Apr 13, 2006
(Warning, rant to follow. )
At the very end of the nineteenth century the Dominion of Canada sent 7,400 young men to the veldt of South Africa. Of these, 224 were killed. This was a war fought solely for the imperial ambitions of the British Empire, of which Canada was a part. A generation later we sent 626,000 men into the muddy hell-realm of Flanders, losing 61,663 of these. Once again the war had nothing to do with Canada, but was fought between rival European imperial systems. Our Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, a good God-fearing capitalist Tory said at the outbreak of war that Canada was "ready, aye ready."
At the start of the 21st century has the spirit of the country's policy changed all that much? Aren't we still acting as the junior partners in other people's imperial wars? Of course the empire is under new management now; the new guys don't go in for so much pomp and circumstance and don't seem to know how to run the show as well as the sahibs did once they get there.
Canadians are by and large uninterested in foreign policy, unless it involves a lot of skating and slap-shooting. Witness the almost complete absence of any reaction to the former Martin government's role in the US engineered coup in Haiti. The Americans didn't like the president, Aristide, because he showed signs of actually wanting to give his people some protection against the sweat-shops run by US corporations there. Never mind he was the people's choice, democratically elected and all. Bang, bang you're out.
And Canada's in like a dirty shirt helping with troops to shore up the new regime, and give the whole affair a spurious air of international legitimacy. We're like the annoying obsequious side-kick of the class bully.
Now Harper, another God-fearing capitalist Tory but new-school, with a predatory neo-con edge, is in charge. He's made a big deal about "improving relations with the Americans" but his first visit to the Imperial capital was a big flop from Canada's point-of-view. No deal on soft-wood lumber (in fact a Canadian back down), no deal on the new passport regulations that will cripple the Canadian tourist trade, no nothing.
Big surprise? Just look at the way the Bushies treat their poodle Blair over in the old Imperial capital. These guys don't make deals, they lay down the law and lesser breeds fall into line.
So, getting to the meat of the rant, what are we doing in Afghanistan? Wouldn't have anything to do with a pipe-line for Caspian gas now would it? Oh, yeah it's about democracy. That's the new buzz word for the Empire. So long as you vote for the guy they want. Or can be made to seem like you voted for the guy they want. Democracy in Afghanistan is about as likely as snow in Tahiti.
It came out this week that when Canadian troops take prisoners in Afghanistan they hand them over to "Afghan authorities." Presumably for a nice hot cup of cocoa. A military spokesman said this was in respect of Afghanistan's sovereignty.
Several questions arise from this scenario. Why are we going along with the charade that Afghanistan's government is sovereign? (or Canada's for that matter, but I digress.) What do you think happens to the poor sods when the "Afghan authorities" get hold of them? Can Canada's military be liable as accomplices to torture?
If we are going to be fighting as junior partners in Imperial wars, why can't we do what we did in every other war and set up proper P.O.W. camps, and run them according to the Geneva convention? Do we have to sink into the same moral sewer as Abu Ghraib?
The US is holding thousands of people in a new-school gulag archipelago from Guatanamo Bay to Bagram to shadowy locations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. What is the legal basis for their detention? Just the president's say-so as far as anyone can see.
If any semblance of legality were involved these prisoners would be sorted into three categories. Those taken in combat would be awarded P.O.W. status and treated accordingly. Those involved in criminal acts, including terrorism, would be properly charged by the relevant authorities in the jurisdiction were the crime was committed and given a fair trial. The rest, probably the vast majority, would be paid compensation and set free.
If Canada had any back-bone, we'd insist that something like this be done before we sign up on any more campaigns against the Boers (or whoever is annoying the Imperial power by rudely sitting on natural resources). But, hey, aren't the Leafs on tonight?