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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Find me some Canadians! 

Just like the military refused to knuckle under to the PMO on the coffin coverage issue, so the Canadian foreign affairs staff are not going to be blamed for the chaos in Beruit. They're telling the Globe and Mail what happened.
Deny it all you want, PMO -- as this story makes clear, the main goal of the Harper trip to Cyprus was to generate good publicity for Harper. Who cares about all those screamers in Beruit -- the Prime Minister has an urgent photo opportunity emergency! He desperately needs some Canadians to fly home with him!
With the preemptive strike by the foreign affairs staff in today's Globe and Mail, however, the news stories now will focus on how the Prime Minister's Office insisted on trying to control everything from afar, not trusting embassy staff on the spot to make good decisions -- likely because they were all appointed by those dastardly Librulls! --
. . . Suddenly, last night, they were told the Prime Minister would be visiting and that Canadians — any Canadians — would have to be brought to the port of Larnaca, Cyprus. They made an urgent request to the British government, which had been taking Britons on large naval vessels with military escorts to the western city of Limassol, to allow 120 Canadians to board one of the ships so that there would be some available to greet the Prime Minister and ride home on his Airbus jet.
One government official in Ottawa, who asked to remain unidentified, expressed concern that Mr. Harper's decision to fly to Cyprus to offer up the services of the government jet might be perceived by Canadians as a publicity stunt. The government could have sent one of its Challenger jets to Paris to pick up the Prime Minister and his staff, the source said, freeing up more room on the Airbus.
But, even if they had qualms, the Canadian officials quickly booked suites of rooms and offices at the Palm Beach resort hotel in Larnaca, and made the half-hour journey to the port. Joined by newly arrived officials from the PMO, they set up a war room in the hotel's conference centre and were quickly struck by waves of bad news.
First, it turned out that 120 Canadians had not boarded the British vessel — at most, perhaps 20 were on board. The officials then scrambled to see whether the single Canadian-rented vessel that had reached Beirut, the Lebanese-licensed Blue Dawn, could sail more quickly to Larnaca to meet the Prime Minister.
It quickly became apparent this wasn't going to happen. While Israel had guaranteed Canadians passage, the captain wasn't ready to move without military escort — and Canada couldn't deliver that. Hours passed. The sun set. And it wasn't until 11 p.m. in Beirut that the ship finally left the dock with 261 Canadians aboard . . .
The story gets even worse from there.
It's pretty clear that, left on their own, our Canadian foreign affairs staff would have made some pretty good decisions, and made them more quickly, on how to get Canadians out of Lebanon. But with the PMO office horning their way into the situation, it will continue to be a balls-up.

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