Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham* tried to strike a macho pose last week as he strode towards a microphone where he announced that Canada was recalling its ambassador to Iran. His performance was a response to Iran’s secret trial of Iranian agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, accused in the brutal murder of Canadian photo journalist Zahra Kazemi (1) in 2003.
Graham condemned the justice system of Iran, declaring that “under all human rights codes, under all international law standards, this should be a public trial with the right of the family to be present to assure that justice is done. Justice will not be done behind closed doors in Iran. It’s a complete rejection of the rule of law.”
Yes, Iran should have a transparent, public trial with due process. Yes, the man responsible for the brutal murder of Kazemi must face justice. Yes, the Iranian trial is a politicized sham.
However the Canadian government’s response is no less so. Bill Graham is in no place to point fingers at other governments, accusing them of seeking “justice behind closed doors,” or rejecting the “rule of law.”
The Canadian government is using the Kazemi case as a convenient cover for its diplomatic game with the United States and Israel, whose now openly stated priority is to isolate the government of Iran before a mandated “regime change” in 2005 or 2006. Canada’s unstated priority is to maintain access to US markets for our exports (2). Canada is playing its part once again, by giving the whole US operation a humanitarian gloss.
Note that there is one standard for Iran, and quite a different one for other torturers and murderers that abuse human rights; our allies in the “war on terror.” Canada maintains close diplomatic and trade relations with the United States and Israel which detain, torture and execute innocents without trial as a matter of course.
Canadians who truly want justice for all victims of state violence should stop and ask themselves some questions. If our government is so principled, why not apply one universal standard of moral outrage and recall our American and Israeli ambassadors over ongoing atrocities in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo? What if Kazemi had died at the hand of Israel, like Rachel Corrie died? Would we have pulled our ambassador? What if it had happened in Haiti, where Canadian troops now support a death squad regime?
But we need not resort to the hypothetical to demonstrate Canadian double standards. Canada’s diplomatic attack on Iran contrasts with its complicity, together with the United States, in the detention and torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar in Syria, not to mention Canada’s own ongoing policy of detaining innocent people without trial in Canadian jails at the whim of CSIS, the Canadian secret political police (3).
Did Bill Graham’s government communicate with the US Homeland Security Department and Syrian intelligence while Arar was in US and Syrian custody? (4)
Iran – take note of how a democracy treats journalists who ask such inconvenient questions. In a November 8th 2003 article, Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O’Neil (5), cited an unnamed RCMP source who provided a leaked document describing information (obtained under torture) Arar allegedly told to Syrian officials while imprisoned. The RCMP raided her house and confiscated her computer in response (6). CBS’s 60 Minutes, beyond the reach of the RCMP, reported that the Canadian government “signed off” on the US decision to deport Arar to Syria (7). Canada issued its predictable denials.
If there was nothing to hide, why did Graham’s government classify all 89 pages of a report on Arar’s case?
It is indeed embarrassing to remember how Bill Graham refused to recall Canada’s ambassador to Syria on August 8 2003 at the request of Arar’s wife Monia Mazigh (8), after the Syrian Human Rights Committee released a report stating that Arar was being tortured in jail.
It gets more embarrassing. On September 25th 2003 Graham sated that “They [Syria] have taken the position that he is guilty of offences under Syrian law, in which case the proper thing to do is to prosecute him and enable him to defend himself. I have been given assurances by them that it will be in a civil process, not a military process, and that this will be open.”
Amnesty International’s 2002 report on Syria, to which Graham would have had access at the time of his statement, directly contradicts his assurances. Amnesty notes that “Hundreds of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, continued to be held, most following unfair trials before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) and Field Military Courts. Torture and ill-treatment continued to be used against political prisoners, especially during incommunicado detention. There were reports that the health of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners was deteriorating as a result of lack of medical care. At least one person died in custody.”
Unsurprisingly, the corporate and state media in Canada have refused to put Graham’s recent preaching into any sort of context which would expose it for what it really is.
Graham’s inveighing against Iran is of a piece with his professed faith in Syrian due process, merely the momentary opportunistic expression of overriding Canadian foreign policy goals; the “deep integration” of Canadian and American foreign, energy and military policies.
Deep Integration (9) is being pushed by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives in order to maintain preferred access to US markets and government procurement contracts for its member companies – the largest in the country. The CCCE’s proposal (10) is a Bush wet dream; full of dire warnings of “terrorism” and paeans to increased military spending. Its annual closed door meetings in Washington have featured pep talks from Richard Perle, Condoleezza Rice and Andrew Card.
CCCE companies include arms suppliers with ongoing Pentagon contracts obtained through the state owned Canadian Commercial Corporation (11), and a stake in future projects such as the Joint Strike Fighter (12) and Star Wars. CAE Systems has a tentative agreement (13) with lead missile “defence” contractor Boeing. Closely allied with the CCCE, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada member Raytheon Canada (14) is testing radar technology for missile “defence”. Others anticipated to benefit (15) include the well connected Bombardier (16). Canada is under US pressure to sign on to missile defence, and the pressure from corporate political donors who want to profit will ensure compliance. Since the Bush regime overtly politicized the Pentagon contracting process in the aftermath of its attack on Iraq – cutting Canadian companies out of the deals – Canadian capital has been put on notice, and Deep Integration is its political response, delivered on bended knee.
