Thursday, September 28, 2006

Darfur And The Politics Of The Left’s Indifference

Above the thousand thousands buried here.
I am every old man here shot dead.
I am every child here shot dead.
Nothing in me will ever forget this.

That's from the poem Babi Yar, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It was 65 years ago today that the Jews of Kiev began to assemble under orders at the intersection of Melnikovsky and Dokhturov streets. From there they were taken in large groups to a ravine called Babi Yar, where they were instructed to take off their clothes and lie down on the pile of corpses already filling the ravine, in order to be shot. It took two days to kill 34,000 Jews in this way.

What has been happening in Darfur over the past two years is more or less the same thing, several times over. In today’s commemoration of the slaughter at Babi Yar, Terry Davis, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, observed: We must draw lessons from the past and apply them to the future. Babi Yar and the Holocaust were not crimes committed by outlaws or madmen – they were planned by politicians, they were prepared by bureaucrats, and they were carried out by soldiers.

In the case of Darfur, it is quite clear that the world is not drawing lessons from the past. And among the nations of the the world, Canada is perhaps particularly culpable, because Canada is uniquely positioned among the United Nations’ member states to put in motion a multilateral initiative that would end the ongoing genocide in Darfur, which the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

But Canada is not seizing this opportunity. Why?

It’s a long story, which I try to tell in my column today. A lot of it’s got to do with the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives last January. The previous Liberal government had to be shamed into paying attention, and when the Conservatives were elected it was back to square one. But a key factor is also the strange silence of the Canadian left - among political activists, the “antiwar” movement, and social-justice advocates. In some cases, it’s not just silence, but outright and explicit opposition to any military intervention at all.

And dainty ladies in Brussels frills,
Squealing, poke their parasols into my face.

Clement Apaak, the 36-year-old founder of Canadian Students for Darfur, started mobilizing campus support for a robust Canadian response as soon as it became obvious that the corrupt Islamist regime in Khartoum was arming Janjaweed militias to slaughter Darfur’s civilians.

Apaak describes a disturbing indifference to the Darfur slaughter that involves “some level of racial undertones” in all developed countries, but it’s the indifference within the Canada’s “activist” left that Apaak says he finds especially galling. It’s a key reason why the effort to mobilize public support for meaningful action on Darfur has failed to gain any real traction in Canada.

“I consider myself centre-left, and I have been very active and vocal on a lot of issues, but I have to admit I have been very disappointed about the blatant silence of the left on this issue,” Apaak told me.

He blames a knee-jerk antipathy to the current United States administration, which is widely regarded as being hostile to the regime in Khartoum. Then there’s the irrational suspicions about the involvement of Jewish organizations in raising public awareness about the Darfur genocide - an irrationality that has been cunningly exploited by Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a proponent of the delusional theory that world Jewry intends to “redraw the region…in order to protect the Israelis, to guarantee the Israeli security”.

The silence on Canada’s left is of a type that Mohamed Haroun, president of the Darfur Association of Canada, has also noticed among the religious leadership of Canada’s Muslims. Most of the dead Darfuris are Muslims who also happen to be black.

“If you can find out why the left has been so silent about this," Apaak said, "I would like to know.”

Some insights into the the left’s silence on Darfur, and silence about the slaughter of Muslims generally, can be found here. Follow Gadi's links.

There is also this documentary, which Shalom Lappin brought to my attention yesterday. It features Shalom's views, along with the views of other Euston Group members such as Norman Geras and Alan Johnson. There is also the dedicated Eric Reeves to pay attention to.

Today, Bill O'Neill gets straight to the point of our responsibiity to protect Darfur here.

Incidentally, the photograph that accompanies this post is of Mihad Hamid, a one-year-old girl whose mother was killed while attempting to escape an attack from helicopter gunships and Janjaweed marauders on a Darfuri village. That’s a bullet in Mihad’s back. She is believed to have died within hours of the photograph being taken.

The story of that photograph, and of the brave photographer who took it, is here.

The "Internationale," let it
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.

