Saturday, August 23, 2008

Alexandre Trudeau's Racism of Low Expectations

"The Pashtun [people] have extremely different values than ours, values we may not agree with in any case, but it's not our business to try and teach them lessons with weapons," says the celebrity hipster Alexandre Trudeau.

Rubbish on both counts.

The latter assertion is too easy to dismiss, but it needs to be dismissed anyway: Canada is not trying to "teach them lessons with weapons." In just the Pashtun-majority province of Kandahar, Canada is rebuilding a hydroelectric dam, funding the construction of a 100-kilometre highway between Spin Boldak and Kandahar City, funding infrastructure and training for the revival of Kandahar's vineyards, pouring millions into job-creation and alternatives to the opium economy, and pouring more millions into the eradication of polio. Already, Canada has put 5,000 students (mostly women) through basic literacy courses, and trained 170 teachers to keep the work underway, and we've begun prenatal and antenatal care program for Afghan mothers. And that's just a tiny, brief sampling of Canada's "business" among the Pashtuns.

As for Trudeau's disgracefully reactionary and defeatist statement "Afghanistan should be left to its own devices," that is not something that any self-respecting liberal would ever say, and it is most certainly not what the Afghan people say, and it is definitely not what the Pashtun people say.

More than a dozen major public opinion polls, national and regional surveys and focus-group studies clearly demonstrate that Trudeau's opinion is hostile and contrary to Afghan opinion. In this poll, perhaps the most extensive of its kind, 83 per cent cent of Afghans reported a favorable view of even the bomb-happy Americans, and 93 per cent gave favourable ratings to the United Nations' efforts in Afghanistan (Canada's military contribution is part of a UN mission, let's not forget).

The Pashtuns do not have "extremely different values" than Canadians, and even if they did, so what? They clearly have "different values" than Alexandre Trudeau's, mind you: Their political values appear to be more progressive, and more liberal. Given a chance to vote, they trounce the Islamist parties at the polls, and come out in droves to vote for the Red Shirts.

If the news media were to leave Alexandre Trudeau to his "own devices," his opinions would count for nothing, because he has no devices of his own. The only reason he gets attention is that he had a famous dad, who is probably rolling in his grave.

More on the Canadian form of the "racism of low expectations" here.


Blogger Allan said...

Any word on his brother's position on this? It would be interesting to know, considering he's the one really getting into the think of things, although the answer could be disappointing.

That said, I'd still take a Trudeau over a Harper anytime.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

"I'd still take a Trudeau over a Harper anytime."

I guess it would depend on which Trudeau we're talking about, but Harper has been an absolute failure on the Afghan front.

6:37 PM  
Blogger bp said...

Justin was behind Dion all the way at the convention, if I remember correctly, and Dion came perilously close to forcing us out of Kandahar as a political wedge issue. That doesn't necessarily mean anything about Justin's opinion on Afghanistan, but I have my suspicions.

"Harper has been an absolute failure on the Afghan front."

No doubt. So have Mackay and Bernier as foreign ministers. I've got hope for Emerson though.

Hillier for PM!

7:29 PM  
Blogger MK said...

A couple of years ago Alex Trudeau published a notorious article full of endless praise for Castro in The Toronto Star.

I remember a really nice guy, a lawyer, who lived next door to me arguing that Cubans didn't share our values. Individual rights meant nothing to them because they identified themselves personally with the group. (And, I guess that wasn't an individual decision).

9:22 AM  
Blogger OregonGuy said...

Thank you for defending the ideals found within the Helsinki Accords.

I believe that we--you and I, your government and ours--have a responsibility to defend the human rights of those whose human rights are under attack.

When my neighbor's house is on fire, do I worry about his willingness to "share my values"? Or, do I act on the basis of my values?


9:26 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

"When my neighbor's house is on fire, do I worry about his willingness to 'share my values'?"

That's straight to the heart of it, comrade Oregon Guy.

