They Hate Canada Too, Eh?

With the recent arrest of 17 alleged would-be "terrorists," goody-goody Canada, of all nations, is on The List. The Islamic hate list, that is. Well, it looks like Canada has finally joined the big boys. Right wing media are warning us that we can no longer be smug about not having to worry about terrorism because now we are finding out that we can be targets, too. This may come as a shock to many Canadians who grew up thinking of Canada's contribution to foreign policy was The Peacekeeper. Even most of the world has us type-cast as a nice, polite bunch of toothless hockey players or hardy, tuque-wearing lumberjacks living in log cabins by the lake. Throw in our socialist bent and we could almost be mistaken for Swedes. We were above the warmongering Americans and empire longing Brits. We proudly and safely traveled the world with a red maple leaf prominently stuck on our luggage.

This image is only as recent as the 1950s, however. We forget that our country was always a willing supplier of bodies for Empire. If there was a war to be fought for His or Her Majesty, Canada had enough "independence" to happily join in Britannia's adventures. Up until 1931 (Statute of Westminster,) we were still part of the British Empire, so taking some poor farmer from Lower Canada, stuffing him in red serge and shipping him to shoot some poor farmer in southern Africa didn't seem at all absurd. We stamped our autonomy in WWII though, by declaring war on Germany a whole week after Mama England. I still chuckle about how that was presented to us in grade school, my teacher proudly proclaiming, "we had to let our parliament decide." As if there was any chance of us sitting WWII out. Pardon my cynicism.

So Canada has returned to its roots in this neo-con wet dream they like to call Clash of Civilizations. We are paid-up members in the Global War on Terror (whatever that is.) The previous Liberal government, in between mounting scandals and blowing money on a ludicrous gun registry, found the time to send troops to Afghanistan, but avoided Iraq. Perhaps, ousting the Taliban appealed to our feel-good sensitivities and was seen as a much less dangerous (less politically risky) mission as compared to Iraq. As an aside, I've always wanted to shut up those pro Iraq war propagandists with their "everybody thought that Iraq had WMD's" lies with "well, our intelligence services must have had other people besides flim-flam artists like Chalabi, Judith Miller or u2018Curveball' as sources." The then leader of the opposition, little Stephen "W" Harper, (we have our batch of neo-cons, too) was in a tizzy that we were not there to suck up shoulder to shoulder with our American neighbours, to protect democracy, freedom, puppies, etc.

Today, Harper is PM (leading a minority government) and he doesn't talk much about Iraq. Funny, eh? What's left for neo-conservative, imperialist wannabees? Why Afghanistan, of course. In his first trip outside of North America, our intrepid leader flew to the GWOT's "success story," to nosh with our troops. He could barely contain his glee, being surrounded by so many guns and soldiers in a place far, far away. The Afghans are obviously thrilled to have us there…even if they did attack one of our boys with an axe. Soon after, parliament voted to extend the mission for another two years.

In the euphoria following the toppling of the Taliban, the Canadian media couldn't stop showing us clips of men freed from their beards of tyranny and women liberated from their burquas of oppression. Hamid Karzai and his hat were the talk of high fashion. Throw another caribou steak on the fire for a job well done. The reality is that Afghanistan has descended into a dangerous warlord-run opium grow-op. Converting to Christianity is punishable by death. Women are still bundled up, but we get the odd news story about some lady learning to drive. Wow! Dapper Karzai is always surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards and dares not set foot outside of Kabul. Meanwhile, over four years since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom (don't you just love those laughably silly jingoistic names?), Canadian soldiers are dying and not because of "friendly fire" from go-juice hopped up pilots. Curiously, our troops are often involved in disturbingly frequent "traffic" accidents. The Afghanistan mission has become that annoying squeak that eventually starts to grate on one's nerves and there are many Canadians questioning the wisdom of our presence there. The government has responded by not allowing media to cover the return of soldiers' bodies. It's all for the privacy of the families, you see, even if some families don't agree with the ban.

In another example of our new global orientation, we've stopped sending funds to the Hamas government because those annoyingly independent Palestinians voted fairly, but obviously, not correctly. Democracy is always great as a justification for imperial adventures, but maddeningly fickle when the wogs don't "get it." In a recent interview, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) reporter in the Middle East, Adrienne Arsenault, mentioned that she would often get broken English "Canada good" reactions from Palestinians, now she gets "Canada, Bush, the same" sneers.

Then, all of a sudden and in dramatic fashion, police in Toronto announce the arrest 17 would-be alleged terrorists. To the Harper government, eager to show off Canada's new "tough on terrorism" stance, this is better than finding a $20 bill in your pants pocket. Little Stevie W happened to be giving a speech to military cadets (he seems to do a lot of George W. Bush things) and quickly ramped up the rhetoric with the usual twaddle "they hate us for our freedoms, our diversity, our same-sex marriage, etc."

So we've joined the big boys. We too can proudly declare that we are threatened for our liberal and tolerant way of life. Bring on the new anti-terror laws, tighten the borders, send more democracy-giving troops.

Will I have to peel off my Canadian flag sticker from my luggage?

June 7, 2006