Remember Babi Yar. On to Darfur.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Big Picture: We Sit Around And Gab

WEDNESDAY · SEPT 27 · 10pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld. . .

This week, the truth about global warming with author Terry Glavin, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Tory MP Bob Mills, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association's Mark Nantais and former Winnipeg mayor & environmentalist Glen Murray talking about the solutions.

Tune in to The Big Picture with Avi Lewis to watch the action! For more about the doc, the talk, the show & Avi: . . . get involved in The Big Picture with Avi Lewis Campaign at

That's the bumpf. The Big Picture is here. The Attenborough documentary that sets the stage is here.

I didn't really have all that much to say, or much time to say anything, actually. Avi was a great host and Glen Murray was especially good, I thought, but there were lots of smart people, with lots of interesting ideas. If I'd had the presence of mind, though, I would have tried to figure out a succinct way of making these points:

To begin with, it's too late.

The great challenge we face is the work of seeing to it that we don’t make matters worse. The only realistic goal now is to slow the rate of global warming and keep the planet’s temperature down, just enough, so as to prevent the deaths of billions of people owing to global droughts, desertification, massive crop failures, and resultant starvation.

A great part of the problem is that for too long we've allowed the whole question to be cast as an "environmental" issue. And environmentalism, as a separate category of thought, as a way of thinking that erects an impermeable barrier between "nature" and "culture", isn't up to the challenges associated with global warming. It never was.

And sorry, revolutionists, but we don't need to overthrow capitalism to do these things. Capitalism has been quite effective in developing the already-existing means to scale back on greenhouse gases, and most of us in the developed world could easily meet or exceed our per-capita Kyoto obligations with relatively minor "lifestyle choices."

We need massive public investment in transportation infrastructure and renewable-energy alternatives, as well. But these huge challenges are made up of lots of small challenges, and practical solutions are already available. And it's not all bad news:

True, the United States, Canada and Australia have betrayed the rest of the industrialized world by thumbing their noses at the greenhouse-gas reduction targets set out in the Kyoto Protocol. But 163 nations have ratified the treaty. And in a perverse twist of luck, the first-round “rich nation” target of bringing greenhouse-gas emissions back to 5.9 percent below 1990 levels has actually been met – mainly because so many of Russia’s Soviet-era factories have fallen apart.

The European Union, meanwhile, has established a carbon-trading system to keep within its targets, and some countries are going a step further. Iceland continues to harness more of its geothermal power resources and is investing heavily in hydrogen engines for its transportation sector. The country plans to be oil-free by 2050. There is good news from the climate change front, everywhere.

The main thing we need to do is engage the global-warming challenge as citizens, not just as protesters or activists or consumers. We also have to reject the misanthropic reflexes that are so commonplace in climate-change debates, and reaffirm our commitment to the idea of progress. We should start to think about effective and ambitious measures in response to global warming as a necessary defence of western civilization's most cherished values. Tony Blair, whatever his faults, is one of the few developed-world leaders who clearly understands how everything is connected:

Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win. What is happening today out in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and beyond is an elemental struggle about the values that will shape our future.

To defend those values, we should put all the Gaia-bothering behind us and face up to the objective economic and social inequalities that are such barriers to progress.

On the global-warming front, we're going to have to come to grips with the fact that there are millions of North American working people who can't afford fashionably swish little hybrid cars, and don't have the luxury of riding bikes to work from their condos. Face those kinds of facts globally and you get the really "big picture": Two-thirds of the world's people wants the kind of economic development we've taken for granted in Europe and North America, and they're entitled to it. Coal and oil are going to remain a part of the picture.

Think of the atmosphere as a global commons. There's a limit to the volume of greenhouse gases that the atmosphere can handle, and we're already exceeding that limit. What we have to sort out is a) how we're going to break out of the tragedy of the commons that's unfolding in the atmosphere, b) what the size of humanity's annual greenhouse-gas budget should be, and c) how to equitably distribute access to that budget.

