhappy, if Assange disappeared.”

However, two days later, after worldwide media coverage of his comments, Mr. Flanagan said – on the same CBC show – that he regretted his comments.

"It was a thoughtless, glib remark about a serious subject," Flanagan said Wednesday on the CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

"I never seriously intended to advocate or propose the assassination of Mr. Assange. But I do think that what he's doing is very malicious and harmful to diplomacy and endangering people's lives, and I think it should be stopped."

Earlier, Mr. Flanagan said in a statement to CBC News, "If Mr. Assange is arrested on the recently announced Interpol warrant; I hope [he] receives a fair trial and due process of law."

But Mark Stephens, Mr. Assange's lawyer, told Power & Politics that Mr. Flanagan's comments are "a matter for the Canadian authorities, as a criminal offence — the incitement to kill — has been committed on their soil."

When questioned about Mr. Flanagan's comments in the House of Commons, Government House Leader John Baird responded: “Mr. Flanagan speaks for himself. He doesn't speak for the government and he hasn't advised the PM for years. I certainly don't share his views."

Notwithstanding Mr. Baird's comments, it was Liberal MP Denis Coderre – not Harper government officials – who filed an official complaint with the CBC's ombudsman Vince Carlin regarding what Mr. Coderre called a "declaration to incite violence."

Incredulously, while North American Neoconservatives like Mr. Flanagan stress the need to spread “democracy” around the world - emphasizing human rights and the rule of law – many of these same Neoconservatives are either suggesting or demanding Mr. Assange be targeted for assassination or executed.

Neoconservative Canadian author, columnist and free speech crusader Ezra Levant questioned why the Obama administration has treated the Australian-born Mr. Assange differently than the Taliban leaders targeted for assassination, saying he and his WikiLeaks colleagues "act like spies, not journalists."

"Why is Assange still alive?" Mr. Levant wrote in his column for QMI Agency earlier this week.

"Why is he being treated as a journalist or political activist? If someone had published the intimate details of the D-Day plans during the Second World War, he would never have been seen again."

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and other potential Republican presidential candidates have called for Mr. Assange to be snatched or neutralized, presumably by the CIA.

Former U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who is widely expected to run for president in 2012, has called the former computer hacker an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands" and accused Obama of not doing enough to stop the WikiLeaks founder.

"Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders?" she said.

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