Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Friday, June 23, 2006

Elizabeth May On Foreign Affairs - Interview with a Green Leadership Candidate Continued

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Fellow Centrerion Ilya and I were discussing the foreign affairs section of my interview with Green Party of Canada leadership candidate Elizabeth May. In it, the otherwise knowledgeable, articulate Green offered some naive, simplistic and on the whole dissapointing comments that betrayed a poor vision of foreign affairs.

Besides having nothing practical to say about what could be done with regards to Iran's nuclear development program, May made a pretty uninformed comment on the foundation of the state of Israel. "The State of Israel was created following a Zionist terror campaign," said May. The statement really bothered me, for a number of reasons, and so I've decided to give it its proper context. That is what Ilya and I discussed (some of what follows are my comments/ideas, some are his).

First, a distinction needs to be drawn between terorrism and guerilla fighting, and Israel's founders definitely are part of the second classification. To begin with, they did not intentionally target civilians for murder. The example that is always cited to "prove" that there was a terror campaign is the bombing of the King David hotel. The King David was British Military HQ! Furthermore, British military officials were warned ahead of time that the guerrillas intended to bomb the building so that they could evacuate. By comparison, surrounding buildings were empty of people when the bomb went off because they were warned too. (I'm citing from my Jewish History class in high school, and will supply proof upon request.)

But my problem with May's statement (not with May herself, whom I respect) is more than just that. Her use of the phrase "terror campaign" is disingenuous because it is a vast oversimplification. It suggests something comparable to the terrorism we are aware of in modern times, which is not at all the case (and, as noted above, it wasn't terrorism at any rate).

Furthermore, May's simplistic, contextless statement insults the intelligence of Green Party members, in the same was as her comments during the debate equated Harper to Bush and the Republicans with the Conservative Party of Canada. Using juvenile crowd pleasing slogans is no way to convince people that one is ready to become a party leader. Rather, such slogans are more appropriate for someone looking to lead a mob!

The contrast between the statement and what I perceive as May's intelligent nature is a big part of what bothered me. I suggest to you, dear readers, that you also go see part one of this interview, for further commentary on May, her character and on the interview itself. Now, with that off my chest, I present to you part 5 of my interview with Green Party leadership candidate Elizabeth May.

d) The Parliamentary Alliance to Save Darfur has stated that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in that province of Sudan. Experts have said that what's going on is genocide. Do you support a Canadian military intervention there? If so, what should our military be doing there? If not, how do you propose Canada's government act to fulfill its moral duty there?

Darfur is a case of genocide in the making with horse riding warriors descending on innocent civilians. Canadian peace keepers should be there to protect the "displaced persons," essentially refugees within their own nation. We should participate under the flag of the United Nations. [Editor's note: We're in definite agreement on Darfur, at least. However, I think we need to go in regardless of whether the dithering UN wants to; Arab and Muslim dictators control so many votes there it's unlikely the UN will ever send troops.]

e) Should Canadian troops stay in Afghanistan until the country is at peace and not at risk from the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda? How else can we contribute?

Our peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan has morphed into a "war against terrorism" under Stephen Harper. We should not have become engaged in a NATO action in the first place, but should have insisted on a UN led effort. Now, we have placed young, brave and idealistic Canadians at risk. We have left them as "peacekeepers" in a territory under US military command and during which shelling has killed civilians with whom Canadian troops were trying to build trust. Now, the Harper government has committed Canada to another two years with no assurance that the mission is not a war.

Peace keeping forces should be in Afghanistan to disarm both the Taliban and the non-Taliban war lords. The opium trade should be shut down with adequate funding and programmes to ensure a transition to non-illegal harvests. [Editor's note: One of the rare things I agreed with in this section of the interview. I.e. Disarming and ending the opium trade. Our soldiers train to be put in harm's way, it's part of the job. This also avoided answering whether or not we stay until the country is stable.]

f) Osama bin-Laden is quite popular in the Muslim world. 'Osama' was in fact one of the most popular names for Muslim baby boys born soon after 9/11. Hypothetically speaking, should the West intervene if fair and open elections brought al-Qaeda to power in some Muslim nation?

Foreign policy must not be a history-free zone. Canadian foreign policy should be cognizant of the fact that it was a deliberate policy of the Cold War era thinking that the US created, funded and armed the Taliban and al-Qaeda. This was done to create a ruthless band of killers with a fundamentalist zeal to over-turn Soviet rule in Afghanistan. Somehow the Pentagon never thought through that zealots who hated "godless Communists" might also hate "godless Capitalists."

[Editor's note: A fair point, but it's a little late to change that, don't you think?]

Blundering now on the side of Bush with his simplistic and dangerous "with us or against us" rhetoric is not going to bring anything but greater conflict to the world.

The "organization" know as al-Qaeda is not really organized and therefore, there is virtually no possibility that it could be elected anywhere. [Ed. note: Missing the point; Plenty of Islamist extremist parties are winning seats in Parliaments across the Muslim world...]

(As I understand it, "Osama" was always a popular Muslim name.)

[Ed. note: Not so, says the Guardian: "The name Osama has always been rare in northern Pakistan. Now, though, it is growing fast in popularity among parents choosing names for their children. In Pakistani cities, firms are named after him, too: Osama Medical Stores; Osama Property Services." Ditto on the name Osama's popularity in Nigeria's Muslim north... ]

g) Hamas, who is on Canada's list of banned terrorist groups, recently won the Palestinian Authority’s elections. Why is the West acknowledging/recognizing that electoral decision rather than invading to overthrow Hamas?

Hamas was democratically elected. The Middle East is a tinder box and no responsible nation would imagine invasion. Hamas also has non-military functions and faces a humanitarian crisis. Our help in humanitarian aid while condemning its history of terrorism (which we long ago did once the State of Israel was created following a Zionist terror campaign) is one way to help diffuse tensions in the Mid-East.

h) What can justify military intervention abroad?

Only the United Nations.

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Here are some related articles:

Elizabeth May Interview Part One
The first part of the foreign affairs section of the interview.
Foreign Affairs: The NSA, the IRS, DC and I-R-A-Q

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