Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, December 2011
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Looks at the Arab Spring with Israeli Eyes
By Jim Miles
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, December 8, 2011
Look out world (especially the Islamic world) - here comes Canada!
Wow! Glorious and Free! That’s Canada, thanks to our courageous and brave military warriors who defeated the nasty Gaddafi despot. Even before the ceremonial proceedings that were televised live in Canada, the announcer had gushed that Canada’s mission in Libya was “quick and dirty” and was “a good day for Canada.”
As most people know Canada played a significant role in the aerial bombing of Libya, and as a finale for the mission, the military occupied the Senate Chambers for a publicity and reward ceremony for our Canadian “heroes” on Thursday, November 24. The public was not welcome, this was a private stage for the Conservative government to hog the media spotlight.
After the very British triumphal Royal Anthem was played for the entrance of the dignitaries, and the playing of the very British “God Save the Queen”, the Governor-General, as the very British Queen’s representative in Canada, gave the first speech.
It was filled with all the usual platitudes and rhetoric that one gets used to from western countries, NATO in particular, and very much more so now with Canada, the U.S.’ little empirical lapdog, but as we will see later, a lap dog with a severe attitude. The Governor-General talked about fighting “for the very principles” they proclaim (note that Canada no longer proclaims a peaceful mission role for its military). We helped “obtain the most basic rights and freedoms” for Libyans (except for the dead Libyans, and the maimed and wounded children, the collateral damage of all that aerial bombing). The military “reinforced values we hold dear,” and are a “great credit to Canada,” leaving Libya “shattered but free to build a better world…free from suffering.”
After these grandiose proclamations, Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, spoke about “this remarkable day, a day to celebrate the success of the Libyan mission,” with “everyday a day of honour for the armed forces,” as we celebrate “a great military success,” stemming from “an admirable objective.” He then continued with some bravado descriptions of what the military did, with the biggest number being their participation in about one thousand bombing runs over Libya.
At the end of the speech, the longest of the ceremony, Harper signalled the Canada is ready to fight for a better world, with the ultimate boast:
Canadian armed forces are the best in the world.
Take that, losers.
Following Harper, the lead Canadian Commander gave his speech, again with the usual superlatives and rhetoric that becomes the military. These fighters “were true Canadian heroes,” who displayed “gallantry, courage, and pride,” as they “engaged deep targets,” in the “most precise campaign in NATO history.” As a result our heroes had “brought an end to violence against Libyan civilians,” but it is up to them to “win the peace.” Can we say “Iraq?”
Finally, for what I watched, the defence minister Peter MacKay threw in his own rhetoric and platitudes. He was “paying tribute” to the “courageous exploits,” for this “clear success.” He went further, stating “Canada stood ready to act…for that hope for freedom…to defend human rights.” And accordingly, he offered “effusive praise,” that “exemplifies esteem which the world citizens hold you.” Our heroes “make our nation the envy of the world,” and Canada will “maintain a modern first class military” in order to “go forward in today’s world.”
Let me say it again, and after all that sarcasm, this needs to be serious, “Look out world.”
Before rewinding, another little vignette. Don Martin, host of CBC’s political punditry show “Power Play” gave Harper a tongue lashing the next day. He criticized the non-public aspect of the royal affair, reminding Canadian viewers that that this was one of many deployments, and with the Canadian Afghanistan mission over - rather messily with over 150 killed, and highly arguable as to its success - Harper was “cherry picking” his heroes. As for the accolades being thrown to the selected military few in attendance, he described the air force actions as “launching missiles at sitting duck targets,” while the navy sat off the coast “lounging in the Mediterranean sun.”
Martin said the whole purpose of the affair was that it was staged as Harper’s own war. Harper loved the mission as it was “surgically clean, no casualties,” and with the combination of music, rhetoric, and false bravado, was creating an “ethereal aura” for himself. This was Harper’s war, his first command, and his hands are clean, he has his heroes to match his rising militaristic tendencies.
So not all Canadians agreed with this action, for that matter, the majority did not (just as Harper did not receive a majority of the vote with 40 per cent of voters - and only 18 per cent of the population) but under Canada’s decidedly no-democratic voting system, he gained power anyway. So let’s rewind a bit now and see what is in the background to all this.
Just after being elected with the majority, Harper had an interview, again on CBC with news anchor Peter Mansbridge, who question him on Canada’s main problem going forward. The simple answer, one word, “Islamicism.” Reiterated:
The major threat is still Islamicism….There are other threats out there, but that is the one that I can tell you occupies the security apparatus most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats. That threat exists all over the world.