The Kyoto Accord was a start. It's an embarrassing little baby step in world-scale decision-making, but even so, it's proved too much for the likes of Canada's Conservative government, and of course they're going to go to hell when they die for being such moral cowards. But it must also be said that we've all wasted precious years thinking about global warming as an "environmental" problem, and the domain of a loveable but especially inarticulate tendency within a general liberal-left pattern that has been with us since around the time of the first Earth Day, in 1970.

This pattern seriously discredited left-wing politics in the eyes of many working-class voters, who felt the cohesion of their social order under assault in this turbulent period. Liberal fellow travelers compounded the problem by indulging the belligerent posturing of the New Left, frequently adopting it as a fashion statement.

Global warming is a macro-economic problem, with vast ecological, cultural and geopolitical implications. It may be the greatest single impediment to global human progress. Its impact will be felt mainly by the poor. In other words, it's a class problem.

That's the point that I would have liked to make.

Tune in to CBC Newsworld tomorrow at 10 p.m. After the show you can contribute your own comments on-line, here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

T’ixwelátsa Is Coming Home to Chilliwack, At Last

. . . Down through the ages, generations of Chilliwack people cared for the stone T’ixwelátsa, assigning him a place of honour outside the great houses of important Chilliwack families. The statue was venerated as physical evidence of the Chilliwacks’ association with their homelands from the beginning of time, and also of that moment in history when X:als moved across the face of the earth and created a world in which people flourished and prospered.

Then came the smallpox, wave upon wave of European settlement, and confinement to Native reserves. The Chilliwacks were decimated, and there were empty villages everywhere. The Potlatch Law of 1884 disrupted the persistence of customary law by prohibiting the ceremonial assignment of duties, entitlements, and property. The Chilliwacks’ stone ancestor ended up alone in the ruins of an abandoned village, just east of the Huntington border crossing, south of Abbotsford.

On September 15, 1892, an article appeared in the Chilliwack Progress reporting that the Ward brothers, whose farm was situated not far from Vedder Crossing, had come upon “a curiously carved Indian image” on Sumas Prairie. “The image is about four feet high, and weighs about 600 lbs. It is evidently very ancient, and is quite intact, every detail being clearly defined.”

A century later, Herb Joe, chief of the Tzeachten band of the Chilliwack tribe—the man who had also inherited the name T’ixwelátsa—learned that the stone containing the soul of his tribe’s ancestor, the statue that had been so long venerated by the Chilliwack people, was in the possession of the Burke Museum in Seattle.

Joe set in motion a process of negotiations, research, applications, and proceedings under the United States’ Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). And the result, after all these years, is that the T’ixwelátsa stone, catalogue #152, accession #190, is finally coming home.

That's from my column this week, here.

I've been quiet lately. On account of moving, and getting ready for teaching again, and making top-secret plans for mischief of one kind and another.

But the new neighbourhood is pretty nice, I think. It's still quite a bit like this:

That's a painting by Edward Goodall. He always had an eye for this coast.

Monday, September 04, 2006

That Interview With Michael Ignatieff: The Unabridged, Annotated Version

It had been a long day.

Michael Ignatieff, frontrunner for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, had just left a three day Liberal Caucus get-together in Vancouver. He’d headed east on Highway 1, with a small entourage, to make his way to Chilliwack, to meet with aboriginal leaders and a small group of Fraser Valley party members. On the way, he’d stopped in for a coffee at a Tim Horton’s and had been impressed by “four of the biggest Harley-Davidson hogs you’ve ever seen.”

His handlers had been trying to schedule our interview all summer, but whenever the candidate was on the West coast, I was somewhere else. So it was to be Chilliwack, and an hour in a booth of an empty restaurant in the cavernous tropical atrium of the Rainbow Country Inn. Some kids were splashing around in a swimming pool somewhere.

The article that resulted is
here. What follows is the transcript of our conversation.

I wanted to get straight into the controversial matter of his “muscular” liberalism. He didn’t flinch.

On Iraq:

“I’m very struck by the difficulty Canadians have in associating a progressive social agenda with a robust internationalism that does involve the use of force. The minute you say that you’re in favour of holding steady in Afghanistan and seeing it through, it’s automatically assumed that you’re on the far right, or `Harper lite’, when really, nothing could be further from the truth.

