John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, swung by Ottawa last week on his way home from having dinner in Washington with his longtime “best mate” George Bush, at the invitation of his new best friend Stephen Harper.
We’ll get to Mr. Howard’s Canadian stopover in a minute, but first, it is worthwhile to repeat the reportage of the Washington social event that brought the Aussie PM up from down under.
Mr. Howard dutifully sucked up to his host with the following paean of praise: “Those foolish enough to suggest that America should have a lesser role in the affairs of the world should pause and think whether they really mean what they say because a world without a dedicated, involved America would be a less safe world, a more precarious world.”
Apparently Mr. Howard has not seen the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll where 69 per cent of Americans think the Bush America is on the wrong track; 50 per cent to 36 per cent now think the Afghan/Iraqi wars are a mistake; and only 29 per cent approve of the way his host does his job.
Anyway, the Washington dinner was apparently a grand social and cultural occasion.
As the Washington Post reported: “The state dining room was lit by 19th century candelabra, tables set in pistachio-coloured silk cloths, with hot pink floral centrepieces and the Clintons’ ivory and gold china. Laura Bush, wearing a lemon yellow beaded Peggy Jennings gown, with yellow citrine beads around her throat, sat between Howard and Senator Lamar Alexander. The president sat between Janette Howard, wearing a silk aqua dress, and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, in a red Mary McFadden dress.”
The guests ate a native Australian fish farmed in Massachusetts, and then into this sumptuous scene strode a country singer named Kenny Chesney, clad in “navy shirt and black hat” and showing off “a pair of cowboy boots the president had given him earlier in the evening.”
“The president tapped his feet and nodded his head during Chesney’s short set. In an unusual move, dinner guests rushed the stage, asking for autographs and posing for pictures with Chesney.”
The Washington Post does not report whether Mr. Howard was among the rushers, but it is clearly no wonder that the Australian Prime Minister fled to the more bucolic confines of our nation’s capital city after such an incredibly exciting and sumptuous occasion.
In any case, Mr. Howard returned the Harper invitation by reminding those we send to Ottawa to conduct the nation’s business, that we ought to get down on our knees each and every day and thank the Lord above that we have as our collective best friend, the only nation in the world that publicly proclaims its right to exterminate any nation on earth, should it choose to do so for whatever reason.
The Globe and Mail thought this message was the proper t’ing, providing instruction to its editorial page readers that…“It’s a shame it took an Australian to remind us of that.”
My heavens, we Canadians are good at apologies, are we not? It’s a wonder “Canada’s National Newspaper” isn’t apologizing for the young Canadian female officer Nichola Goddard for getting in the way of a Taliban bullet.
Her death puts the body count of Canadians dying while fighting George Bush’s war at 17, and shatters for all time the perception that we Canadians are international peacekeepers.
We are at war in Afghanistan, and we will be at war in that God-forsaken medieval country for a very long time to come, because of a piece of domestic politics pulled off by Stephen Harper last week for the purpose of embarrassing the Liberals.
Mr. Harper managed to get a two year extension of our participation in a war launched by Mr. Bush not supported by a majority of Americans, by a very narrow margin.
And that is the way politics is now played in this country — Canadian deaths to strengthen a political party with a tenuous hold on power.
Mr. Howard told our Parliamentarians: “The United States has been a remarkable power for good in the world” and “the decency and good that the power and purpose of the United States…is something we should deeply appreciate.”
“A retreating America will leave a more vulnerable world. It will leave a world more exposed to terrorism and it will leave a more fragile and indeed dangerous world.”
It can be equally argued that American actions in the Middle East have created precisely and exactly that very same world, a spawning ground for terrorism and the alienation of young Muslims everywhere.
To espouse the George Bush version of foreign policy as Mr. Howard and his new best friend in Ottawa are wont to do, is to espouse the principles upon which that policy is based — the unequivocal right to advance American imperialism wherever and whenever it chooses by launching preventive war that includes the use of nuclear weapons.
It is time for regime change in Washington, let alone Tehran.
Our very own Canadian warmonger, a retired military historian named Jack Granatstein, who never met a reporter or a microphone he didn’t like, has intoned his approval of the Harper move.
“Had we said no to this, our reputation in London, at NATO would literally have gone down the tubes,” quoth Granatstein, proving that he knows about as much about English grammar as he does about world opinion.
We have now given up our international reputation as peacekeepers. Now we go to other countries to kill people, and be killed in return, in an unending war on something called — global terrorism. In reality, we have become appendages to the foreign policy of George Bush and the Republican controlled government of the United States of America.
It is apparent that Stephen Harper doesn’t pay much attention to the polls in the United States, either. They are now predicting the likelihood of a Democratic Party win in both Congress and the Senate when the mid-term elections take place this fall.
The only beneficiaries of our participation in Afghanistan are the warlords who operate and profit from the heroin trade. It is a booming business, and has increased by more than 2,000 (no that’s not a misprint) per cent since the Americans ousted the Taliban.
Each year, half a million acres are planted in opium poppies under the direction of warlords, many of whom are part of the government in Afghanistan. It is by far the largest planting of any country in the world, producing 4,000 tonnes of opium, 80 or 90 per cent of the world’s supply, and worth nearly $500 billion by the time it is processed and injected into the body parts of addict users.
That makes the warlords very rich. It is also the source of financing for much of the insurgent guerrilla activity against the occupiers — the Americans and the Canadians and the other NATO nations sucked into the vortex.
I differ with Mr. Howard and his new best friend in Ottawa.
Protecting the opium trade is not worth fighting for.
Or dying for.