December 14, 2004
Bush evoking World War II
by David Orchard
"Evoking World War II, Bush prods Canadians," read the headlines after the U.S. president’s recent visit to Canada. Mr. Bush used the keynote speech of his Canadian visit to "stiffen Ottawa’s resolve," read one commentary and, seeking to rally support for his position in Iraq, Mr. Bush quoted a 1942 speech by Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King: "We must also go out and meet the enemy before he reaches our shores. We must defeat him before he attacks us, before our cities are laid to waste."
Listening to Mr. Bush use this quotation in defence of his actions in Iraq one can only be struck by incredulity.
Mackenzie King delivered his message in response to the actions of Nazi Germany -- at the time the greatest military power on earth. It had invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland, committing atrocities later held to be war crimes.
King was urging his countrymen to stand up to the bully of Europe, to come to the aid of Great Britain which, battling under the leadership of Winston Churchill, stood almost alone against the might of the Third Reich.
Where is the parallel today? The U.S. is by far the world’s most powerful nation, with an arsenal and military budget roughly equal to that of the rest of the world combined. In comparative and absolute terms U.S. power vastly exceeds that of World War II Germany. It is the U.S. that has invaded a succession of countries in recent decades, in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia -- leaving six million killed and wounded in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos alone.
Under Prime Minister Diefenbaker Canada said no to the U.S. request to send troops to Vietnam. And history has proved our country correct in that decision.
So what exactly is it that Canadians are being "prodded" by Mr. Bush to do today?
U.S. forces have attacked and are now occupying Iraq. Helping the U.S. in its military occupation would be the opposite of what Mr. King was urging -- he was calling for resistance to a powerful, armed occupier that, in blatant contravention of international law, had invaded several countries and clearly planned to invade more, using the raw materials of each occupied nation to fuel its war machine.
Can any one suggest that Iraq in 2003, essentially defenceless as has now been universally accepted -- under sanctions for ten years, incapable of even feeding its own people, was about to invade the U.S. or Canada to gain control of our resources? Is it not the U.S.A. which is openly seizing Iraq’s oil fields? And, contrary to the pre-war hype, it is the U.S., not Iraq, that possesses, and is using, weapons of mass destruction -- waging a low-intensity nuclear war in Iraq using depleted uranium weaponry, which will leave a legacy of radioactive contamination for generations to come.
In the mid-1990s I had the chance to visit a hospital in central Vietnam for those deformed by U.S. aerial spraying of Agent Orange and other chemical weapons. It is difficult to find words to describe the suffering involved, but Mr. Bush’s policy of using depleted uranium, helicopter gunships and B52 bombers to bring "liberty and democracy" to the Iraq brings back the full memory of their faces.
Mackenzie King’s invocations to resist tyranny would apply to those resisting foreign occupation and invasion, not to those advocating the conquest of small countries by larger ones.
Canada played a proud and unstinting role in defeating Nazi Germany. As the son of one who gave several years of her life to the fight against Hitler’s juggernaut I find offensive the idea that Canadians need to have their resolve "stiffened" in defence of liberty. It also does not square with the historical record. Canada was on the ground in that mighty conflict, which cost over 40 million lives, two years before the U.S. which only joined after it was attacked itself at Pearl Harbour in 1941.
The U.S. invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq are in flagrant violation of international law spelled out by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, the Charter of the United Nations, and numerous international treaties and conventions predating both -- which sanctions the use of force by a country on only two grounds: in self-defence against a direct or ongoing attack, or when authorized by the United Nations Security Council. Neither applies in Iraq. The vast majority of Canadians supported their government under Jean Chrétien in 2003, when it refused to participate in the assault on Iraq, as they did with John Diefenbaker’s refusal to go to Vietnam. Both Canadians and their government stood -- and stand today -- clearly on the side of international law.
International law is not some trifle to be overridden at the whim of any country. It is the very essence of how nations can live together without bloodshed and has been arrived at only through countless wars and untold agony. Without it we are back to the rule of the jungle.
If anything it is our resolve to defend the rule of international law which needs to be stiffened, not our willingness to sanction its breach.
David Orchard is the author of the bestseller, The Fight for Canada - Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism, and ran for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in 1998 and 2003. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel (306) 652-7095, E-mail: email@example.com