The Art Of Peace Requires Us To See The World Through The Eyes Of Our Enemies
Note: This article is adapted from a speech I delivered on October 27, 2017 in Corinthos, Greece, at a conference commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution.
The year 2017 is not only the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution. It is also the 70th anniversary of the “Doomsday Clock”, which was established by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
For the last two years, the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock stayed set at three minutes before the hour, the closest it had been to midnight since the early 1980s. In 2017, however, the Science and Security Board finds the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent. The Doomsday Clock is now at two and a half minutes to midnight.
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.”
Today, the United States, Russia and the other nuclear powers possess enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over. The U.S. alone possesses a staggering 6,800 nuclear warheads. Now, in blatant violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States has embarked on a $1 trillion ‘modernization’ program. This program began not under Donald Trump, but under Barack Obama, who began his presidency with a lofty vow to rid the world of the existential nuclear threat.
Experts believe that America’s so-called nuclear weapons ‘modernization’ program will increase the temptation to employ them in a first strike, and will precipitate a new nuclear arms race.
In July of this year, sensing that the U.S. government is taking us down a disastrous path, 122 states negotiated a treaty calling for a complete ban on these monstrous weapons of mass destruction. To its great shame, my country, Canada, which does not possess nuclear weapons and has no plan to develop them, boycotted the negotiations over a nuclear weapons ban. That is precisely what the Trump administration wanted Canada to do, and Canada obliged.
For two years, the world has been led to believe that Canada’s young, telegenic Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is a real progressive. Since Trump came to power, many in the mainstream media have gone so far as to lionize Justin Trudeau as the antidote to Trump’s reckless belligerence, racism and misogyny.
But the Trudeau government’s indefensible boycott of the negotiations over a nuclear weapons ban should dispel any suggestion that Trudeau might be our saviour. On the contrary, Trudeau’s government has proven itself to be, to borrow the term of Vladimir Putin, a “vassal” of the United States government.
There is a mountain of evidence to support this charge.
Exhibit 1: When Donald Trump ascended to the Presidency, he repeatedly complained that other members of NATO were expending inadequate sums on their militaries. Trump’s complaints ignored the reality that combined military spending by NATO members vastly exceeded the total military expenditures of Russia and China combined. In fact, America alone spends more than twice as much on its military as Russia and China spend together.
How did the Trudeau government react to Trump’s complaints about military spending? Within six months of Trump taking office, Canada’s new foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, announced a 70% increase in Canada’s military spending. This included a commitment to purchase 88 advanced fighters to replace Canada’s fleet of 77 CF-18 fighter jets. This commitment was substantially higher than the 65 new jets that Canada’s previous Conservative government had planned to purchase. Canada will almost certainly purchase these 88 advanced fighters from an American military contractor, as it has in the past.
The explanation Chrystia Freeland gave for her government’s massive increase in military spending bordered on the comical. According to Minister Freeland, Canada has been able to count on the powerful U.S. military to provide a protective shield since the end of the Second World War, but the United States’ turn inwards under Donald Trump requires a new Canadian approach to defend liberal democracies.
“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella,” Freeland gravely intoned, “would make us a client state.”
By swiftly capitulating to Trump’s demand that Canada increase its military spending, the Trudeau government left little doubt that Canada is already a “client state” of the U.S.
The evidence of Canada’s subservience to American foreign and security policies does not end there.
After Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, Canada has the world’s third largest proven oil reserves. These massive reserves lie primarily beneath a vast, pristine Boreal forest in northern Alberta, often referred to as the ‘tar sands.’ To extract oil from the tar sands, oil companies destroy huge tracts of forest and contaminate enormous quantities of fresh water. I have been to this region three times and have seen with my own eyes the toxic wasteland being created by Canada’s oil industry.
Where does all of this dirty oil go? Ninety-eight percent of Canada’s oil and gas exports go to the United States. Indeed, Canada sells more petroleum to the United States than all OPEC countries combined.
Moreover, Canadian foreign policy is virtually identical to that of the United States. Despite their severe and long-standing human rights abuses, the United States enthusiastically supports the Saudi autocracy, Egypt’s dictator and Israel’s apartheid regime. So too does Canada. Indeed, like the United States government, the Trudeau government has continued to allow billions of dollars of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia even as a Saudi-led coalition has committed well-documented war crimes in Yemen.
