That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Caution: foreign policy principles at work

Recently, Harperite Ottawa finds itself frequently pulled between opposing forces: the force of international responsibility and expectation, versus the inertial force of the Reform Party’s anti-world, shoot-em-all, god’ll-sort-em-out base.

We can be sure Harper and friends would love nothing more than to indulge the latter force whenever possible, but they know they will lose all hope of support in moderate, suburban southwestern Ontario if they go all John Bolton on us. So they have to accede to international expectation once in a while, and they find it very tricky business.

The Khadr saga is an example of how this can work. Obama’s administration wants few things more than Guantanamo shut down, its inmates repatriated, or even transferred to whatever country will take them, to serve their time (should these inmates ever be convicted, of course…). The end goal of a mothballed Camp X-Ray is noble but well-nigh impossible with a labyrinthine legal limbo, the fairy-tale “combatant” status of the inmates, myriad obstructionist forces in the U.S. and at the state level, and with many countries proving less than warm to the idea of taking “enemy combatants” into their justice systems.

Washington wants Khadr out of their hair and back in Canada. Britain, among all other Western nations with citizens formerly occupying Gitmo cells, have openly and determinedly repatriated their detainees, and it’s expected Canada would do the same – not only for the maple leaves on Khadr’s passport, but for the fact he was a juvenile and shouldn’t be locked up in the first place. Afraid of embarrassing himself in front of his Reformist base, though, Harper has gone to none of the lengths of the British or Australians – he has allowed the farcical military tribunal in Gitmo to run its course, and has appeared cool at best to Khadr’s fortune, or to the principle of protecting juveniles from what amounts to unlawful detention and prosecution.

Indulging in Reformist ideological baubles, though, runs the risk of mortally offending moderates and potential new votes in Canada, and it leads to the blocking up of the process of dismantling Gitmo, which Obama’s circle can’t like one bit. So Ottawa’s had to acquiesce to the Americans, while appearing not to have, or not to care.

Naturally, the outcome of such double-mouthedness is an apparent (and familiar) discombobulated dishonesty.

Tories under fire over Khadr plea deal

Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, repeatedly said before, during and after Khadr’s hearing in front of a U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that Canada wasn’t involved in any plea agreement.

But NDP MP Wayne Marston said the document shows that either Cannon doesn’t know what’s going on in his own department or was disingenuous in his statements to the House of Commons about the deal.

Appearing not to know something is the strongest defence that Ottawa makes for itself when it appears to have pursued and advocated mutually-conflicting ends. The public relations component to managing the exposure of double-standards and dishonesties seems to be: denial is good, redaction is better, and if the heat gets turned up too high, remember – the Liberals did something quite similar back in nineteen-ninety-x.

If Harper is too “principled” in his foreign policy to admonish the prosecution of a child soldier, and a Canadian one at that, at least we could see him leading from the front and being clear about the need to repatriate, and why. Not to feign an aloofness of the very sort that gets us ignored and whispered about in the halls of the United Nations.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

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