“I’ve always seen my international commitments as being sustained by a belief in human rights, and my domestic commitments being sustained by a belief in equal rights, and there doesn’t see to be any conflict to me. It’s part of the same project.

“But you’ve got to be careful with this stuff. Let’s be honest – I may be an object lesson in some of the perils of this, that is to say, let’s go right to the issue of Iraq. I went to Iraq in 1992, making a film for the CBC and the BBC, and I was so scorched by what I saw, in what had been done to the Kurds, that I just thought, then and there, I was going to stand with these people. And then everybody, ever since, has asked me, `Well, do you have second thoughts?’ And the thing I have second thoughts about is not what people might think I have second thoughts about. What I have second thoughts about is, how far should intense personal experience, in this case the suffering of the Kurds and the Shia, impact your personal judgment? And it’s possible that it did.

“The point though is the sheer passion with which I felt the human rights case, coupled with my belief that Saddam did pose a strategic danger. I mean he had waged two wars, once against Kuwait and once against Iran, at the cost of more than a million lives. He had a seriously dangerous weapons program through the eighties and the early nineties. There were some logical assumptions that you could make here about what kind of a danger he posed to his own people as well as to international peace and security. I do think what I underestimated – and this is the object lesson here – is the unintended consequences of the use of force. The military instrument is blunt and bloody. And the Americans made every single mistake you could think of, and then some.

“But the one thing that I haven’t lost faith in is the Iraqi people. There are people who get up every day and put on bullet proof vests and get into bullet proof cars go and try to do politics. I’m a politician, and I have tremendous respect for those people. They’re the only chance we’ve got, and they’re the only chance the Iraqi people have got. And I think of all those women who came out of those polling stations with their purple fingers. . .”

On the peace movement:

“There is a kind of anti-Americanism that I understand, but it renders people so enraged that they cease to see some of the moral consequences of their own position, namely that they’re going to leave millions of people inside a jail with Saddam Hussein. To which they then would reply, `Well, isn’t this worse?’ And I won’t even deny that. But the thing that I felt so strongly, about the decision to go, was that the left, particularly in America, only talk about the costs of the military operation. And in some senses they got that right. But they have no sense of the cost of doing nothing. The sanctions were leaking. [Saddam] was getting $10 billion in illegal revenues every year. The idea that you could simply contain him, with all this, was just breaking down. So sooner or later, he was going to get out of his box, and my judgment was that something had to be done. And I still think, my judgment is still, that something had to be done. But I think I did not correctly estimate the incompetence of the American military operation.

“But it’s important not to. . . I take full responsibility for my judgments in 2003. The only thing I’d say, in the Canadian context, is that I was not in the House of Commons. I was not an elected official. I was not responsible to the Canadian people. I think [former Prime Minister Jean] Chretien acted in the interest of the Canadian people at the time.”

But isn’t that all a bit academic? Once the bombs start to fall and the deed is done, for those of us who opposed the war in Iraq, would it not have been more useful to commit our energies to building a peaceful and democratic Iraq?

“Well, indeed. And a lot of people have invested a lot of their energies. . . I went to Iraq after, and some of what I hoped would happen has come true, The Kurds are living the best hours of their historic existence. But it has been a tragic and difficult story.”

Why do people hate you so much? No other candidacy for the Liberal Party leadership has provoked such a visceral reaction. What’s that about?

[He laughs.]

“Well, that’s a good question. But I don’t know. I’d like to reduce the hatred. But I’ve been accused of a lot of things that simply aren’t true. I have a really deep and abiding horror of torture. The idea that I advocate for torture is anathema to me. The idea that I would be an apologist for brutality and violence. . . I don’t know why the hatred is there. There is some. But I take full responsibility for that as well. I’m an adult. I’m a responsible human being, I m responsible for everything I’ve said and for everything I’ve done, and for the emotions that I arouse. All I can do is patiently work away, interview by interview and encounter by encounter, with people’s hostility and misapprehensions, and try to correct them. But I’m entirely reconciled to the fact that there will always be people who find me a controversial character.”

