Brian Mulroney was fond of saying Give me twenty years and you won'trecognize this country. But he was a piker compared to Stephen Harper whois changing the ethics and political culture of this country faster thanMulroney ever dreamed.
The most obvious case in point is the vote on May 17 that extended Canada'sparticipation in the occupation of Afghanistan until the spring of 2009. Thenext step in this appalling transformation of Canada into a lap dog of U.S.imperialism will not be far behind. We will agree to NATO's request thatwe take over command of the whole sordid enterprise. It is almost certain tocome out at some point that Mr. Harper pushed NATO to make the request.
None of this, of course, should come as any surprise from a man who isinfatuated with everything American and contemptuous of his own country andwhat it has stood for, for decades. Harper has always detested Canada'speacekeeping role, schooled as he was by the Yankee lovers at the Calgary School of political science and its intellectual guru, Tom Flanagan.
How could this happen in a country that is deeply suspicious of Americanmilitary adventures and committed to the principles of multilateralism?
A good deal of the answer lies in the decay and political corruption of theso-called natural governing party, the Liberals. The danger Canada facesat the hands of Stephen Harper is not dissimilar to that experienced by theU.S., despite the enormous differences in political culture. I am remindedhere of Ronald Reagan and one of the reasons he was so popular. Most peopleforget if they ever knew that in polling on actual issues, a majorityof Americans disagreed with almost everything Reagan did.
So why was he so popular? Because people looked at Reagan, then looked atthe Democrats, and concluded one simple thing: Reagan, at least, was a manwho believed in what he was doing. Voters were so tired of the opportunismand lack of political principle on the part of the Democrats that theysupported a president simply on the basis that at least he believed insomething.
The danger in Canada is that many have come to the same conclusion about theLiberals. They have always been a party of opportunists, with an uncannyinstinct for where the middle is. Under Paul Martin they were truly a partywithout principle, vision or ethical core. People remember.
But Stephen Harper is no Ronald Reagan. He is mean, condescending andviscerally arrogant, and his nature will ultimately betray him. Until itdoes, however, he can do enormous damage. In a Parliament with a separatistparty, the Liberals trying to divine what the opportunistic thing to do ison any given issue, and the NDP sticking to its bizarre line that Canadianswant it to make Parliament work, Harper has been given lots of room tomaneuver.
While the vote to extend the occupation is history, its consequences are notirreversible and that is just what Canadians committed to peace and theinternational rule of law should be working towards. Canadians are dividedon this issue in part because they rightly care about the fate of soldiers'lives, but also because the facts are elusive and the peace movement isweak.
Yet the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of Canadian values andagainst the Afghanistan adventure. Just as the debate in the Commons began,the Polaris Institute revealed just how much this commitment has distortedCanada's role in the world. The decision to support the U.S. in Afghanistan(which the Liberals admit was done to appease the U.S. over our decision tostay out of Iraq) has already cost $4.1 billion since Sept. 11, 2001.
Afghan and related operations account for 68 per cent of the $6 billion spenton international missions during that time frame. Equally disturbing:according to Polaris, during that same period Canada devoted a mere $214million, about three per cent of international mission spending, on UnitedNations missions.
Our peacekeeping is a joke: We now have just 59 militarypersonnel devoted to UN missions. Canada, which virtually inventedpeacekeeping, once ranked among the top 10 contributors to UN missions interms of military personnel. We are now 50th.
Equally important, however, is the actual nature of this farcicalhumanitarian effort. So few investigative journalists know the facts orwill tell them, it is not surprising people are bamboozled by thewarmongers. But one who does have the jam to tell the story is columnistEric Margolis. He is worth quoting:
Afghanistan's complexity and lethal tribal politics have been marketed tothe public by government and media as a selfless crusade to defeat the'terrorist' Taliban, implant democracy, and liberate Afghan women.Afghanistan is part of the 'world-wide struggle against terrorism,' we aretold.
None of this is true. In 1989, at the end of the Soviet occupation,Afghanistan fell into anarchy and civil war. An epidemic of banditry andrape ensued. A village prayer leader, Mullah Omar, who lost an eye in theanti-Soviet jihad, armed a group of 'talibs' (religious students), and setabout defending women from rape. Aided by Pakistan, Taliban stopped theepidemic of rape and drug dealing that had engulfed Afghanistan, and imposedorder based on harsh tribal and Sharia religious law.
The Taliban stopped the production of opium and heroin except in the areacontrolled by the Northern Alliance: the thugs, drug pushers and rapists whoare now Canada's allies. The Taliban were hardly humanitarian and imposedan extremely harsh Sharia regime on the country. But with them gone, theepidemic of rape has returned and our allies are responsible for 80 to 90per cent of the world's heroin.
It is important also to revisit the original relationship between the U.S. andthe Taliban and the U.S. invasion. The U.S. poured millions into Taliban coffersuntil, says Margolis, about four months before 9/11. It was only cut offwhen the regime refused to sign a contract with U.S. oil giant Unocal to builda pipeline south from the Caspian Basin to Pakistan.
It is also surelyrelevant that the Taliban knew nothing of the plan to attack the U.S. (Theplot was hatched in Germany.) Much was made of the fact that the Talibanrefused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S. But Bin Laden was a nationalhero wounded six times in the anti-Soviet struggle which the U.S. financed.When the Taliban offered to turn him over to an international tribunal uponseeing evidence of his guilt in 9/11, the U.S. refused. And then invaded. Thiswas by any international legal standard a totally illegal war, which couldonly have been justified if Afghanistan threatened the U.S. It is also anillegal occupation.
This is the mission that Stephen Harper, Yankee sycophant and buddingwarmonger, has extended. The mission is not intended to ever end becauseits purpose was and is to ensure the U.S. permanent access to Mideast oil andAfghani land for pipelines. But end it will just as every other colonialoccupation of Afghanistan has ended when the occupiers tire of bleeding.Too bad dozens of Canadian soldiers, who should be peacemakers, will have todie to teach us an old lesson.
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