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Canada Cannot Be America's B Team
Published on Sunday, September 17, 2006 by he Toronto Star (Canada)
Canada Cannot Be America's B Team
by Haroon Siddiqui

You didn't have to go any further than the blanket coverage of the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 to know the great divide between the United States and the rest of the world, and also between those Americans and Canadians, like Stephen Harper, who support George W. Bush's geopolitics and those who don't, namely, the majority of Americans and Canadians.

While each of the 2,973 victims of 9/11 needs to be remembered, no less worthy of commemoration are those sacrificed in the failed war on terrorism:

- The 2,670 Americans, and the 42,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq.

- The 16 Canadian soldiers killed since May in Afghanistan.

- The tens of thousands of Afghan civilians killed, maimed or displaced since the toppling of the Taliban five long years ago.

- The hundreds of Palestinians killed and the hundreds of thousands starving in the Israeli-occupied territories, now with Canadian complicity.

These Muslim victims were, and are, not all terrorists. Not to see the connection between their tragedy and the Muslim anger around the world is to be obtuse or ideologically blind.

If the war in Lebanon showed how closely Harper follows Bush's script, last week provided further proof.

Bush linked 9/11 to Iraq, and Harper linked it to Afghanistan.

Bush said, "We have Al Qaeda on the run," and Harper said, "The Taliban is on the run."

Bush said, "The worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone," and Harper said "The horrors of the world will not go away if we turn a blind eye to them."

Bush said, "We are now in the early hours of the struggle between tyranny and freedom," and Peter MacKay clumsily wooing Condoleezza Rice, as Canadians cringed said, "The fight against terrorism will be a long-term campaign to provide greater security of our citizens and our way of life."

Bush exploited the grief of victims' families for political gain and Harper did the same.

There's additional evidence of the growing "Bushification of Canada," as Bob Rae, the Liberal leadership hopeful, has called it.

While Harper, like Bush, posits the Afghan mission as essential to the security of the West, not enough NATO nations are convinced to pony up more troops.

Even the British commander in the field expressed skepticism when talking to a Canadian MP as early as May, as reported by the Star's Bill Schiller.

While Stockwell Day and Jason Kenney, like Bush, see their war on terrorism as the equivalent of fighting fascism, many of our key allies don't.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin used the 9/11 events to distance themselves from Bush. Even the British Conservatives did so.

Noting that anti-Americanism is spreading like wildfire, Tory leader David Cameron said:

"We'll serve neither our own, nor America's nor the world's interests, if we're seen as America's unconditional associate in every endeavour. Our duty is to our own citizens, and to our own conception of what's right for the world. We should be solid but not slavish in our friendship with America."

But our Conservative Prime Minister bows to Bush, from Afghanistan to Lebanon to Israel.

Harper took the lead in freezing funds to Palestinians for electing Hamas in January. The Gaza Strip, now on the verge of economic collapse, is "a ticking time bomb," says Jan Egeland, the top United Nations official for humanitarian affairs.

There are "growing signs of malnutrition, especially among the poorest children," reports The New York Times.

Since the June 25 killing of two Israeli soldiers and the abduction of a third by Palestinian militant, Israel has killed 240 Palestinians and knocked off Gaza's only power plant, leaving Gazans with only intermittent electricity and running water.

To find a way out of the crippling economic and political blockade, Hamas and Fatah have formed a unity government. Canada should be seizing the opportunity to renew the peace process. But Harper will likely join the chorus of new excuses not to negotiate peace.

Standing by the U.S. and Israel is not the same as standing with Bush and some Israeli politicians. Israel has a right to exist and thrive but so do the Palestinians. Our presence in Afghanistan is legitimate but not as the B team of the American war machine. Canadians understand this, as recent polls show. But our government doesn't.

This is one democratic deficit that we need to pay urgent attention to, rather than wait for the next election.

© 2006 The Toronto Star


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