But why you?

And mostly from the left. And yet you situate yourself quite unambiguously on the left.

“As for the left, I’ve always been a progressive liberal. I’m a fierce believer in publicly funded health care. I’m a fierce believer in aboriginal self-government. I’m a fierce believer in bilingualism, and I have a fierce attachment to the multicultural achievement in Canada. But you also have to remember that the most bitter fights in modern politics are actually between liberals and anybody to the left. I don’t take it personally.

“Liberals are the people that the left has always hated. If you go back into the 1960s, there was nothing more sneering or damning in the 1960s, when the Georgia Straight began to come out, than calling someone a Liberal. We now associate, `Oh, he’s a Liberal,’ with the right. But when I grew up, in college, all the best and the brightest were slightly to the left of me. . . But run the tape back even further, you know I wrote a biography of Isaiah Berlin, and you listen to Berlin in the 1950s and the 1960s, this anti-war, Cold War liberal, getting pounded by the left for being an apologist for the Americans, for being an apologist for the Cold War, for being an apologist for containment.

“But when you ask the question, `Why are you hated?’ I’m sure it has something to do with me and my obnoxious personal characteristics. I’m sure. But it’s part of a long historical argument that goes back really to the end of the Second World War, to the fracture between liberalism and the social democratic left to straight communists, and that divide was sharp as a knife on the edge. And a liberal believes in a market economy and personal freedom, and these guys, no. Liberals I think also have this, and this is a key thing, a strongly anti-protectionist view, of political choice. It’s not an accident that I wrote a book called The Lesser Evil. Politics is about the management of lesser evils. The utopian left has a view that you can engage in a kind of angelic social choice, where there’s no cost, no penalties, no losses. Well, my sense is that politics is always about choosing the lesser evil, in metaphoric terms, and sometimes the lesser evil in a very real sense. You do a small evil to avoid a much greater one. And that’s actually - I don’t want to invest that with any dignity – but it is basically driven by a quite tragic sense of what politics is about. And in my view a more realistic sense. So there we are.”

What is the razor sharp divide between Liberals and New Democrats in this country? Is it really that clear? I’d like to know where those lines are, where you see them.

“There’s a lot of common ground at the level of general principles. The progressive part of Canadian politics, there are no sharp lines, but there are a lot of sharp lines here. I think anti-Americanism has become a kind of . . . I just think anti-Americanism in Canada is the patriotism of fools. We don’t need these negatives, we need to have a much more, and I think we do have a much more secure sense that we’re just different. Everything I’ve ever written about Canada expresses that sense that we have these different traditions, this different history, different social reflexes. I mean we believe in publicly funded health care, we don’t believe in capital punishment, we believe in the equality rights of all people, including gender, and including equality rights to marriage.”

But so do liberal Americans.

“No, no, no.”

Yes they do. They believe in these things. What’s the difference between a Canadian and a liberal American if that’s all it is?

“A liberal American often has a sense of American destiny and an American role in the world, an American redemptive role in the world, as an empire, that we don’t. Here’s one of the enormous virtues of being a Canadian. We are a non-imperial people. We were a colony, the first colony in the British empire to achieve self-government, so we have a completely different sense that than the Americans. What can be intoxicating if you’re an American liberal is that sense that you are the most powerful country in the world and you have a redemptive capacity to shape the external world. Canadians don’t have that sense.”

Yes, but you’ve made that argument.

“I think it’s more nuanced than people hear. I wrote a book called Empire Lite, and Empire Lite says you can’t do redemption on the cheap. The thing about the exercise of American power since 1945 is that it has done some extraordinary things. We have a peaceful Europe, a rebuilt Germany, a rebuilt Japan, basically because of the superb political wisdom of that generation. The great, almost the central dilemma of world politics, since, is that we used to live a world built by Roosevelt and Churchill, the world of the UN, the world of NATO, the world of standing up Europe and standing up Japan.

