I would rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.– Will Rogers
Frank A. Pelaschuk
With the disappearance and death, likely murder, of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, last seen entering a Saudi embassy in Istanbul October 2, 2018, it would seem the world is finally ready to face Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. It is, however, one thing to face the outrages and another to act. Standing in the sidelines blustering and tut-tutting disapproval is totally inadequate. Western democracies must take a stand: either they believe in human rights, including the right to speak out, or they admit that while supporting such rights in principle when possible, they will not do so at any cost, especially when that cost is economic self-interest. In other words, why not just admit what we all know and apparently embrace: human rights is a honey if it doesn’t cost money.
So where does that place Justin Trudeau the touchy-feely, the self-declared (if equivocal) feminist, the world leader who readily and easily cries on cue (especially when there’s a camera to take note), who offers the less than forceful condemnation of the rogue Saudi state? For myself, there is no surprise. I expect less of him because, apart from his hypocritical strutting rodomontade on electoral reform and promises of making human rights a priority, he consistently delivers less. So, it’s hardly surprising when weighing three thousand Canadian jobs and $15 billion invested in the Light-Armoured Vehicle (LAV) trade against suppression of rights, imprisonment, torture and murder of people we don’t know and who whose votes don’t count that human rights takes a back seat. It did under Harper who brokered the deal and continues under Trudeau who utters the banalities to which he is prone, empty words and no action with the added side benefit for him of earning the praise of Neo-liberals for his “pragmatism”. I can think of a more accurate word.
On Friday, October 19, 2018, the Saudis, after weeks of denial and silence, had finally admitted that the journalist had died at their hands with this fantastical offering with changes in the days that followed: Khashoggi, in the embassy for the purpose of picking up documents allowing him to remarry with proof of divorce, got into a fight, the reasons undisclosed, and somehow died. The admission came about within days of a Washington Post story of US intelligence intercepting a Saudi report outlining a plan to kidnap a prominent journalist and the release of videos of “suspected” Saudi “assassins” entering and leaving Turkey within hours of Khashoggi entering the embassy. The admission made, the absence of a body and the image of a respected journalist engaging in fisticuffs stretches all credulity. Even so the Saudis had detained 15 individuals and fired two ministers sealing the admission that the Saudi embassy had indeed, as the world suspected, become an execution chamber perhaps on orders of the youthful prince, Mohammed bin Salman, widely praised as a moderate reformer when he took the reins of power over a year ago and quickly proving himself anything but.
While foreign minister Chrystia Freeland had been mildly critical of Saudi Arabia’s record regarding the treatment of women in the recent past, evoking an over-the-top response by the Saudis, Trudeau’s recent assertions of confronting Saudi Arabia “over many years” for its human rights abuses is patently absurd evoking memories of the Harper regime that shamelessly and routinely resorted to historical rewriting. If Trudeau was outraged, if he has “confronted” the human rights abusing state, he kept it to himself and in the liberal family and he certainly offered little in the way of concrete action that he had done so. In fact, we have evidence of Trudeau in full hypocritical mode and I’m not talking about his ethics which are extremely fluid, but of his behaviour regarding the LAV deal.
Before he became prime minister, Trudeau’s liberals were critical of the Harper regime deal but, once in office, it was he who finalized it responding to critics it had become a done deal under Harper and that his hands were tied. Absolutely untrue. It was Trudeau’s signing off on the deal that allowed for the movement of the Canadian made LAVs to the destination country often through a circuitous route so as to enable him to claim that he did not break Canada’s own guidelines regarding international trade with human rights abusers. While that, too, is utter hogwash, such behaviour is a clear indicator of how willing Trudeau and gang are to practice deception. Trudeau then went on to claim that he had to complete the deal because breaking it would ruin Canada’s reputation as a trusted broker. Again, utter hogwash. The Dutch had no qualms about breaking a contract with the Saudis over human rights abuses and Canada’s Jean Chretien, without even the pretence of anything as noble, had no difficulty breaking a military helicopter contract brokered by Brian Mulroney simply because it had been brokered by Brian Mulroney. Canada seems to have survived the petty and costly debacle and the Netherlands appears to have weathered the storm with its reputation not only intact but possibly enhanced. Of course, there are always penalties when such deals go wrong but the question remains: should progressive democracies trade with human rights abusers? Ignoring our own laws regarding such with flimsy alibis is inexcusable. After signing off on the deal, Trudeau said he would in the future not commit to similar agreements with human rights abusers. With nothing in the horizon and nothing to lose, that was an easy promise.
The LAV deal, which I, and those more knowledgeable, have opposed from the Harper era, cements forever my impression of Trudeau as a fair-weather, self-interested, human rights poseur. He is an actor, he is a liar and a phony, he is untrustworthy.
As of this writing, the entire Canada-Saudi Arabia relationship is under scrutiny according to Chrystia Freeland. That’s nice but it means absolutely nothing. On CBC’s Power and Politics Oct. 22, 18, with the Trudeau regime facing increasingly harsh criticism and demands that the LAV deal be canceled, liberal MP Andrew Leslie stated that the government would not be rushed into making a hasty judgement, that they were in the process of “gathering the facts”! Really? The facts have been known for years. Saudi Arabia persecutes, prosecutes, imprisons, executes and just abuses its citizens. There is nothing more to know now that the Saudis themselves have finally admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was dead and that the Saudi embassy in Istanbul was, in fact, a death chamber for Jamal Khashoggi. With its many variant stories regarding the journalist’s death, nothing is plausible with the Saudi explanations but this: Khashoggi was murdered in a Saudi embassy simply because he was a critic of the prince and the state.
Where is Canada on this?
Why is he so hesitant? Canada has joined the US in passing the Magnitsky Act which, while initially meant to target Russia, allows for sanctions against any human rights abusing nation profiting from corrupt practices. What is there to investigate? Trudeau knows exactly what the world knows. Saudi Arabia is a rogue state.
But, according to Leslie, Trudeau and the liberals need more.
Trudeau’s lasting legacy will not be that of human rights crusader but rather as crusading drug lord. He is the smarmy Snake Oil salesman, a pro-business slut of fluid ethics believing in nothing but the main chance. He has casually turned his back on those voters who believed him on electoral reform for which no one was calling but which he had loudly and grandiosely declared would make 2015 the last first-past-the-post election. He has also lobbied fiercely and intensely to see the passage of his drug bill for which the nation is ill-prepared. This was one promise he would, could, and did keep even though there are, as yet, no reliable means of testing for driving under the influence of marijuana.
That is inexcusable and unconscionable.
Yes, Trudeau is the world’s newest and favourite Drug Czar. Opportunists and users are ecstatic. He could have found a better way to make a greater difference. He ignored critics and signalled trade was more important than human rights. He had the opportunity to possibly save lives but in signing the LAV deal placed lives in jeopardy. Doing the right thing costs at times but human rights around the world would have been all the better for it. Doing the wrong thing also costs. Evidently Trudeau weighed the consequences to him and opted for the cheap victory of the cheap entry into the history books.
People will likely die because of his failure to cancel the LAV deal. They will certainly die because of the Trudeau vanity drug project for which Canada is ill-prepared.
Maybe I’m just too old. It’s bad enough having a one-time two-bit drug dealer as premier of Ontario. I’m just not ready for a prime minister who can now add the title of Drug Czar to his résumé rather than that of Human Rights crusader.
But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.
They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin