Open Letter to Condi Rice

I’m glad you’ve decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It’s a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

Dear Condi,

If I didn’t know better, I’d say I had written this:

 

I’m glad you’ve decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It’s a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can’t quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we’ve had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we’re going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.

Sure, that doesn’t match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a “liberation war” in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children. Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government’s role should be when there isn’t a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such as missile defence can be made openly.

You might also notice that it’s a system in which the governing party’s caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don’t want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada’s continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don’t embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond. Now, I understand that there may have been some miscalculations in Washington based on faulty advice from your resident governor of the “northern territories,” Ambassador Cellucci. But you should know by now that he hasn’t really won the hearts and minds of most Canadians through his attempts to browbeat and command our allegiance to U.S. policies.

Sadly, Mr. Cellucci has been far too closeted with exclusive groups of ‘experts’ from Calgary think-tanks and neo-con lobbyists at cross-border conferences to remotely grasp a cross-section of Canadian attitudes (nor American ones, for that matter).

I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.

These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.

To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.

To protect people against international crimes like genocide and ethnic cleansing, they support new institutions like the International Criminal Court — which, by the way, you might strongly consider using to hold accountable those committing atrocities today in Darfur, Sudan.

And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed — beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.

On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ while you’re in Ottawa. It’s a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defence ever will.

This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means. There is also a very strong awareness on both sides of the border of how vital Canada is to the U.S. as a partner in North America. We supply copious amounts of oil and natural gas to your country, our respective trade is the world’s largest in volume, and we are increasingly bound together by common concerns over depletion of resources, especially very scarce fresh water.

Why not discuss these issues with Canadians who understand them, and seek out ways to better cooperate in areas where we agree — and agree to respect each other’s views when we disagree.

Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because of one missile-defence decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power.

In friendship,
Lloyd Axworthy

Lloyd Axworthy is president of the University of Winnipeg and a former Canadian foreign minister.

I can’t really say much to that letter, because he really took the words right out of my mouth.

What I will add, though, is a link that I found on BOING BOING yesterday to a new and hard-hitting advertisement being put out by the UN on landmines. Loyd Axworthy was the man responsible for the treaty that banned land mines.

The model states of Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Pakistan join China, Russia and the US in not signing the treaty 6 years after it has come into force.

7 thoughts on “Open Letter to Condi Rice”

  1. Mr. Axworthy wrote a well balanced and sensible letter.

    But most right-wingers will dismiss this letter as “Canadian leftist effete” without even reading it I bet.

  2. I was going to say… as being “more Canadian Anti-Americanism”….

    but ya, what you said 😉

    Mr. Axworthy has never been known, as far as a I can tell, as someone who plays politics. Especially not during his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

    Then, and since, he has spoken strongly and consistently for reform of the UN and to the benefits of multilateralism and cooperation among governments.

    It’s no surprise then that he sees the USs’ unilateralist agenda as a threat to the well being of world order.

  3. Well, if such a letter dripping with sarcasm and arrogance is designed to inspire harmony and cooperation between our two countries, then there is no point in trying to have a conversation with Canadians. My what a superior bunch you all are. I don’t think Americans can sit under such tutelage without assuming a groveling position. If you agree with this pompous bag of wind then I wish you well. I’m off.

  4. Jane:

    “My what a superior bunch you all are. I don’t think Americans can sit under such tutelage without assuming a groveling position.”

    It’s funny you say that Jane because that is exactly how many Canadians have felt of Americans for many many years, it just seems that George W. Bush has squeezed us too much.

    Turnabout is fair play.

  5. From your comments in the Intelligence thread.

    You’re right, if the recent happenings in Lebanon and Egypt and other Arab states really are happening because of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent elections of January 30 then I will have to eat my shorts and give Dubya some credit.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that I and many others disagree vehemently with his methods and his “morals” if you can call them that.

    I believe the thing that raises the ire of people like myself and Mr. Loyd Axworthy is not only the policies of the Bush administration but also its’ attitude.

    Little things like
    a) not addressing the House of Commons
    b) not returning a phone call by our PM until a week afterwards
    c) not giving a choice on agreeing with or negotiating deals with allies.

    The most consistent message from the Bush administration since he took office and especially since 9/11 has been the “With us or Against us” mantra.

    I’m sorry, but that sort of childish black/white interpration just doesn’t fly with most people, let alone the diplomatic community. Colin Powell at least seemed to understand that. Condi either does not, or chooses not to.

  6. [COMMENT COPIED FROM IRAN THREAD]
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14590-2005Mar7.html?sub=AR

    “Is Bush Right?”

    President’s Critics Reconsider Democracy’s Prospects in the Middle East

    By Jefferson Morley
    washingtonpost.com Staff Writer

    Tuesday, March 8, 2005; 6:00 AM

    “In countries where President George Bush and his policies are deeply unpopular, online commentators are starting to think the unthinkable.

    “Could George W. Bush Be Right?” asked Claus Christian Malzahn in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel. Essayist Guy Sorman asked last month in the Paris daily Le Figaro (by subscription), “And If Bush Was Right?” In Canada, anti-war columnist Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star answered: “It is time to set down in type the most difficult sentence in the English language. That sentence is short and simple. It is this: Bush was right.”

    The tipping point came last week when Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government fell. The international online media, much of which had been critical of Bush during his first term, had to acknowledge democratic developments on the American president’s watch. Many commentators also cited free elections in Afghanistan last fall, Palestinian elections in early January followed by the Jan. 30 Iraq elections. Then came local elections in Saudi Arabia and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement of constitutional changes allowing his opposition to challenge him electorally.

    Given Bush’s insistence that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would lead to a democratic political order in the Middle East, many Europeans are “somewhat embarrassed” by these developments, Sorman wrote in Le Figaro.

    “Hadn’t they promised, governments and media alike, that the Arab street would rise up [against U.S. military forces], that Islam would burn, that the American army would get bogged down, that the terrorist attacks would multiply, and that democracy would not result nor be exported?”

    “These dramas did not occur,” Sorman says. “Either Bush is lucky, or it is too early to judge or [Bush’s] analysis was not false.”

    Rüdiger Lentz, Washington correspondent for the German broadcast network Deutsche Welle, wrote, “There have been many good reasons to criticize the messianic political style of Bush’s first term. But isn’t it time now to stop finger-pointing and bickering?”

    “After all, one has to acknowledge that Afghanistan and Iraq might have been catalysts for what we see now happening in Lebanon, in Egypt and even between the Palestinians and Israel.”

    In Germany, the economic daily Financial Times Deutschland accused Europeans of ignoring events in Lebanon. “It is bizarre that here in Germany, where the Berlin Wall once stood, this development (in Lebanon) is greeted with hardly a shrug,” according to a translation by Der Spiegel Web site. The paper borrowed a phrase from New Yorker columnist Kurt Andersen saying that Europe is engaging in political “short selling — hoping for bad news to back up the continent’s ‘ideological investment'” in opposing Bush.

    “Short selling,” the paper concluded, “is an honorable strategy on the stock exchange but in terms of democracy, it is looking more and more like a major mistake. Indeed, it isn’t honorable at all.”

    Robert Fisk, veteran Middle East correspondent for London’s Independent (by subscription) begged to differ on Monday. Writing from Beirut, Fisk predicted that Bush’s call for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon would only hurt the Lebanese.

    “Have we forgotten 150,000 dead?” he asked referring to the estimates of the number of people killed in the Lebanese civil war of 1975 to 1989. “Have we forgotten the Western hostages? Have we forgotten the 241 Americans who died in the suicide bombing of 23 October 1983? This democracy, if it comes, will be drenched with blood — but the blood will be that of the Lebanese who live here, not that of the foreigners who wish to bestow freedom upon them.”

    Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab is not so pessimistic.

    “The Lebanese intifada has provided a strong model for the Arab world,” Kuttab writes in the West Bank-based Arabic Media Internet Network.”It has sent shock waves throughout the Arab world,” he says, noting that many Arabs had given up on the possibility of peaceful and patriotic democratic movements.”

    Notice, Chris, that this is an article not me speaking but several well known experts who are starting to see the picture.

    I’m so irritated and offended by your petulant, chip on our shoulder, unbelievably rude and arrogant “letter to Condi” that I won’t be reading or posting here anymore. Waste of time. On the subject of the US/Canadian relations you and your ilk are too petty to be believed and eager to spread your imagined misconceptions of the US and the slights inflicted on your noble nation by the louts to the south. Canadians who think like this about the US need to grow up. Intelligent readers are far too savvy to buy this kind of crap from Canadians.

    [COMMENT COPIED FROM IRAN THREAD]

Comments are closed.