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Holding the Bully's Coat: Canada and the U.S. Empire (Anglais) Relié – 22 mars 2007

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Although it received almost no attention in the Canadian media, the appointment of Gen. Bantz Craddock as NATO’s top military commander in December 2006 had a significance for Canadians. Craddock had been in charge of the U.S.’s notorious Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, where hundreds of suspected terrorists have been stripped of their most basic human rights in defiance of international law. His appointment as NATO’s military chief meant that Canadian troops serving in the NATO mission in Afghanistan were being brought under the ultimate command of a U.S. general deeply connected to the worst aspects of American foreign policy carried out in the name of defeating “terror.”

This development should help dispel the comforting notion that Canada has stayed clear of the reckless and illegal course embarked on by the administration of George W. Bush in the post—9/11 era. In fact, there has been a significant shift in how Canada operates in the world, as we’ve moved from being a nation that has championed internationalism, the United Nations and UN peacekeeping to being a key prop to an aggressive U.S. administration operating outside the constraints of international law.

In his book Lawless World, Philippe Sands, a law professor at University College London, describes the actions of the Bush administration as amounting to “a full-scale assault, a war on law.”1 This rejection of the rule of law and the global rules created following the Second World War has freed up a boisterous crowd of neoconservatives operating within the U.S. administration to unabashedly pursue policies aimed at enhancing America’s global dominance. The administration’s plans, the Wall Street Journal noted in March 2005, envision “a military that is far more proactive, focused on changing the world instead of just responding to conflicts” (italics added).2 The distinguished U.S. journalist Mary McGrory captured this aggressive U.S. behaviour colourfully in a column in the Washington Post when she described America as the “SUV of nations. It hogs the road and guzzles the gas and periodically has to run over something–such as another country–to get to its Middle Eastern filling station.”

As Canada has backed this SUV of nations as it goes about changing the world to suit its own needs, Ottawa has repositioned Canada in the world, with implications for us as Canadians. Our close alignment with Washington also has implications beyond our borders. It is fashionable in Canadian media circles to denigrate the importance of Canada as a world player and scoff at the idea that anything we do would matter one way or another. But in fact we are a player of some significance on the global stage, owing to our reputation–partly deserved and partly undeserved–as a fair arbiter and promoter of just causes, as a decent sort of country. By lining itself up so uncritically with Washington, even as the Bush administration has become a renegade in the world and highly unpopular on its own home turf, the Canadian government has played a role in enabling a regime that is considered by many around the world to be the major obstacle to peace and security.

The government of Stephen Harper has come to the aid of the beleaguered White House, which has become more and more isolated as it pursues its “war on terror.” On the eve of a NATO summit in Latvia in late November 2006, the growing reticence among NATO allies about the mission in Afghanistan came out into the open, with Belgian defence minister André Flahaut calling for “an exit strategy.” Flahaut gave voice to a view that had been gaining strength in Europe and elsewhere: “The situation is deteriorating,” he noted, “and, over time, NATO forces risk appearing like an army of occupation.” But with European support flagging, Canada stepped forward to defend the war, pressuring other NATO countries to make Afghanistan the top priority, and berating them for their reluctance to beef up their troop commitments. Harper’s strident advocacy has been very useful to the Bush administration, since it allows the voice of another country–and one that has considerable international legitimacy–to make the case for America’s war. This leaves the White House looking less isolated, to both the world community and the domestic American audience.

In tilting so strongly towards Washington, Ottawa has moved us further and further away from our European allies, with whom we actually have a great deal in common. While we are always reminded of how similar we are to Americans, there’s been a tendency to overlook the compelling similarities between Canadian and European society. As Canadian political scientist Philip Resnick has argued, Canada “would fit remarkably well into the European Union, were it located on the European continent.”4 Indeed, there are similarities between Canada and Europe in our desire for strong social programs, our aspirations for greater social equality and our desire to move towards a world of peaceful co-existence among nations. Meanwhile, America has become an intensely unequal society, and one that is focused on decisively crushing its enemies in the world. Resnick also notes that Canadians share with Europeans a self-doubt, and a sense of limitations and the need for compromise in politics, while the Americans plow ahead with a fierce certainty about themselves and their rightful place at the centre of the world.

All this suggests that Canada could be making common cause with the Europeans on many fronts–on strengthening our social welfare systems, on championing collective international efforts to combat climate change and on standing united in opposition to U.S. actions that violate international law. Canada could have, for instance, joined the European Union in June 2006 in calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay. Instead, however, we have lined up ever more closely with Washington, even embracing the notion of fencing ourselves off from the world behind the tight security boundaries of a “Fortress North America.” Our ties with Europe, once actively cultivated in Ottawa, have been largely left untended. Inside the Canadian government, there’s been a significant diversion of focus and resources away from Europe and towards the United States.

Revue de presse

Praise for Linda McQuaig and War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet: It’s the Crude, Dude

With a keen eye and a grim wit, McQuaig’s perceptive inquiry into the world’s energy system strips away layer after layer… [It] is an urgent wake-up call that should — and must — be read and acted upon without delay.”
—Noam Chomsky

“Canadian journalist Linda McQuaig’s brilliant It’s the Crude, Dude will give you an overview of ‘Iraqi’history and indeed of the frantic hunt for the last of the world’s oil that will transform your view of everything current.”
—Heather Mallick, The Globe and Mail

“McQuaig gives the reader an entertaining crash course on the history of the oil industry…It’s a highly educational rant…and a deliciously written one.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

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