“Flash forward to the end of the Cold War and we had a moment when the United States, in concert with other countries, could have built the famous new world order, and didn’t. And didn’t do anything. So we live in the ruins of Roosevelt’s world, and what we’ve put in its place is Empire Lite. That is the `go in quick, go in for 18 months, and were out of here.' And people read Empire Lite as if it’s an endorsement of American imperialism, but what it’s saying, ironically, it’s saying, you know, frankly, `Would that the Americans would do these things properly.’ It’s a vary controversial point to make.

“But you know, one of the places where the Americans did it properly was in Bosnia. The Americans went into Bosnia and sat in Bosnia for ten years, and people aren’t dying in Bosnia.

“But don’t get me wrong. Nobody likes empire. I don’t like empire.”

Well, American liberals don’t like empire, either. I know I’m being a real nuisance about this, but. . .

The problem we’ve got is that we’re in a world of collapsing states, a world of explosive disorder, with no set of multilateral institutions, no form of architecture that can keep our world from violence. Take the Middle East. Nobody likes the imperial role of the United States, but if you ask how we’re going to get peace in the Middle East. An American president will go in there and say, `Here’s the way it’s going to be, guys,’ and he’s going to sit there at Camp David the way Bill Clinton did, and he’s going to sit there and sit there and sit there, and then hopefully he’s going to get the Russians to chip in. . .”

Sure. And not long ago you were arguing that the Marines be sent in to support the Palestinian Authority.

“Well, what I said was, and it certainly wasn’t popular, was that I certainly couldn’t see any way that we could get the two-state solution that I think we all want in that region unless we had an American security guarantee for the region. I mean the Marines are a metaphor here for how we get this thing done. And this is where the Canadian role comes in, because what we’re living through, which is hard to even conceptualize, is that American power, I think, is actually waning here. Certainly in the Middle East it’s waning, and this creates a moment, possibly analogous to the 1956 moment in which [former Canadian Prime Minister Lester “Mike”] Pearson won the Nobel peace prize, in which a coalition of other countries has got to get in there and say, ‘If the Americans can’t lead us to wards peace, is there another coalition of states that could get involved, and say let’s create an international security force.”

I was curious to know whether Ignatieff agreed with the kind of internationalism articulated by Britain’s Tony Blair in his recent speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council:

[“What are the values that govern the future of the world? Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity or those of reaction, division and hatred? My point is that this war can't be won in a conventional way. It can only be won by showing that our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair than the alternative. Doing this, however, requires us to change dramatically the focus of our policy. Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win.”]

“Broadly, yes. To his credit, Blair has said from the beginning that the Iraq operation, if you’re going to do it, required as a geopolitical necessity an equivalent attempt to get peace in Palestine. That was the part that Bush didn’t buy. I think Blair had a better understanding of the geo-strategic imperative of the Palestinian state than Bush ever had.

“The one thing that I think is a danger here is to set up false polarities between a world of freedom and Islamic extremism out there because the thing that complicates everything, and Canadians know this better than anyone, is that Islam is here, it’s here in Canadian society.”

Well, hold on. Islam is one thing, but Blair was talking about radical Islam, or Islamism.

“Yes but that’s exactly where the danger lies. We are now working in an experience of Western liberalism in which for the first time in history we’re trying to create communities of equality among radical forms of difference – religious difference, and racial – it’s our great achievement and it’s going pretty well, actually. But there is within .0001 per cent of our populations for whom this is a challenge to everything they believe. What’s a little indiscriminate about Blair’s stuff is the idea that global justice and this and that will fix it. We’ve got work to do here at home in convincing .0001 per cent of our own fellow citizens, our on fellow citizens, that we practice what we preach, that there are limits to what is acceptable in multicultural society, that inclusion is not a kind of warm bath of a kind of mutual indifference.

“You’re committed to something if you’re in Canada. You’re committed to the rule of law. You’re committed to free speech, you’re committed to liberty, including the liberty of women. We’re not all things to all people. There are some limits and frames here. We welcome you here, but if you wish to live in the Middle Ages, of course you can, but there are going to be problems here. And that’s the drama.