Like the United States, Canada supports a coup regime in the Honduras but vilifies the democratically elected government of Venezuela. Recently, Canada sanctioned officials in the government of Nicolas Maduro. The Trudeau government announced these sanctions a few weeks after the U.S. imposed similar sanctions on Maduro’s government.
The pretext given by Trudeau’s government for sanctions on Venezuela was that President Maduro has allegedly committed attacks on “fundamental democratic rights.” Yet Trudeau’s government has authorized billions of dollars of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, arguably the most anti-democratic regime on earth. Moreover, Trudeau has failed to suspend those sales despite compelling evidence that Canadian-made weapons have been used by the Saudi regime to crush dissent among the country’s minority Shia population.
Like the United States, Canada participated in the bombardment of Libya, and did so despite secret warnings from the Canadian military that Libya would descend into civil war.
Like the United States, Canada sent forces to fight and die in Afghanistan long after Al Qaeda had been eradicated from the country. After that disastrous engagement, dozens of traumatized Canadian veterans took their own lives.
And like the United States, Canada has adopted an increasingly hostile posture toward Russia. Indeed, hostility toward Russia is a defining characteristic of Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland.
Chrystia Freeland has roots in the Western Ukraine and is an ardent Ukrainian nationalist. Recently, evidence emerged that Chrystia Freeland’s paternal grandfather, Michael Chomiak, had been the editor of a Nazi newspaper in Poland during the Second World War, at the very time that Hitler was liquidating millions of Jews in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. The revelations about her grandfather were quite an embarrassment to Freeland because she had previously praised her grandfather as a champion of freedom and democracy.
Initially, Freeland denied the allegations against her grandfather. She claimed that Russia was attempting to destroy her reputation because of her support for Ukrainian nationalism. She even claimed that Russia was trying to destabilize Canadian democracy: “I don’t think it’s a secret,” she told reporters after announcing a two-year extension of a Canadian military training mission in Ukraine. “American officials have publicly said and even Angela Merkel has publicly said that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada.”
At first, the Canadian corporate media dutifully supported Freeland’s false claim that Russia had launched a disinformation campaign against Freeland. But it soon became clear that the allegations against Freeland’s grandfather were true. In March of this year, Postmedia, Canada’s largest media conglomerate, published an article entitled “Chrystia Freeland’s granddad was indeed a Nazi collaborator – so much for Russian disinformation.” Indeed, it is now clear that Freeland knew that her grandfather was a Nazi collaborator long before incriminating information emerged in early 2017.
Still, Chrystia Freeland’s suppression of her family history may well be the least of the Canadian government’s sins when it comes to the Ukraine.
The current government of the Ukraine came to power after a U.S.-backed coup that resulted in the overthrow of a democratically elected, pro-Russian President. That the U.S. government orchestrated this coup can scarcely be denied.
In February 2014, an audio recording emerged of a conversation between Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, and the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. In the recording, the two can be heard plotting unambiguously to replace the democratically elected government of the Ukraine with their preferred, U.S.-oriented candidate. Subsequently, Nuland effectively admitted that the recording was authentic.
Even worse, the coup regime of Ukrainian oligarch Petro Poroshenko had clear ties from the outset to Ukrainian neo-Nazis and fascists. Poroshenko’s government integrated officials from the extreme right-wing Svoboda and Right Sector parties. These groups revere wartime Nazi collaborators and pogromists. They openly advocate that no Russian language be taught in Ukrainian schools, that citizenship is only for those who pass Ukrainian language and culture exams, that only ethnic Ukrainians may adopt Ukrainian orphans and that new passports must identify their holders’ ethnicity — be it Ukrainian, Pole, Russian, Jew or other.
How did Canada’s government react to these deeply disturbing features of the Ukrainian coup regime? In September 2014, the government of Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper invited Petro Poroshenko to speak in Canada’s Parliament, an honour accorded to the leaders of only 22 states since 1939. In a packed Canadian Parliament, Poroshenko received a standing ovation.
