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The Toronto Star

The Wreckage of Harper-Bush Policies

by
Haroon Siddiqui

Stephen Harper may not have known that his 2003 speech urging Canada to join the war on Iraq had been plagiarized from then-Aussie Prime Minister John Howard. But he did wholeheartedly agree with its contents.

Like Howard, Harper stood four-square with George W. Bush on Iraq, as he has since on a string of other policies: the assault on Kyoto; the disastrous war on terrorism; the botched war in Afghanistan; the vindictive war of starvation on the Palestinians for electing the wrong party in an election; the failed policy of trying to stop the Iranian nuclear program by demonizing Tehran; and the blind support of Israel.

Canadians have been opposed to many of those policies. But Harper chose to back Bush rather than back Canadians.

At times, Harper has backed Bush more than either Howard or Tony Blair, both of whom have since been driven out of office because they were seen as Bush's poodles. Others who suffered a similar fate for similar reasons include Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, José Maria Aznar of Spain, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy (who has since made a comeback, after Iraq receded into the background), as well as the leaders of Hungary, Ukraine, Norway, Slovakia and Poland.

On Guantánamo Bay, both Blair and Howard lobbied Bush to get their citizens freed. But Harper wouldn't intervene on behalf of Omar Khadr. In fact, he said he preferred Gitmo's discredited military trials to the Canadian justice system: "Mr. Khadr is accused of very serious things. There's a legal process in the United States. Frankly, we do not have a real alternative to that process."

That wasn't the only time Harper chose to stand with his foreign friends rather than stand up for Canadian citizens.

His government maligned Louise Arbour, head of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, because she had criticized the United States (for Guantánamo Bay) and Israel (for civilian casualties during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon).

In that war, Canadian Forces Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener was killed by an Israeli bomb, along with three others at a UN monitoring mission. Harper refused to criticize Israel for that - or for the bombing deaths of a Montreal family of eight.

At times, Harper has been more pro-Israel than Bush. He made Canada the first country to start starving the Palestinians for electing Hamas in January 2006.

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On Iraq, it is worth recalling that Harper was in the same league as Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and other right wingers in advocating an invasion. He even went on the American right-wing Fox TV to say, wrongly, that only the Québécois, with their "pacifist tradition," were opposed to invading Iraq. "Outside of Quebec, I believe very strongly the silent majority of Canadians is strongly supportive."

On Afghanistan, Harper's support for Bush's policy of more war and no talk is well-known.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Harper, there's no denying the disastrous results of the policies he has so wholeheartedly backed.

There's more terrorism now than before Bush began his war on it.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. There's no end in sight, despite the expenditure of $1 trillion and tens of thousands of deaths and millions of displaced people.

Today, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are stronger than before. Hamid Karzai has just asked Saudi Arabia to help facilitate talks with the Taliban, to help end the seven-year-old conflict. Ehud Olmert has just said that Israel must withdraw from the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem to make peace with the Palestinians, and that it must give up the Golan Heights to make peace with Syria.

Tehran has more nuclear know-how than before Bush set out to stop it from acquiring it.

Relations with Pakistan, ostensibly the West's staunchest ally in West Asia, have deteriorated to the point of military skirmishes.

One cannot recall a time when Canada was on the wrong side of so many global disasters.

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Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday

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