On Tuesday, 30 November, approximately 800 people gathered in a downtown Canadian park in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to hold a mock trial of US President George W. Bush. Following the proceeding, Bush was pronounced guilty of crimes against humanity and crimes against the earth.
The next morning, 1 December, Bush arrived in Halifax, cynically guised to deliver belated thanks for the role of Maritime Canadians in assisting stranded US passengers during the trauma of 9-11. (1) Shortly after 9-11, Bush expressed appreciation to a list of countries excluding Canada. A number of Canadians felt slighted by the omission.
Though he intended to atone for this omission, many Haligonians were not pleased that Bush was visiting their small coastal city. With a metropolitan population of approximately 350,000 and a large portion employed by the military, an impressive number of demonstrators, estimated at between 3,000 and 7,000 [my estimate would be 4,000 to 5,000], turned out to derisively greet Bush -- this despite an arrival on a working day morning with rain in the forecast.
Placards were many, variously depicting Bush as Hitler, swastikas incorporated into the Stars and Stripes, as well as signs denouncing the terrorist killing of a 100 thousand Iraqi civilians. An often-heard refrain from the demonstrators was: “Who is a terrorist? Bush is a terrorist.”
Bush ostensibly has decided three years later to make up for an earlier lapse of gratitude. Just how to do that was not readily apparent. Bush asked, “How does a person say thank you to a nation?”
But he acquitted himself well when he simply said, “Thank you for your kindness to America in an hour of need.”
If one wondered whether Bush’s sentiments were genuine, the “wish list” of what Bush expected of Canada dampened such belief.
During his presentation that beguiled many Canadian commercial media types, Bush effused, “We know there can be no security, no lasting peace in a world where proliferation and terrorism, and genocide, and extreme poverty go unopposed.”
Words that strangely slipped by many reporters who should be aware that the world is a far more dangerous place now since Bush decided to unleash his war goons on whoever he deemed to be an enemy terrorist. Despite the slaughter of 100,000 civilians in Iraq and thousands more in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Haiti, the US still proclaims itself as the great liberator. (2)
Bush lauded Canada’s service to imperial aims: “Canada's leadership is helping to build a better world. Over the past decade, Canadian troops have helped bring stability to Bosnia and Kosovo. Canada's willingness to send peacekeepers to Haiti saved thousands of lives and helped save Haiti's constitutional government. Canadian troops are serving bravely in Afghanistan at this hour.”
Emboldened by his recent so-called mandate, Bush took sideswipes at the UN and those not prompted to follow the US lead: “The objective of the UN and other institutions must be collective security, not endless debate. For the sake of peace, when those bodies promise serious consequences, serious consequences must follow.” Canada, which for decades has pinned its foreign policy upon multilateralism, was being pried into a new direction -- a direction that a bedazzled Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has been dangerously flirting with.
As for his commitment to working within a multilateral framework, Bush equivocated, “My country is determined to work as far as possible within the framework of international organizations, and we're hoping that other nations will work with us to make those institutions more relevant and more effective in meeting the unique threats of our time.”
Bush is reaching out while sidelining multilateral institutions that deviate from the US “national interest.”
Bush gave faint praise for another area in which Canada followed the US lead. Said Bush, “Our second commitment is to fight global terrorism with every action and resource the task requires. Canada has taken a series of critical steps to guard against the danger of terrorism. You created the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. You've toughened your anti-terror laws. You're upgrading your intelligence. I want to thank the government for all those constructive and important decisions.
Bush reminded his Canadian counterpart of priorities: “Our two countries are working together every day -- every day -- to keep our people safe. That is the most solemn duty I have, and the most solemn duty the Prime Minister has.”
Having already secured US military access to cross Canada’s borders, Bush let his next wish be known: “I hope we'll also move forward on ballistic missile defense cooperation to protect the next generation of Canadians and Americans from the threats we know will arise.”