Good man.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Kurt Langmann said...

oregonguy is firstclass.

9:37 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Terry et al: I'm not criticizing or being pro-Harper, who I have little time for, but can you explain how he has been an absolute failure on the Afghan front? I was surprised to read that. cheers

8:43 AM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Terry et al: I'm not criticizing or being pro-Harper, who I have little time for, but can you explain how he has been an absolute failure on the Afghan front? I was surprised to read that. cheers

8:44 AM  
Blogger bp said...

Vildechaye: One of THE most important fronts in this war is the information war--the war to keep the public informed on the issues, challenges, and progress going on in Afghanistan.

The Harper government has been a total bust on this; Harper himself has never taken ownership of the war the way a Prime Minister committing troops to the country should.

The only guy to speak about the war in the past couple years in an accurate and passionate way was Rick Hillier, and then he was pilloried for stepping outside his bounds.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...


If there is one thing that approaches a sort of consensus, right across the political spectrum (including Tories) about all this it is that Harper has fumbled the Afghan file in a way that is usually put this way: He has "failed to explain the mission" to Canadians, or words to that effect. Harper is also a control freak: He has gone out of his way to prevent everyone else in his government (CIDA, line agencies, etc.) from adequately explaining what they're doing in Afghanistan.

The Canadian Forces has been most open with the news media, right up to Rick Hillier, without whom the cause would have had no effective champion at all. Getting information from Ottawa about all the massive efforts Canada is making in Afghanistan is like pulling teeth. You'd be lucky to get a returned call.

Harper has also tended to "explain" or defend the mission in the most narrow, realpolitik terms - it's about the War on Terror, it's all about ensuring that terrorists who might attack Canada have no safe haven in Afghanistan, and that kind of thing. This doesn't exactly resonate with ordinary Canadians, who tend to have a generous and liberal outlook on world affairs and humanitarian engagement.

Even worse, Harper does tend to interpret the Afghan cause solely through the prism of his own allegiances with the Bush White House, and in so doing has fed the hippie hysteria and the dumbed down Linda McQuaig version of geopolitics.

This further clouds the public's understanding of what's really going on here - this is a UN mission, we're fighting under ISAF's banner, and our marching orders come from the Bonn Agreement and the Afghanistan Compact, which the US was involved in articulating , yes - but so was Iran, Turkey, and about a dozen other Muslim-majority countries.

If Canada was in Afghanistan only to serve American interests, I would be one of the loudest, fiercest and most unforgiving "troops out" voices in this country.

Further - and this isn't meant as a criticism of Harper per se, because, to be fair, he is not a liberal, and not a "progressive" as such - he fact remains that because he is mainly paleoconservative on these questions, he is incapable of defending the mission in the internationalist, liberal and progressive language Canadians use when we're addressing these issues. Harper just doesn't speak that language. He doesn't know how, and when he tries, it's unconvincing. It was no mistake that he had to turn to a Pearsonian Liberal (John Manley) to get the Afghan file back on track last year.

Ultimately, I don't think Harper really believes in the Afghan cause any more than Jack Layton does.

If the "America-first" faction persists and prevails in the White House, the cause may be lost. I don't trust Biden, but I see he has used the term "Marshall Plan" to describe what Afghanistan needs, and you know where I first heard that term used in the Afghan context? It was during a private gathering with Stephane Dion last year. Dion used the term. So maybe there's hope. But I don't trust the Americans to see this thing through.

Maybe with Bush gone, Canada's Liberals will grow and spine on this issue, and become an effective force - either in Opposition or in government - for progress in Afghanistan. I don't know. But the NDP has been utterly useless, and the Liberals have been all over the map, and that hasn't helped make Harper any more effective on the Afghan front, either.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The young Trudeau seems to have inherited his rich daddy's Marxist wannbe ideas and combined that with his mother's high IQ.

Stunningly stunned outcome.

1:31 PM  

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