Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jan. 24: Canadian Democracy..R.I.P.

No, I'm not exaggerating. And Canada is not the only democracy that is dead. Let's take a look at it's last breath.

When Britain declared war in 1914, under the law of time Canada was at war, too. That is not as dramatic as it might sound because while the law required Canada to be officially at war, it did not require Canada to take any part in that war. In fact, it was a pretty good deal for Canada, but not so hot for Britain.

Canada did not have to go to the help of Britain but - if Canada were attacked, Britain automatically was required to go to war for the defence of Canada. And Britain had been losing its enthusiasm for having Canada as a colony for that price. In fact, it began losing its enthusiasm as early as the 1870s.

That's when  it was becoming obvious that a united Germany could be a serious threat to Britain as it developed its industrial power. If that happened, Britain would need a very powerful ally. That's when the British looked back on the American revolution with a great deal of regret. The US was just the ally Britain desperately need. If you read the Sherlock Holmes stories, you may remember the scene in which the great detective, on meeting an American, shakes him warmly by the hand, talks of how he regrets their little misunderstanding of 1775, and tells of his hope that the English-speaking people of the world will again unite.

The message was racist, of course. The British of the time were profoundly racist, particularly in the upper class. It was a racism that flourished for some years after World War 2, in which English-speaking people were considered, as Hitler's "aryans" had been, superior to all other people. But there was a problem in developing a US relationship.

Britain was obligated to defend Canada.

In the whole world, there was only one country that could attack Canada. That one country was the United States. And the danger was not theoretical.  The US had invaded in 1812, It sponsored attacks on Canada after the US civil war. It officially objected to having Canadian troops based n western Canada. And, in 1903,  British, Canadian and American delegates had to deal with a US claim that it was entitled to annex a strategic part of Canada along the Alaska border.

The three sides were due to vote on it. The US president warned then that if the vote went against the US claim, US troops would be sent in. The British government was close to panic. The last thing it needed was to go to war against the US to defend a colony which was no longer of great value to it. And so the vote was held.

Canada voted for the Canadian side. Britain and the US voted for the US side. Some fifteen years later, Britain would make sure such a risk would never occur again. It abandoned the obligation for Canada to be at war when Britain was. At the same stroke of a pen, it abandoned its obligation to defend Canada. And so Canada was given the right to declare war on its own.

Among the politicians, and in many history books, this became a great gain for Canada. And so it was. And credit for it was given to the Canadians who had died fighting for it in World War 1 - a claim that would have surprised those soldiers because nobody ever told them that was what they were fighting for. We still hear that every Nov. 11.  But, no. We got the right to declare war on our own because Britain wanted to get rid of us.

Still, it was a major gain. No country can call itself a democracy unless its people, through their elected representatives, have the right to declare or to not to declare war. Nor is this any minor affair. It is probably the most important decision any democracy has to make, and one so dangerous that it can be impossible to predict the extent of the damage and death it may cause.

Today, Canada is at war. Canadian aircraft are firing rockets at people in a foreign country. The rockets are directed by Canadian soldiers on the ground.  People on the other side shoot at our soldiers. Our soldiers shoot at them. Harper says this is not a war. So he has not taken it to Parliament.

Our buddy in this is the United States, a country which also rejoices in the right to declare war on its own, through its elected representatives. Care to guess the last time the US declared war?

1941

Since then it has killed millions in what were, correctly, called wars. But they were never declared by the elected representatives of the people. Add to that the ones all over the world that we have never heard about, that are carried out by drones, special ops.... There have been at least hundreds of them, many right here in the Americas. Our news media seem  to have taken all this pretty casually.

Every Jan. 7, Americans remember the treachery, savagery, of those sneaky Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbour without declaring war. In fact, Japan  considered it a point of honour to declare war before the attack, and it tried to do so. But failed. And now we know that treachery and savagery can come from our side, too.

Nobody knows how big this war can get. Nobody knows how far it can go. For fifty years, the US has been showing the world that it cannot fight short wars - and usually can't win them. This war could go on for years, killing thousands of Canadians for----what? To preserve freedom? Come off it. Harper and Obama and that whole, wretched lot are slobbering over the death of the king of Saudi Arabia, the world greatest dictator, the man who beheaded more people than anybody, and who denied women the most basic rights. Harper and Obama don't give a damn about freedom or human rights.

We are also in a world of very quickly changing alliances. It is possible, very possible that this war will expand into a world war - and this one in a world full of nuclear weapons. Then the deaths will move into the tens of millions - and quite possibly, much more.

Why are we in it? Skip the bullshit, Harper. What does this war have to do with Canada?

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What is an act of war? It is a violent or forceful interference in the affairs of another people. And, yes, firing rockets and shooting at people comes in that category. So was helping Cuban rebels to attack at the Bay of Pigs. So was the blowing up of a Cuban civilian airliner by an American agent. Trade embargoes and sanctions - such as those against Russia and Iran - are acts of war.

Once upon a time, going to war was the most solemn decision a nation could make. That's why democracies all made the decision only with the consent of the representatives of the people. Now, we're lucky even to get informed of it. This presence in battle of Canadian special ops is almost certainly not the first time it has happened. We are so closely tied to US special ops that it would be astonishing if they have not gone to war on other occasions. Nobody in our news media has thought to find out about this. Nobody in our news media has thought to tell us what the word 'war' means - so we can't know when Harper is lying to us.

A fundamental principle of democracy has been taken from us. And it's not the first time. Harper has been fond of lumping all sorts of laws into one bill - one bill so long that MPs, far from having any chance to debate it, many not even have enough time to read it.

Our democracy has been destroyed. It's been destroyed before us we stood with our faces hanging out.

Where the hell are our news media?

Where the hell are the Canadian people?


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