By SANDRA L. SMITH*
SINCE JANUARY, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has been on the road with what it calls public consultations to get input of Canadians on the direction which Canada’s foreign policy should take. Staff at the constituency office of Foreign Minister Bill Graham mentioned that the Minister was somewhat frustrated because everywhere he goes, Canadians are only concerned with discussing the Iraq war and current affairs, specifically denouncing Canada’s duplicity as concerns the U.S. aggression against Iraq and the violation of international law. They are not addressing the questions DFAIT is posing in its review, they said. This is very revealing because it goes to the heart of the matter of this review.
The review would have us accept premises which are not for discussion such as the most fundamental: Who does Canada’s foreign policy serve? It seeks to completely gloss over the central issue that the Chretien Liberals are unable to advance from the 19th century colonial outlook of empire-building whereby the Anglo-American conception of a nation-state in the service of their economic system is the only acceptable kind of nation-state – the only one which is to be considered a member of the “community of civilized nations.” They think they can convince the Canadian people and the entire world to do likewise by hiding behind the demand for multilateralism and Canadian values.
The foreign policy review the Government of Canada is carrying out is all framed in such abstractions which depend on Canadians not discussing the concrete facts of life, the concrete expression of the multilateralism and values the Government of Canada espouses. It is excellent that everywhere the public consultations take place, Canadians insist on speaking about the concrete facts of life, not abstractions.
What is taking place in Iraq and the Government of Canada’s support for the U.S. aim of regime change in that country shows that today it is essential to discuss the values which theGgovernment of Canada wants Canadians to espouse and export abroad. The government presents the aim of regime change in Iraq behind the veneer of high ideals and in conformity of what it calls Canadian values. Who does not want to get rid of dictators, abusers of human rights or have democracy? Who does not want the rights of religious and national minorities respected, or the rights of women and children or of political opponents? Who does not want to end the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? But what does it mean? Far from taking these values for granted, the real facts of life must be brought out. To leave the real facts of life in the shade precisely serves to hide the truth about what and whose interests are being served.
The government does not want to discuss that these values are rooted in 19th century colonial notions of what the modern nation-state should be and who it should serve. But Canadians do not support the 19th-century values of empire-building. They support the values which permit all of humanity to advance. They are working hard to affirm the right of the peoples everywhere to their own conscience which means to determine their own way of life. It is a principle, not a matter of expediency. Acknowledging the facts of life requires putting them in their context, otherwise it is precisely in the name of high ideals that the empire-builders have been creating nation-states since colonial times to the detriment of the peoples of the world. When the peoples of these nation-states manifest their right to self-determination, the same forces smash whatever arrangements don’t favour them and repeat the same exercise all over again. Financing this or participation in military actions in the name of human security and multilateralism, or giving it the UN stamp of approval or putting the UN agencies at its disposal will not extinguish the birthright of the peoples everywhere to their conscience; their right to self-determination.
To promote such things in the name of democracy, high ideals and Canadian values is criminal indeed. In the case of the government’s support for regime change in Iraq, it is clear that the federal Liberals cannot face the truth. They do not want to face the criminal actions of the U.S. imperialists as they with a vengeance create a world in their own image. Thus they have been hoping that the victory will be speedy and clean and that the UN will be able to carve out a space for itself so as to give the entire thing an official sanction. However, the issue is not whether arbitrariness can be given an official sanction, but whether laws and actions are consistent with the aims of the peoples of the world for a rule of law which favours their interests. Many regimes have been “legal,” including that of Hitler Germany. In the U.S. today the presidency of George W. Bush received the legal sanction of the Supreme Court, and so too the Congress endorsed this war of aggression and all the measures being taken in the name of homeland security are given some sort of legal stamp of approval. In spite of this, the war is still a war of aggression; the measures taken in the name of homeland security are still a coup against the U.S. Constitution. Arbitrariness and a legal system are two distinct incompatible things.
Arbitrariness is the negation of any kind of legal system. The U.S. imperialist “new world order” is essentially arbitrary rule of an armed gang of hirelings of big capital who seek to enslave the vast majority of the peoples of the world, not only in the interests of the exploiting minority in general but particularly in the interests of its own gang of most rapacious exploiters.
For the government of Canada to hide behind what it calls the principles of multilateralism and Canadian values to impose these Anglo-American empire-building aims must not pass. Its stand is not for purposes of defending the principles behind multilateral arrangements or the values Canadians truly espouse but to facilitate the U.S. dictate so that Canadian monoplies can find a space for themselves to a number one on the world market. Peace among nations, big or small, weak or strong, can be achieved based on recognizing their right to self-determination and sorting out problems without recourse to the use of force; economic prosperity can be achieved if the resources of the peoples which belong to them are not plundered and the rights of all are upheld instead of trampling them in the mud in the name of high ideals.
What is the use of reviewing Canadian foreign policy if the fact that the Canadian government is serving as handmaiden to the U.S. war of aggression and occupation of Iraq are not to be discussed? The position is untenable and will only lead the government from one unprincipled compromise to another. Evidence of this was provided by Finance Minister John Manley’s statement that it is time for Canada to move on and look for “opportunities” within a post-war Iraq.
The suggestion that the Chretien Liberals are concerned about non-proliferation is also unacceptable. They have nothing to say about the U.S. and British imperialists’ use of weapons of mass destruction. They are themselves in the service of the biggest beneficiaries of war production in Canada and Canada is one of the most enthusiastic participants in the arms trade. From April 9-11, the biggest weapons fair in Canada is being held in Ottawa, right at a time the use of these weapons in committing crimes against humanity in Iraq is being opposed by millions of peoples worldwide, including the Canadian people.
As in the case of the U.S. imperialists and British empire-builders, the federal Liberals are also guided by the Anglo-American pragmatic philosophy that “nothing succeeds like success.” They believe that if only world public opinion can see the positive results to the invasion of Iraq and its occupation, all will be forgiven. The end will justify the means. It is not acceptable to declare that on the basis of belief in the goodness of Canadian values anything can be justified. The U.S. imperialists can impose their dictate on the basis of their military might but they cannot suppress a people’s right to its conscience without committing genocide. This is the truth of the matter seen in the atrocities the Israelis are committing in the Palestinian territories. Values which permit it to take place cannot be condoned.
The more Canadians oppose the U.S. imperialist war of aggression against Iraq and its occupation and refuse to fall for the diversions of the ruling circles to justify it, the more conscious they become of what is at stake and that it is their honour and duty to take action to defend the sovereignty of the peoples everywhere, including Canada. They must rely on their own efforts to uphold the principles of the UN Charter and international law and elaborate a foreign policy which serves their aspirations and those of the peoples of the world. All actions which defend the sovereignty and independence of Canada and of the peoples everywhere must be vigorously encouraged and defended and this must be made Canada’s foreign policy. Utmost attention must be paid to discussing the actual aims of the Anglo-American imperialists which the government of Canada fully endorses, as well as the aims of what are called security measures, such as the logic behind enforcing anti-hate legislation and passing bylaws to justify the criminalization of dissent. Out of this experience the Canadian working class and people will find the ways and means to create the anti-war and anti-annexationist government Canada needs to change the situation in a manner which favours Canadians and the peoples of the entire world.
* Sandra L. Smith is the National Leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). This essay appeared in TML Daily, April 11, 2003 – No. 86
“Dialogue on Foreign Policy”: Atlantic Canadians denounce Canada’s conciliation with Iraq war, Tony Seed, March 6, 2003