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Sitting on our hands

I rarely insert the full text of anything into my posts. I prefer to supply the link and leave it up to the intrepid reader to decide whether to click or not.

But occasionally, I feel it necessary and important to insert such a text when it is clearly above the bar in terms of its statement and Mr. Martin often pens such pieces.

Please keep in mind the central premise of what follows – anti-Americanism is not advocated here. I am very much pro-American. I love the principles, traditions and contribution to democracy that our neighbours to the south have gifted to humanity.

But the America of today is not that America.

It is an America of hate, distrust and crass opportunism. And all of this has come about during the tenure of Messrs. Bush and Cheney. It is of torture, wiretapping and an abandonment of their great statement of universal principle – the Constitution.

And we Canucks sit idly by even though our own countrymen and women are being imprisoned and tortured by this regime.

Shame on us and shame on Canada’s Neutered Government.

But Mr. Martin states it much better than this amateur scribbler…
The great hush from the Great North
From Monday’s Globe and Mail
E-mail Lawrence Martin
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April 23, 2007 at 4:55 AM EST

Listen closely and you’ll barely hear a sound. What nice, placid neighbours we are. All that upheaval next door and we respond with a hush. No matter how adversely we are affected, or will be affected, the silence from the Great North prevails

The surging calamity in Iraq? Our government won’t dare say a word — even though it is the tragic U.S. diversion there that has led to us being bogged down in a war ourselves. If Washington had committed more of its military mass to Kabul instead of Baghdad, the situation in Afghanistan would likely be far more stable today.

Paul Wolfowitz was a leading architect of the Iraq war. He was rewarded with the presidency of the World Bank. He has plunged the bank into scandal and disrepute, just as he did his country in the war. As a World Bank member, Canada was in a position to issue a firm rebuke. But we gave him a pass.

At Guantanamo Bay, we have a Canadian, Omar Khadr, who is being denied even primitive legal rights. The Australians went to bat in Washington for one of their prisoners held in Guantanamo; so did the British. We haven’t done the same.

Six of our former foreign ministers, including Joe Clark and John Manley, issued an open letter urging our Conservative government to speak out. It turned the other way. It doesn’t want to offend President George W. Bush. Or Dick Cheney.

Yes, the Vice-President. Remember back in the early days of the Iraq war, when all those ne’er-do-wells were saying the Veep’s a creep and that we should watch what happens to Iraq’s oil. Well, look now and see what companies are moving into control of the oil fields. Check it out and check how the news media has all but ignored the story.

The great Canadian silence prevails on matters more local as well. This month, a 23-year-old university student from Ottawa was pulled over for a traffic violation in the state of Georgia. She was fingerprinted, forced to strip, shower, and stuffed in a cell with two other jeering inmates. Georgia officials explained that they have to check foreigners to make sure they are in the country legally. They did that and the girl, Cheryl Kuehn, was clear.

But, just for good measure, the police kept her in the slammer all night anyway. The outrage in Georgia produced no outrage from Ottawa.

Americans in their own country, in what was once known as the beacon of liberty, are having their telephone calls tapped and their mail intercepted under anti-terrorist laws. We are mum on that and we are totally in the dark on what covert activities they are conducting up here. Initially, Prime Minister Stephen Harper put forward some opposition to the new U.S. law requiring passports at the border. But we’ve pleasantly succumbed.

We’ve watched over the years as the Bush administration spurned America’s multilateralist tradition. Among the international agreements it scorned: the Geneva Conventions, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, NAFTA, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the International Criminal Court, the accord on land mines. What, in most instances, has been the Canadian response? Get the hands out. Sit on them.

We’ve watched in silence as Washington has run up colossal debts and deficits that will, with time, likely reverberate up here, sending our economy into a tailspin. We watch other things, like the ongoing vulgarization of American culture with its spillover effect, without saying much. Post-Virginia Tech, don’t look for us to join in any international chorus condemning America’s 18th century gun laws. Our government has trouble countenancing a gun registry.

Neighbours needn’t meddle in the other’s internal affairs. But many of the aforementioned instances hit Canada hard.

In the past, there was a greater tendency to speak out when America was in tumult. Today, we are in passive mode. Some of us stubbornly hold to the old and wonderful assumptions about the United States, even though evidence is everywhere that the country has vitally and mightily changed. Others see the folly but subscribe to the colonial mentality wherein the cash register of trade takes higher priority than speaking out for what’s just.

As well, there are many who say that to criticize the Bush administration is to be anti-American. Given what is transpiring in the United States, given what is happening to its freedoms, its great traditions, it is those who sit in silence who are the anti-Americans.


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One Comment

  1. Gordon says:

    Initially, Prime Minister Stephen Harper put forward some opposition to the new U.S. law requiring passports at the border. But we’ve pleasantly succumbed.

    To be fair, requiring passports at a border, even when it’s a “friendly” border, is not that unusual. In EU countries, EU citizens cross a border with a minimum of hassle, but they’ve used passports routinely for years. I don’t have a problem with being required to present a passport when I cross a border. My biggest beef about Canadian passports is the fact that they’re only good for five years when most passports from most other countries are valid for ten. It would be nice to pass through more efficiently, but each country gets to determine their own entry requirements and if they choose to implement ones that cause people to not want to enter that’s their prerogative. We can complain about another country’s entry requirements, but that’s the only “right” we have.

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