“I see this as a practicing politician almost every week. I go to mosques, I go to gurudwaras, and it leaves me very confident, actually, not alarmed. There is a certain alarmism in Blair that I don’t want. I feel actually very confident. We re so lucky at the extent to which our multicultural communities actually buy the Canadian dream. We should worry when they don’t, but we are so lucky that they do. And they often buy it in defiance of the evidence. I just feel passionately that we have to deliver. We can’t just do this bla bla bla about how nice we are. We’ve got to be what we say we are. That’s our part of the bargain. And they, their young people particularly, have to understand that we are what we say we are, and that’s where the battle for the heart and soul of liberal democracy is really being fought. It’s being fought in these new communities who are adjusting, and really moving between very ancient and great faith to a very radical modernity, a terrifying modernity in their terms. We have to be respectful of what that’s doing to the heads of young Muslim believers. Be respectful of it, not fearful of it, but respectful of what they’re going through. And then we’ve got to say, look, here are the rules. There aren’t too many rules, but you’ve got to live by them.”

You’ve talked about how we don’t take ourselves seriously enough as a country, and that we haven’t really demanded enough of ourselves, and you’ve used language like that in the context of Afghanistan. Support for the Canadian mission is probably at an all time low. Why? What’s the problem? Is it simply a matter of selling it properly, or describing it properly?

“I think support is low because it’s horrible to see those kids coming back in boxes.”

You really think that’s what’s doing it?

“Suddenly we realize that there’s a real price to pay here. For some Canadian families, time stops. And I’ve talked with these families. But what I’ve learned from these families, and this is very important - these families to an extraordinarily heroic degree remain committed to the mission of their children - but my view here is the deeper obstacle, it’s that Canadians somehow think that we’re in Afghanistan as sort of auxiliaries of the American empire, fighting a counter-terrorism war that has nothing to do with us. I see the mission completely differently. We’re here at the invitation of the Karzai government, with the approval of the United Nations, as part of a NATO engagement, to make sure that a democratically elected government does not fall prey to a terrorist militia. If a terrorist militia succeeds in overthrowing the Karzai government, there will be civil war in Afghanistan - the last war cost a million lives. That’s what has to be said to the Canadian people. This is worth doing.

“The other problem here, and here I get into more controversial territory, is that there is a kind of innocence about our country, which I love, because we are a lucky country, and a fortunate country, and out here a staggeringly beautiful country. But it is innocent to believe that we can sit here in Canada in our security and believe that Afghanistan is a far away country about which we need know little. The attacks on the World Trade Centre began in Afghan training camps, in southern Afghanistan.

“The things that Canadians have understood is they’ve understood globalization. They’ve understood that the future of the British Columbia economy is somehow tied up to China and India. And Vancouver is the great epitome of Canada waking up to globalization, and profiting and benefiting from it. But the other side of globalization is that security threats, very long and very far away, are our business, in a way that I think we didn’t, we don’t understand. And that’s the innocence here. And that innocence has to end because our security really is involved in these things.

“We let [Afghanistan] go to hell. And every Pakistani immigrant in this country knows that the Taliban take Afghanistan and they’re within a hand’s reach of Pakistani nuclear weapons. You don’t even want to think about what that looks like, right? This is the global village, darn it.

“The third element of our innocence is we think there was this happy world called peacekeeping, and all we have to do is show up as Canadians with our little Canadian patches and our blue berets and the world would greet us with open arms. We left that world in Rwanda. We left it Rwanda. The country has to understand that. We sent a brave Canadian, a good personal friend of mine, into Rwanda, and he still has nightmares about what happened. We can’t ever let Canadians go into that kind of place again. That’s why we have to have a combat-capable military. . .

“Canadians everywhere I go want us to be leaders. If you’re going to be a leader, you’ve got to be able to do the difficult things. And again, our historical memories are short. We are the country that liberated Northern Holland. We are the country where 60,000 brave Canadians died in the First World War, otherwise we’d all be speaking German. We’ve forgotten that military valor and military sacrifice have been an enormous and very often a very positive part of Canada’s best traditions.

