Canada the newest member of the US enemies list?
Date: Sunday, December 01 2002
Topic: Canadian Politics
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
The U.S. tends to take Canada for granted, at least until Canada acts in a way that reminds Americans that our northern neighbor is not the 51st state.
A few days ago, right-wing pressure on both sides of the border forced Francoise Ducros to resign her job as Prime Minister Jean Chretien's communications director after she made an off-the-record remark calling President Bush a "moron."
What wasn't widely reported was what prompted Ducros' remark. She and other Canadian officials objected to President Bush's insistence on turning the recent NATO summit in Prague into another showcase for his much-desired war with Iraq as well as a chance to hector NATO members to increase military spending to fight the "war on terrorism.
Canada has the third-lowest rate of military spending in the 19-member NATO alliance, standing just ahead of Luxembourg and Iceland, which doesn't have a military. Canada spends about $12 billion on its armed forces. That seems like a sensible amount considering that Canada is not engaged in the sorts of imperial endeavors that has the U.S. now spending more than $1 billion a day on its military. Just the same, the Canadian military has been involved in almost every major UN or NATO operation over the past decade and by all accounts have performed well.
Since Canada is a country that has no enemies and goes out of its way not to make new enemies, it's hard to believe how many right-wingers in this country have gone ballistic over Ducros remark as yet another sign that Canada is - in the words of the immortal Robert Novak - "a country of weenies."
Is it because Canada has a national health care system that, despite the horror stories the conservatives always trot out, actually works? Is it because Canada has a more liberal immigration policy and doesn't consider "multicultural" to be a dirty word? Is it because, compared to the U.S., Canada is simply a more humane, more egalitarian place?
Or maybe it's because someone else dared to point out the painfully obvious fact that President Bush is not the sharpest knife in the drawer?
The truth hurts, and it's funny that it seems that women are the ones who seem to have the courage to take on Bush.
California Congressman Barbara Lee stood alone last September when she cast the sole "no" vote against giving President Bush a blank check for a global war. She received death threats and all sorts of abuse but she will be part of the 108th Congress next year, only because Berkeley is the only city in the U.S. that would send someone as liberal as Lee to Washington.
The same cannot be said for Georgia's U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, one of the few at the start of this year who called for a congressional investigation on what the Bush administration knew prior to the Sept. 11 attacks while others in Congress kept quiet. Rep. McKinney didn't make it past her party's primary, thanks to the conservatives.
(An aside: If, as humorist Tom Lehrer pointed out in the 1970s, "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," what can possibly be said about the incongruity of President Bush appointing Kissinger to lead the investigation in the Sept. 11 attacks?)
Then there was the remark made by German Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin said: "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler used." Comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler cost Daubler-Gmelin her job, even though she was right on this point.
Ducros may be just the latest person who ended up on the political scrap heap for daring to point out that President Bush is not infallible and may not be acting in the best interests of the U.S. and the world in his foreign policy decisions. But that's no reason to go after Canada or attack it for being wimpy, as National Review writer Jonah Goldberg recently did in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article that suggested the U.S. should bomb Canada.
Many Canadians are justifiably ticked off at U.S. bullying. In the spring, four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan by some errant bombs dropped by U.S. pilots who thought the soldiers, who were on a training exercise, were al Qaeda. The matter has yet to be resolved to the satisfaction of Canadians.
Canadians are also upset by what they believe is heavy-handed U.S. policing of the 4,000-mile U.S.-Canada border.
You may have heard about Michel Jalbert, a 32-year-old forest worker from Quebec who was arrested this fall and jailed for over a month. His crime? Stopping to fill up his truck at a gas station in northern Maine that sits about 60 feet from the Canadian border without first stopping at the U.S. Customs House. To make matters worse, he had his rifle with him because he was about to go on a moose hunting trip. For doing something that thousands of others who live in the towns that straddle the U.S.-Canadian border had done for years without consequences, Jalbert could face even more jail time.
Canada even gone as far to warn its naturalized citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria to steer clear of the U.S., after a Syrian-born Canadian that the U.S. suspected of terrorism links was deported after he was detained while he traveling through the U.S.
The U.S. claims Canada is not serious about fighting terrorism and that its immigration policies are too lax - so much so that Canada could be a haven for Al Qaeda operatives. But does the U.S. have the right to tell its neighbor how much to spend on its military, how to police its borders and how to conduct its foreign policy?
Put it this way, which country is funding Israel's occupation of the West Bank? Which country supports Arab dictatorships (as long as they are willing to sell us oil) and has military bases throughout the Middle East and Central Asia? Which country revised its military philosophy so it now reserves the right to make pre-emptive war against any nation it sees as a threat? One hint. It's not Canada.
Even the best of friends can disagree at times. Most other nations in the world would love to have a neighbor like Canada. And Canadians don't mind having the U.S. as its neighbor, provided the U.S. respects Canada's sovereignty. These facts are good to remember, before a good friendship is ruined.
As Will Rogers once pointed out: "Canadians are a fine tribe of people. They are hardy. They got to be to live next to us."
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).
Copyright 2002 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.