Since then, Canada has sent troops to the Ukraine to train Ukrainian military personnel. It has also provided funding and equipment to the coup regime’s forces. In addition, the government of Justin Trudeau has imposed sanctions on Russia.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea after the violent coup that toppled the Ukraine’s pro-Russian but democratically elected President, Viktor Yanukovych. Prior to the annexation, a referendum was held in Crimea in which 97% of Crimeans voted for integration into the Russian Federation. The turnout was 83%. Trudeau’s reaction to the annexation was to describe Vladimir Putin as a “bully” whom he would “confront” and to impose economic sanctions on Russia.
It is instructive to compare Trudeau’s reaction to the annexation of Crimea to his government’s approach to Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. When Israel annexed East Jerusalem, it did not hold a referendum among the Palestinian population. Indeed, if such a vote were held today, it is virtually certain that Palestinians would vote overwhelmingly for independence from Israel.
Yet the Trudeau government regards Putin as a ‘bully” whose country deserves to be sanctioned, while it considers Israel’s government, which by Canada’s own admission has illegally annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as Canada’s “best friend and ally.”
Ultimately, it cannot plausibly be maintained that Canada’s foreign policy is driven by the protection of human rights. For decades, the Canadian government has supported far too many human rights abusers to have any credibility in that regard.
There is, however, another hypothesis which explains almost perfectly Canada’s approach to human rights on the international stage: namely, Canada routinely denounces those abusers whom the U.S. government deems to be disobedient while coddling those abusers whom the U.S. government deems to be useful. Indeed, obedience to the American empire is the defining characteristic of Canadian foreign policy. This is as true under Justin Trudeau as it was under his widely reviled Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper.
If humanity is to avoid the ultimate calamity of nuclear war, then we must revive the art of peace. The art of peace obliges us to see the world through the eyes of our enemies. It obliges us to exhibit empathy. Empathy does not necessarily denote agreement, but it does denote understanding.
It therefore behooves us to ask: what might the history of the past 100 years look like through the eyes of the Russian people?
A Russian might remember that the Soviet Union lost over 25 million of its own citizens – of whom the majority were civilians – to defeat the scourge of Nazism. The United States, by contrast, lost 407,000 soldiers and about 12,000 civilians.
A Russian might remember that the United States is the only country on earth to have used atomic weapons, and that it used them on two civilian targets in Japan at a time when Japan was on the verge of surrendering. A Russian would understand that the U.S. military incinerated two Japanese cities in order to intimidate the Soviet Union, and that no American official was punished for this unspeakable atrocity.
A Russian might remember that, in order to suppress socialism and democracy in southeast Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, the United States bombed into oblivion millions of civilians in North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, facilitated the massacre of up to 1,000,000 Indonesians, supported militarily and economically the apartheid regime of South Africa, helped to install and maintain in power murderous dictators in Cuba, Chile and Guatemala (among other Latin American states), and destroyed Iranian democracy.
A Russian might remember that the U.S. government actively supported Osama bin Laden in the war in Afghanistan and that the demise of the Soviet-backed Afghan regime led ultimately to the rise of the Taliban and the brutal oppression of the women of that devastated country.
A Russian might remember that, when the Soviet Union negotiated German reunification with the United States, the elder Bush promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand one inch eastward, but that NATO has now expanded to include numerous former members of the Warsaw Pact, including two states that border on Russia, Latvia and Estonia.
A Russian might remember that Western powers lavished support upon the drunkard Boris Yeltsin as Yeltsin presided over the pillaging of the Russian economy and a crushing decline in Russian living standards. A Russian might also remember that, to prevent the humiliated and impoverished Russian people from returning the Communist Party to power in 1996, the Clinton administration aggressively interfered in the Russian election and helped to ensure Yeltsin’s re-election.
And finally, a Russian might remember that today, the United States has active duty military troops stationed in nearly 150 countries, including numerous countries that border on Russia, whereas Russia has military bases in only 10 foreign states, none of which is situated in the Americas.
Seen through the eyes of the Russian people, the United States government and its allies must surely appear hyper-aggressive, imperialistic, contemptuous of international law and utterly indifferent to the most basic precepts of human decency.
Unless and until we in the West come to understand this, the Doomsday Clock will continue to approach humanity’s ultimate demise.