“Don’t misunderstand me. I’m the last person on earth to want to exalt death by battle, the last one who wants to glorify war. But the thing that is an illusion is to believe that the peacekeeping tradition of Canada is basically a pacifist tradition. Mike Pearson was many things but he was not a pacifist. He was a Cold War liberal who knew that you had to fight for things.

“I know that because my dad and Mike Pearson did fire watch from the roof of Canada House in 1940. And Pearson said to my father, looking out at the bombs falling over London in June, July, August and September of 1940, `We can’t go on like this. It will destroy our civilization.’ That empowered Pearson, but it wasn’t a pacifist view. It was revealing that we have to draw back from the abyss. That’s been a tremendous strength to the Canadian understanding of the world. And it’s still my view. But we can’t be innocent about this world. We can’t afford to be. It’s too dangerous out there.”

This brings me to my last question, which involves globalization and the consequences of a progressive liberal managing trade in conditions that move perilously close to taking advantage of slave conditions, slave labour conditions. Not so much in India, but certainly in China. How does a progressive liberal address the consequences of globalization in that light?

“We want to benefit from the exponential growth of the Chinese economy but we do not want to be complicit in the sustained, serial, structural abuse of labour. There’s no question, since I’m a human rights teacher. I teach the human rights of international trade all the time. That’s one issue that bothers me.

“But that’s not the only one. The other one that bothers me is you’ve got the collapse of the Doha round, and you’ve got farmers not too far from where we’re talking facing competition from ludicrously oversubsidized American and European agriculture, while they’re going to the wall. The same thing that’s driving Canadian farmers to the wall would be driving West African cotton farmers to the wall, right?

“This is the world we’re in. Canada has to speak for a fairer global trading order. It’s much more important than any overseas development assistance. If we could get a Doha round that really did count agricultural subsidies and really did get us into fairer markets, I think this would be better for the Canadian farmer, but it would also be better for West African producers.
“What can we do, to get back to your original question, about Chinese labour conditions, in the short term, to be blunt, is not much. I always like to tell the truth; I wish we could do more. We have to put our faith in the courage of Chinese trade unionists, Chinese activists, international human rights activists who are raising the cost to western business of depending on slave labour, but we have to ultimately put our faith in what I’m sure is slowly happening, which is that China will move out of low wage slave labour up the international division of labour, and higher, because that’s what happens. It doesn’t go on forever because the comparative advantage disappears.

“So, as you know, as the prime minister of Canada, I would want to promote trade with China, partly because I don’t want to be as dependent on the American markets as we have been. And I want to work particularly with this unused potential we have, which is that we have a million people who speak the Chinese language - all these incredibly successful and dynamic entrepreneurs. They’re Canada’s ace in the hole. Not our natural resources. They’re the unused ace in the hole in relation to China.

“But as a prime minister who believes in human rights, I want to sit down with the Chinese and say, `Do you really want to build your prosperity on slavery? I don’t think so.’ I don’t want to mince my words with the Chinese, but you know, let’s remember that this is also a great civilization and a proud civilization, and you don’t give them little western lectures about human rights.

“The other thing you have to remember is that the biggest single human rights advance of the last 15 years has been the rising real income of the Chinese people. If you look at the numbers - 500 million human beings are out of poverty, are out of absolute poverty, over the last 15 years, and that’s because of free trade and economic growth in India and China. So if you’re going to have a conversation with the Chinese, you’ve got to understand that this is a complicated issue. Capitalism has done miraculously good things in China, as well as bad things.

“The other issue is religious freedom. I feel very uncomfortable going to China and talking about an economic agenda that neglects to say that we don’t think it’s right that people shouldn’t be able to pray in peace. Any group - Falun Fong, Baptists, Muslims, anybody. And the Chinese have every right to bring up the human rights deficiencies in this country, which are obvious and glaring, and too many to mention.”