Politics & Policy

Canada’s Shame

Irrelevance and ill will as a foreign policy.

ALBERTA, CANADA — Let’s quit pretending. If these “peace” demonstrators are so concerned about war, then where are they the other 364 days of the year when they could be protesting dozens of other wars that will dwarf Iraq in terms of corpses?

Unfortunately for the victims of these wars, they’re happening in places that most of the protesters have barely heard of. “Embedded” reporters on CNN won’t cover those wars in all their viciousness and neither will they cover those who protest against them. I wonder how many of the 200,000 who were on the streets in Montreal the other day ever protested (if they are old enough) Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds or his invasion of Kuwait. Why not protest the Sudan or Chechnya today? Those are first-class slaughters of men, women, and children.

Those rallies are unlikely, though, because protesters can’t blame the Sudan or Chechnya on the Americans and especially on George W. Bush. For a good number of people this is not about war at all. It’s just primal-scream therapy for people who hate George W. Bush. They hate him because he’s a conservative Republican, a practicing Christian, a proponent of global trade, a U.N. skeptic, and an American.

But Canadian Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish didn’t hide behind antiwar demonstrations. None of that peace pablum for her. She wears her anti-Americanism on her sleeve where everyone can see it. She just up and said it: “Damn Americans, I hate those bastards.” God bless her; at least she’s to the point. That’s a little harsh to plan a rally around, though. If you really hate Dubya it’s better to pretend that you’re just worried sick about war. The war in Iraq might be the first one you’ve ever heard of and it’s clearly caused by those war-mongering Americans. Your sign, “Bush is a Nazi,” works.

But isn’t the government supposed to rise above personal likes and dislikes and make foreign policy based on our national interests? Well, yes, but Canadian Prime Minister Chretien’s refusal to take his staff, caucus, and cabinet out to the woodshed for their poisonous stream of anti-Americanism speaks volumes about his own issues with the Bush administration and the United States. He hinted at this in a speech when he tried to suggest that U.S. foreign policy had to take some of the blame for the mass murder of 3,000 people on 9/11, another smokescreen for anti-American resentment.

In Chretien’s world, if you are poor and persecuted and live under an authoritarian regime somewhere, blame America. Never mind that millions of the world’s poor flee to the U.S. to escape those hellholes. Just pick up a stick, any stick. They are all good enough to beat the Americans with.

After a 40-year career in politics Jean Chretien has nothing positive to point to as his great triumph in foreign policy. You might be forgiven for not predicting that his masterstroke would be to undermine Canada’s influence with the world’s only superpower. But it’s true. He has made himself relevant in history by making his country less relevant. He didn’t plan it that way, but it’s a natural consequence of letting the chip on your shoulder get in the way of promoting Canada’s national interests.

An acquaintance recently suggested to me that perhaps Americans would think twice about bombing Iraq if they had recently experienced a war on their soil, after all, the last time that happened was during the Civil War. I reminded her that the U.S. had been attacked at Pearl Harbor and, of course, in a spectacular way just a year and a half ago. Her expression didn’t change.

So many of us said that we would never forget the site of commercial airplanes full of innocent people crashing into the World Trade Center, but she had already forgotten. It was just that tiny little unprovoked massacre of 3,000 people. 9/11 has changed American priorities and good friends will take that into account when they try to understand U.S. motives for going to war. But that assumes a goodwill that simply isn’t there with the prime minister or many so-called peace protesters.

For them it’s simple. It’s all about imperialism and Americans wanting to impose their views on others. But they are wrong. The U.S. is rightly concerned about its security. Americans are protecting their national interests. Millions of Canadians understand this and we are ashamed of our government for not standing by our neighbors. But unfortunately it’s the bitter Amero-phobes both inside and outside the Liberal-party caucus who grab the headlines. Prime Minister Chretien hasn’t just turned his back on Canada’s best friends, he has also failed Canadians. He can’t leave office too soon.

Monte Solberg is the Canadian Alliance member of parliament for Medicine Hat and a former vice chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.


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