Bush claimed collective prescience into future terrorist attacks. It amounts to an admission of a failure of security. Yet Canada, which has not been subject to any terrorist attacks in Bush’s War on Terrorism, opens itself up to these attacks by allying itself with its belligerent neighbor. Furthermore, ballistic missile defense is something that most Canadians do not want. (3)
Bush drew from Canadian history to justify his offensive invasions. Bush quoted former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon McKenzie King: “We cannot defend our country and save our homes and families by waiting for the enemy to attack us. To remain on the defensive is the surest way to bring the war to Canada.”
The World War II parallel is not apt. It is unknown if Canada would ever have been attacked by Nazi Germany. Also, Canada entered the war, not in defense of itself, but rather as an adjunct of the British Empire. The choice now for Canada is to serve this time as an adjunct of US Empire or to secure sovereignty and pursue justice within the framework of multilateralism.
Bush elucidated further on the joint aims of the US and Canada: “Our third great commitment is to enhance our own security by promoting freedom and hope and democracy in the broader Middle East. … If, 20 years from now, the Middle East is dominated by dictators and mullahs who build weapons of mass destruction and harbor terrorists, our children and our grandchildren will live in a nightmare world of danger. That must not happen.”
As stated, the US is at greater risk now than ever before. To engage in self-contradictions in one’s own speech is to serve as chief refuter of oneself. Speaking of imminent threats and enhancement of security is to promote the never-ending war scenario. Security is best attained by prevention of threats arising. This is best achieved by dealing with grievances and recompensing others, with genuine contrition, for wrongs committed against them. To continue to perpetrate atrocities serves only to incite further revenge and prolongation of violence.
The Middle East is a long-festering wound inflicted by western imperialism. The injection of a racist Zionist entity into the region and the support of despotic dictatorships was a sure-fire bet to attract enemies.
As for weapons-of-mass-destruction, to arrogate on to oneself and vassal states the right to possess, upgrade, and use such weapons is the utmost hypocrisy. It also denies other states their legitimate right to self-defense.
Bush pointed out that the previous Canadian prime minister had failed to openly partake in the aggression of Iraq. However, he noted that Martin had “made clear in Washington earlier this year, there is no disagreement at all with what has to be done in going forward. We must help the Iraqi people secure their country and build a free and democratic society.”
Canada is clearly expected to acquiesce and serve on its flank of empire.
According to Bush: “In Fallujah and elsewhere, our coalition and Iraqi forces are on the offensive and we are delivering a message: Freedom, not oppression, is the future of Iraq.”
In the wacky world of Bush freedom and democracy are delivered by US weaponry. Martin rules in a minority government; and only because of a distasteful hard right alternative and Canadian reluctance to try a social democratic alternative. To survive politically Martin must heed Canadians. Most Canadians reject Bush’s violent crusades, as revealed by opinion polls and those who take to the streets.
The message is clear: sovereignty resides in the people, and Canadian sovereignty is not served by capitulation to imperial aggression.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
(1) Kevin Corkill, “Why a warmonger would visit Halifax,” shunpiking, 26 November 2004. It is argued that Bush’s visit to Halifax is primarily guided by the extension of imperialist US objectives into Canada. Halifax hosts the NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic. Halifax also hosts a CIA unit protected under Canada’s Bill C-55, by which a "controlled access military zone" can be established around American warships as dictated by the Minister of Defense. “All these measures have been introduced in compliance with the US military demands that Canada militarize its harbors and provide safe havens for its warships and thus participate in its military adventures.”
(2) Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham, “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey, The Lancet, 29 October 2004; Marc Herold, "A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting," 2004; Dennis Bernstein and Kevin Pina, “Death squads rampage in Haiti: 600 killed in 2 weeks,” Autonomy and Solidarity, 15 October 2004; Justin Podur, “The battle for Colombia,” Frontline, 10-23 April 2004.
(3) CBC Online News Staff, “Slim majority oppose missile defence: poll,” CBC News, 5 November 2004.
Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen
* The Progressive Paradox: Defining Viability
* The Shame
* The Wrong Direction
* The Pornography of War