If Canadian companies are going to profit from a new war, a new target is required. That target – Iran – has been outsourced to the good people in the Israeli and American governments. Canada has agreed to an earnest, minor role in a much larger propaganda passion play.
In November 2002, Ariel Sharon told the New York Post that he “will push for Iran to be at the top of the ‘to do’ list. Iran makes every effort to possess weapons of mass destruction â€¦ and ballistic missiles,” Israel’s 200 odd nuclear weapons being a non-subject (17). Since then, neo-cons such as Michael Leeden (18) have beaten the “attack Iran” drums at every opportunity. Despite their manifest failure in Iraq, they are acting as if their moment has now arrived.
On July 18th, as Mr. Graham withdrew Canada’s Ambassador to Iran for a second time, the Jerusalem Post told the word that “Israel has completed military rehearsals for a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear power facility at Bushehr.” Soon word came from Washington that if elected (or if the elections are suspended (19) ) Bush will push for regime change in Iran (20).
However, Bushehr (21) is not yet operative. Global Security.org asserts that “if Iran were to withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty and renounce the agreement with Russia, the Bushehr reactor could produce a quarter ton of plutonium per yearâ€¦ enough for at least 30 atomic bombs.”
But Iran has not withdrawn from the NPT, an agreement which our ally Israel has not even signed.
Are we going to go to war over an if and a could again? How about a lie?
This week the farcical 9-11 Commission in Washington reported fanciful allegations, disputed by the CIA, that Iran allowed some of the alleged 9-11 hijackers to transit its very porous and unregulated border with Afghanistan. Mainstream news agencies in Canada and elsewhere once again fell for these transparent lies and red-herrings.
First of all, there is no direct travel between Tehran and the USA (22). If indeed any 9-11 suspects passed through Iran to go to the United States, they would have had to transit a US client state such as Oman, Turkey the UAE or a European ally like the UK. Are these states also guilty?
At least 7 of the alleged “9-11 hijackers” are still alive (23). This has been reported by major news agencies including the BBC (24), The Independent (25), CNN (26), The Daily Telegraph (27) and others, then consigned to the memory hole (28). Who exactly crossed that border? Did they work for Halliburton in Iran? (29)
Rather than ask troubling questions, the media is being used to prepare western public opinion for the next round in America’s War of Terror. US Senator Sam Brownback (30) met with Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem on July 19 to kick off the campaign against Iran. Brownback plans to introduce an “Iran Liberation Act” (31) modeled on the law that gave President Bush authority to invade Iraq. No doubt Canadian diplomats will once again work late nights trying to find a compromise in the UN Security Council (32) that will make it all legal; allowing our government to participate, our defence companies to profit, and our journalists to stand at attention and salute with a clear conscience.
The United Nations is Canada’s favourite institution, precisely because so few Canadians understand what we do there. This week the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to demand that Israel tear down its apartheid separation wall, and to comply with the International Court of Justice ruling to the same effect. Canada abstained from the vote, joining other stalwart defenders of the rule of law; Cameroon, El Salvador, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Uganda, Uruguay and Vanuatu.
Stephen James Kerr is an investigative reporter and co-host of “Newspeak” on CIUT 89.5 FM in Toronto. He tries to keep his sense of humour despite the fact that he lives in a terrorist state, or is it a state of terror?
*Since I started writing this story, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced his new cabinet. Bill Graham was moved to Defence, (war making against small third world nations to keep our economy afloat) where his first public act was to dole out a $3 billion (cdn) military procurement contract to replace Canada’s Sea King helicopters. Well, at least he provided me with the opportunity to say “told you so!”
His replacement at Foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew “has forcefully called for closer and deeper economic and defence ties with the U.S. When the Cancun trade talks collapsed due to widespread worldwide opposition, Pettigrew announced “In Cancun I really felt like I have never loved the Americans so much,”” writes publisher Mel Hurtig.
1 For an outline of the Kazemi case see http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/kazemi/
3 An excellent expose of conditions for detainees being held without due process of law at Canada’s Guantanamo Bay, the Toronto West Detention Centre. How can Canada preach to anyone?
4 Former NDP MP Svend Robinson asked then Solicitor General Wayne Easter to clarify what information the RCMP passed on to the USA about Maher Arar.
5 http://www.injusticebusters.com/04/ONeill_Juliet.htm for a complete history of the Juliet O’Neil case.
9 The Council of Canadians leads the charge against Deep Integration.
17 http://www.nonviolence.org/vanunu/photos.html Check out Mordechai Vanunu’s photographs of Dimona.
18 http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200407190838.asp Michael Leeden’s latest contribution to human culture.
19 http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO407C.html Bush appointee seeks legal authorization to cancel US elections in event of terrorist attack. Of course it can’t happen here.
20 http://www.sundayherald.com/43461 The Scottish Sunday Herald has fine reporting on the USA. There is virtually no reporting on Scotland in the US press. But then Scotland has no oil, and does not threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction, or even a nutty Christian fundamentalist dry drunk megalomaniac.
21 Iran is a scary “totalitarian society” according to President Bush. This from the man who wants you to believe an unfinished Russian model nuclear power plant threatens the whole world. Bush’s source material also comes without scintillating footnotes.
22 Just try to ask for a one way ticket to Tehran from LaGuardia. See what happens.