For Mexico and Canada, the 'War on Terror' Is Over
MEXICO CITY- On the eighth anniversary of the United States declaring a
global "war on terror" this September, America's continental neighbors
- Mexico and Canada - have had enough.
When President George
W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, the
nation - and much of the world - was still in disbelief that Islamic
terrorists had successfully carried out the greatest attack on U.S.
soil since Japan's assault on Pearl Harbor.
That night Bush rallied the nation to support a "war on terror" that
was "global" in nature, and which would lead to the U.S.-led wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We will direct every resource at our command - every means of
diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law
enforcement, every financial influence and every necessary weapon of
war - to the destruction and to the defeat of the global terror
network," Bush declared.
This declaration of a global war, one that would define his
administration going forth, included the fateful statement: "Every
nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with
us, or you are with the terrorists."
Mexico and Canada stood with the United States, and both nations
pledged to participate "fully" in this "global" initiative to rid the
world of terrorism. But for each nation, eight years of endless "war"
have exhausted their patience, and created problems that were
For Mexico, there is the more immediate reality of the "war" on the
drug cartels. The administration of Mexican president Felipe Calderon
is consumed by defeating the drug cartels that threaten to destabilize
parts of the country, and corrupt Mexican society through lawlessness.
Almost 10,000 people have been killed in Calderon's war on the cartels
since January 2007, and some in Mexico blame Mexico's cooperation in
the war on terror from 2001 to 2004 as one reason why the drug cartels
have grown so powerful.
"Mexico squandered three years on wild goose chases, hunting imaginary
‘terrorists' who were supposed to be convening in Acapulco, sipping
margaritas on a beach in Cancun, or plotting to smuggle nuclear or
biological weapons from Mexico City. All paranoid nonsense from the
nutcases in Bush's administration," Interior Minister Juan Camilo
Mourino, the country's second-most-powerful politician and head of
domestic security, argued, shortly before he died in a plane crash.
"And during this time, the drug cartels [in northern Mexico] organized,
grew and now pose an imminent threat to Mexican civil society."
Immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, American
officials feared that terrorists would use Mexico as a base of
operations for sending al Qaeda fighters into the United States, or
smuggling biological weapons, or using Mexico as a base for launching
an attack. In a widely commented speech at the National Defense University in 2002,
then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued, "Our job is to close off
as many of those avenues of potential attack as is possible."
Mexico was compliant, working with American officials to track down
"leads" on suspected al Qaeda terrorists throughout Mexico. From 2002
through 2005, Mexican security and intelligence officials worked
closely with American officials from the FBI, CIA and at the American
Embassy. "The alert has been sounded," Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos,
Mexico's top anti-crime prosecutor, told reporters in 2004.
"It's believed he [Saudi-born suspected terrorist Adnan Gulshair El
Shukrijumah] could have entered Mexico ... but we don't have anything
It was a wild goose chase, as were reports that "biological weapons"
had been introduced into Mexico aboard ships arriving at the ports of
Tampico and Veracruz, or that Iranians were using their embassies in
Mexico City and Havana to coordinate terrorist sleeper cells ready to
enter the U.S. border on a moment's notice to launch an attack on Los
Angeles or the oil facilities near Houston.
If Mexicans are through with the war on terror, and have their hands
full with the drug cartels, north of the border, there is also a more
palpable resentment against the onerous burden placed on Canada.
Canadians are resentful that their nation's immigration policies are
blamed by Washington officials for "endangering" the United States. "At
the same time, the country is wrestling with how to protect national
security and answer critics who contend that the country's liberal
immigration policies make Canada easy prey for terrorists." DeNeen L. Brown, argued in 2003.
Canadians are even more angry that their traditional international role
- as a nation that strives to resolve conflicts in a fair and impartial
manner, where Canadians are viewed as a leader in providing
peacekeeping forces around the world - has been undermined by their
cooperation in the war on terror.
As recently as this past spring, Canadians were infuriated when their
nation, mistakenly, was blamed for harboring terrorists. "As the 9/11
commission reported in 2004, all of the 9/11 terrorists arrived in the
United States from outside North America. They flew in [to] major U.S.
airports. They entered the U.S. with documents issued by the United
States government, and no 9/11 terrorists came from Canada," Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador in Washington, said this past spring,
protesting Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's claim that
some of the Sept. 11 terrorists had entered the United States through
This fall, as U.S. General Stanley McChrystal argues that thousands of
additional troops are required in Afghanistan to avoid "failure,"
Canadian public opinion is adamant in rebuffing American claims that
the only way to "win" in Afghanistan is to extend the eight-year
military campaign by committing more soldiers.
Canadians are being galvanized by a growing number of politicians,
social commentators and academics that are critically examining their
nation's role in Washington's war on terror. "In many ways, this
absence of strategic analysis demonstrates that Canada's response to
the attacks on 9/11 has been primarily a reaction to Washington's
reaction. Considering how dependent Canada has become economically and
on matters of continental security, Ottawa had little choice but to
emphasize on numerous occasions it was determined to play its part in
the global war on terror," Olivier Courteaux, a professor at Ryerson
University in Toronto, argues in his new book, "The War on Terror: The Canadian Dilemma."
Canadians want no part of a continued presence in Afghanistan, and are
anxious to find another way to address the real threats of global
terrorism, without resorting to unending wars that result in the
occupation of foreign countries, and untold billions in military
For the Barack Obama administration, as it hosts the G-20 summit this
week, all the good will his administration has garnered will not
translate into increased support for continuing the war on terror.
European leaders, taking their cues from the reluctance of Mexico and
Canada, are refusing to send more troops to Afghanistan, and are
demanding that Washington abandon the war on terror as formulated by
the Bush administration.
In essence, if Bush warned the world that each nation had to choose if
they were "with us, or [they] are with the terrorists," Mexico and
Canada are saying that it's possible to be with neither.