Jim Miles: Harper

By Jim Miles
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been making much of himself lately, promoting his version of how to achieve global peace and prosperity, with talks and presentations on Afghanistan and Columbia.  The central tenet of his global approach is apparently to support those ideas and governments that are of convenience to American foreign policy.

He visited Columbia, a country ravaged by decades of insurgency and para-military violence supposedly centered on the cocaine drug trade. Uribe, Columbia’s leader, has ties to the paramilitaries, ties to the drug trade (the two are strongly related) and his election, if not outright fraudulent, was a result of a population in which mainly the rich right wing elite voted, the others having opted out through fear and futility.[1]

The under-riding problem here is the United States interference in the economy and politics of the country through the advancement of the rights of large corporations over those of the people – Coca-Cola and Cochabamba (think Bechtel) are two examples of this. The process also works through its ongoing multi-billion dollar decades long “war on drugs” that has only increased the insecurity of the area through, in part, the paramilitary training received by the right-wing death squads at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Operations).

Harper also spoke out on Afghanistan, starting with the two dozen Canadians killed in the World Trade Center attacks. Harper complained about Canada’s “disproportionate” share of the military burden in Afghanistan, saying that without more support it would, “slip back into the status of being a failed state that represents a threat to the security of the planet.”  Accepting his touch of hyperbole on the Afghanistan threat for now, it is arguable that Afghanistan would “slip back” into anything but itself.  As for the security threat, it has already been proven that military action only aggravates terrorism; international police networking and recognition of international law and law courts and cooperation with them is what is need to defeat terrorists, not military invasions and occupations. [2]

As with Columbia, Afghanistan is another country with a dubious democratic leader, a head of a government that contains warlords, drug lords, former Taliban and other assorted “new” democrats.  Along with the war lord and drug lord similarity to Columbia is another obvious one, the United States, the reason for its current failed state status in the first place.  Before the Taliban, and after the Taliban, drugs have been a significant problem, with a majority of the world’s opium now coming from this assaulted country.

The U.S., wars, drugs, and quasi-democratic leaders seem to be a commonality in many parts of the world.

Afghanistan was obviously also affected by Russia and Pakistan.  The latter, a military dictatorship, essentially Muslim in religion, with an estimated fifty plus nuclear weapons made outside of the nuclear proliferation treaty, appears to be a strong U.S. ally in the war on terror – yet it is considered by many to be the originating country of the Taliban (“student” from the many madrassas in Pakistan).  I have not heard Harper speak out about invading Pakistan even though its potential as a world threat is probably greater than Afghanistan’s potential.

And therein lies the inconsistency of belief or morality or ethics or whatever Harper wants to label it.  Pakistan is a non-democratic state with huge problems and a nuclear arsenal.  The Taliban are strong within the western and northwestern territories near the Afghanistan border.  No talk of attacking Pakistan. The Darfur region in Sudan is also another area of governmental failure and warlordism, yet Canada is not going there.  Nor into Somalia, nor Zimbabwe.  Nor into any other region inconvenient to American purposes.

Harper was criticized for supporting the Columbian government that is failing its people and is rife with ongoing paramilitary and drug problems.  Harper’s comment signaled his concerns, "When we see a country like Colombia that has decided to address its social, political and economic problems in an integrated way, that wants to embrace democracy and human rights, then we say, “We’re in." [3] 

Great sentiments, but why the inconsistency? 

The greatest inconsistency is Harper’s statement about wanting “to embrace democracy and human rights”.  Why then was Canada the first among western countries to deny the very democratic process that saw Hamas elected to power in the Palestine territories?  If they are wanting “to address its social, political and economic problems in an integrated way” then why did we not support them?  Are we in?  Obviously not. 

While the parallels are not exact (no drug problems that I know of in Palestine) the position of not recognizing a government that was democratically elected by all accounts – in spite of American and Israeli and European disbelief at a process they all agreed was as democratic as one can get under military occupation – seems fully contradictory.

Terrorists? For sure, in the definition of those who attack civilians outside of the “rules” of warfare.  But then so is/was Uribe, and so is/was Karzai’s government.  Mr. Harper, the question then becomes, when are Canadian troops going to enter Palestine to protect their democratically elected government from the Israeli occupiers?  Are we going to help them with their social, political and economic problems now that they have demonstrated that they can operate within the democratic process? 

Not likely, especially since Harper supposedly does not deal with terrorists, and accepts the Israeli attacks on Lebanon as “proportionate” (interesting how that word conveys so many possibilities).  Further, the Americans have given Israel unconditional support for their actions within Palestine and surrounding territories.  While the Americans are looking for “new horizons” with their apparent new partner Mahmoud Abbas, the Israelis continue to imprison a whole population and continue to expand the settlements.  Harper fully supports these non-democratic actions – more than that, illegal actions within definitions of occupation under the Geneva Code.  In truth, he is not overly concerned about democracy, but about the use of  Canadian foreign policy to work what is convenient for the apparent vision of supporting American foreign policy.


[1] Feiling, Tom.  “President Uribe’s Hidden Past”, May 24, 2004.  www.colombiajournal.org/;colombia185.htm.
[2] “Afghanistan could be a world threat: Harper. Edmonton Sun. Wednesday, July 18, 2007. www.edmontonsun.com/Canada/2007/07/18/4349506.html
[3] Stephen Harper, cited in, Hugh Bronstein.  “Canada steps into void left by U.S.-Colombia rif”. , Monday, July 16, 2007. Reuters. http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=341612a3-fae8-42e1-89f4-39d24599e77a&k=81856

-The author is a Canadian writer and a regular contributor to PalestineChronicle.com

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