The Bush visit to Canada

Back from Ottawa. A couple more notes (previous blog on the demos).

One, the estimates are out on numbers and I don’t believe them. Sure, protesters exaggerate the numbers but I’ve never felt such a discrepancy. I have decent footage, standing at the front of the march, of the march going by yesterday afternoon. It took about 10 minutes to go by. I have been in bigger marches. But I have also been in marches of a couple of thousand and this was very different. Peter Mansbridge on the CBC said it “certainly was not 15,000”. I think it certainly was, and quite possibly more, though it is somewhere in that neighbourhood. It certainly was not 5,000, as the police say – but more. There was a demonstration of 5,000, in the evening, at the Museum of Civilization, where Bush was having dinner (and where Jack Layton was getting 5 minutes with him, 20 minutes with Rice, 15 minutes with Powell, thanks a lot Jack, that was really a very useful thing for you to do. Thanks especially, again, for studiously avoiding the most important foreign policy topic to your constituency. You are well on your way to making that constituency ashamed of your behaviour and your party. I won’t repeat what that issue is. If you can make yourself say it, you will have accomplished something), and it was that civilizing influence in Canadian politics, Quebecers, doing it.

Two, as I said yesterday, as much as I’d like for us (radicals) to be able to take credit, these folks were not brought out by our limited resources and efforts at outreach, but instead by Bush himself. The Iraq invasion and occupation is simply incredibly unpopular with Canadians, who are also concerned about the erosion of the public sector, privatization, militarism more generally, and ‘border’ issues, and that’s why so many came out. That means there is definitely intense interest in these issues, but no articulate and highly visible proponents for them (thanks again, Jack).

Three, I actually saw some clips from the US media on these demonstrations, and got the chance to read the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial pages. The hypocrisy is astounding (the usual admonishments about thinking about our jobs before thinking about Iraqi deaths), the lack of a sense of proportion is predictable (the Citizen denounced protesters as hypocrites because they rushed police lines as part of a peace protest. I think the Citizen would have had a case had the protesters carpet bombed Ottawa, sniped at ambulances, used AC-130 gunships, occupied and bombed hospitals, in order to protest the war), but really, the question that comes to mind – listening for example to Tucker Carlson ‘interview’ Carolyn Parrish is: “Americans: Why do they hate us?”

And four. Bush seems to have accomplished pretty much everything he wanted from this visit. If Martin was looking for some hope for getting Canada’s meat and wood through the United States’s ‘free-market’ protectionism (ignoring repeated WTO rulings, rejecting sensible ideas for testing the beef before selling it) he didn’t get it (and why should the US stop bleeding these industries so that US corporations can take the assets at very low prices once the bleeding has proceeded to an appropriate level, as they are already doing? Canada could remedy this easily, it seems to me, by playing by the rules industrialized countries frequently apply to themselves – protecting the national market – rather than applying to itself rules that rich countries normally impose on poor ones – protected markets for the rich (the US) and open markets for the ‘poor’ (Canada in this case) – but it just seems that the Canadian elite feels it has more to gain by abandoning a national economy altogether). Bush said he felt like invading Iraq so he did, and he wants Canada’s support on missile defense. Martin toasted and saluted Bush, who spent 30 minutes with the Conservative Alliance’s Stephen Harper. He then went to Halifax and gave a ‘seminal’ 30 minute speech outlining his foreign policy for the future.

Meanwhile, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Allan Rock, was telling the General Assembly that they are too anti-Israel, and that rather than offering cowardly abstentions to UN resolutions against Israel’s dispossession and occupation of Palestine, Canada would vote against these resolutions, against minimal notions of Palestinian human rights. This seems to me a signal from the Liberals to Bush that Canada is willing to play the role assigned to it in the US imperial design: to provide a sleazy political cover for the actions of the US and its allies.

The US got what it wanted. And while Canadians did remind the government that these policies aren’t popular, it seems that the Canadian government is going to need a lot more reminders of who it is supposed to answer to.

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