There are several connotations to this word, the simplest being that that of a field of thought like any other -ism, for example, capitalism. Harper would argue that his intentions were about the radical Islamicists, extending that to the level that they are all terrorists. It goes deeper than that with Harper.
Harper’s background is decidedly Christian Fundamentalist. He supports libertarian values, in common terms with the Ronald Reagan/Ayn Rand philosophy of every man for himself. This ties in with his Christian dominionism (aha, another -ism), a belief that Christianity is to take dominion over all aspects of society and culture and to dominate and control the resources of the world.
He admires the U.S. evangelical movement, stating, "Your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world..." He has several government ministers that belong to the Focus on the Family group, a part of the Dominionist Movement in the U.S., a very powerful group whose aim is to turn the United States and Canada into a Christian male dominated society.
One more step back. Harper is a staunch supporter of Israel. He says Canada will no longer “pretend” to be an “honest broker” in relations with Israel. He defends Israel with the usual arguments about terrorists and Islamicism, his implications being that all Palestinians are terrorists or potential terrorists. In 2008, the Conservatives proclaimed Canada the most pro-Israel country in the world.
Canada’s foreign policy, always pro-imperial under the influence of the British empire (see the beginning of the article for all the trappings of imperil splendour and awe), now supports whole heartedly the U.S. imperial mission to control the resources and people of the Middle East. As with the U.S., huge double standards and hypocrisy are seen in this position.
…..hmmmm….some double standards need correcting
If Canada is truly a defender of the rights to freedom and supports the values of the Arab Spring as our values, then Canada is falling well short of its ambitions. With our “best armed forces in the world” we need to attack the military government of Egypt so that the Egyptians can have the same freedoms to vote that we have.
We need to follow this up with an attack on Bahrain to free the people there from their despotic monarchy and follow it up with an attack on Saudi Arabia, arguably the most backward despotic tribal monarchy in the world. Of course all the little minions of the GCC, the Gulf Coast Cooperation council, made up of monarchies and absolute rulers who deny democratic freedoms to their own people, need to be attacked as well. But wait, did they not want to get rid of Gaddafi for the same reason…? Unimportant. The same for Yemen.
And to truly free people from oppression they should be attacking the oppressors of the Palestinian people, many of whom live under army rule in the West Bank, undergoing a slow ethnic cleansing, and another many living in the outdoor prison of Gaza….oh, sorry, that would be, um, Israel. Well maybe we can take on Iran, they are Islamic, and, are making a nuclear bomb, which is illegal…oops, what about…well we cannot talk about Israel’s couple hundred nuclear warheads.
But enough. We beat Libya! We are great! Our military forces are heroes! We have freed the Libyan people for democracy and oil…no, sorry, for freedom!
Certainly Gaddafi was not the nicest person on the planet. But under his leadership, at once despised and feted by the western world according to its media needs, the Libyan people did achieve certain standards that were the best in Africa concerning health, education, and economics. But Libya had all that oil, and has a large aquifer under all that sand, and wanted to get away from U.S. dollar domination of the economy, all the real reasons for helping support the dissident groups in Ben Ghazi.
These groups were somewhat strange for Canada to support, being a mix of political factions, tribal groups, and Islamic groups that wanted to wrest control away form Gaddafi. All the media stories about genocide, executions, rape, and other human rights violations have yet to be substantiated, and can be considered to be excellent propaganda fodder for the ignorant western media. The only substantiated violation has been one of a mass murder in a prison in the 1990s.
But the war itself, as with all wars, created many civilian casualties, with aerial bombing being the most significant factor in all this. Now that we have “shattered” them, they can get on with life.
Another new problem is that of retribution. A recent Counterpunch report noted,
“There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime.”
The National Transitional Council, whose control is largely theoretical, is not in a position to stop this purge because many of its members are themselves frightened of being accused of links with the old regime.
Libya was not “saved” for Libyans, it was saved for empire.
The true north strong and free
So look out world, Canada has developed an attitude, the aggressive little Jack terrier yapping at the heels of U.S. imperial interests, ready to go to war wherever ‘Islamicism’ occurs.
We are not nice people anymore. We are armed and dangerous. We don’t really care if you are a despot or not, so long as you are not an Islamic despot…or maybe, at least, you are on our side…for now. We will attack and bomb you, in order to shatter you and rebuild you. And then we will celebrate our triumph in the hallowed halls of our government, allowing the emperor’s sidekick to preen himself in the glory of war.
Suck in up world. We are on our way.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of
opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is
also presented globally through other alternative websites and news
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