December 19, 2003


Martin differs with U.S. on Iraq; Disagrees on death penalty for Saddam; Reconstruction contracts also at issue (Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, 19/12/03)

Prime Minister Paul Martin has made clear he is at odds with U.S. President George W. Bush on capital punishment for Saddam Hussein and on his handling of the war and reconstruction in Iraq.

But despite these "principled" differences, Martin maintained in a round of media interviews yesterday that he has embarked on a course of constructive new Canada-U.S. relations.

"I personally don't believe in the death penalty," Martin told CHUM Television yesterday when asked whether the former leader of Iraq, captured by U.S. forces a week ago, should face capital punishment, as Bush has said he favours. Martin had earlier skated around the question of Saddam's fate, saying it should be left to the courts, but he was clearer yesterday in voicing his opposition to the death penalty for the jailed dictator.

Martin said international law leans in favour of his own view in theory, if not in practice.

"The fact is that international law right now would not permit the death penalty, but neither the United States nor Iraq have signed on to those particular covenants," Martin said. "What's most important is that whatever decision comes down, we want it to be seen to be internationally credible." [...]

The Prime Minister said he does not agree with the Americans' decision to give reconstruction contracts only to firms from countries that supported the war. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien was justified and right to keep Canada out of the Iraq war, Martin said in several interviews yesterday, and the U.S. is only hurting the Iraqi people if it erects more obstacles to reconstruction efforts.

In our more treasonous moments, my wife and I fantasize about what the U.S. should do to slap around a few faces up here. It seems withholding invitations to the ranch isn’t enough. It is a tougher challenge than one would think. There isn’t a lot that can be done to punish Canadians that wouldn’t punish Americans equally. And, in the end, we’re really no threat and have no desire to be one. Is it worth the effort?

Seen through Canadian eyes, this tired prattle is more a product of cowardice and anti-intellectualism than any desire to challenge or even disagree with the U.S. The problem is not anti-Americanism, which is actually pretty mild compared to in Europe or Latin America or even some current allies, but a neurotic parochialism hidden under a self-deluding cloak of internationalism. Only among conservatives is there any sense that Canada is behaving shamefully if she does not accept she is part of something bigger and more precious than herself, to which she owes duties. This is why the concept of the Anglosphere is, at bottom, so scary. It implies having the courage to defer to leaders and to make sacrifices to defend something. It’s much safer to claim one is equal and run off to play rhetorical games at the UN. More fun, too.

Those who claim Canada is falling apart are wrong. The problem is as much that she is not. We work hard and have built a very agreeable place to live and raise a family. But we have also had many, many years of peaceful comfort and American protection, with the right to mouth off thrown in. It may be humans can simply not bear such blessings for so long before losing any sense of reality and self-respect.

But whatever contempt this earns Canada from the American right, the responsibility is not all up here. Canadians are big consumers of the American media. If you were an ordinary Canadian treated to a nightly spectacle of Democrats, media types, academics, activists and Hollywood icons saying it was all America’s fault and that the U.S. should work much harder to please great people like us, what would you think?

Posted by Peter Burnet at December 19, 2003 7:57 AM

The Canadians for Clark website is one of the unintentionally funniest things I've read in a while. I was particularly taken with the description of George Bush as "immensely anti-Canadian." Now, there is a text-book example of delusions of grandeur.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 19, 2003 9:14 AM


Which is why excluding and ignoring is probably more effective than criticizng. But that would be just mean, and I know you wouldn't want that.

Where do you find these gems?

Posted by: Peter B at December 19, 2003 10:05 AM

Canadians have every right to persue their national interest as they see it.
But they have no right demand a share of this pie.You weren't there,you didn't earn it.

Posted by: M. at December 19, 2003 11:12 AM

I don't think the republicans and President Bush hate or even dislike the Canadians. I honestly think that they view Canada as insignificant in regards to foreign policy.

Posted by: pchuck at December 19, 2003 11:30 AM

"Canadians for Clark" --

Do they have flappy-heads and weird accents ("Aboot")?

Are we on South Park or what?

Posted by: Ken at December 19, 2003 12:16 PM

I had heard that many Canadians were leaving for the US. Is the "brain drain" true and does national hockey hero Gretsky still live there?
Maybe I heard wrong.

Posted by: andy at December 19, 2003 12:45 PM

I thought Gretsky moved to LA so his wife could persue her movie career(I think she actully did do a movie about 20 yrs ago).

Posted by: M. at December 19, 2003 12:54 PM

Don't know but would think Gretzky--who has been publicly pro-Bush--lives out West, the better to run the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team (and I think his wife still takes work as an actress).

Posted by: AC at December 19, 2003 12:55 PM

At the core, Canada is but a collection of poorly run health care(PRHC) bureacracies.

In defense of Canadians, the red blue split that occupies American political space is mirrored on the Canadian side of the border. However the impact of PRHC results in a mean shift in political thinking towards the left side of the spectrum. While considering that the Right is finally purged of those that talk right but walk left, Mr. Martin is known for talking left but walking right.

(Those in America should ponder carefully the impact of creeping PRHC.)

In point of fact, the positions taken recently by Martin match those put forward by the multitude of Democratic candidates who decrie the unilateral approach of the Bush administration and demand more "international" cooperation.

Canadians should remind themselves however, that despite their support for Clark, they do not vote in 2004 and like a terrier biting at the ankle, one swift kick and they are left squealing and licking their PRideHC.

Posted by: john at December 19, 2003 10:20 PM