Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friends and Neighbours

"We love Canada. We support Canada. We have the opportunity to work with Canada in many contexts, bilaterally, multilaterally." P.J. Crowley, U.S. spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In a hostile world, whatever would we do, how could we cope, without help from our friends? Little wonder we rely on the goodwill of friends to offer sympathy and encouragement, and when it's possible, practical assistance to gain a goal.

Canada's official leader of the opposition and the leaders of the other opposition parties in Parliament, love to accuse the Conservative-led government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of following too closely in the footsteps of the United States.

Brazil's ambassador to the United Nations covertly helped Canada by whispering to other nation's delegations that Psst! a vote for Canada to secure a revolving Security Council seat is analogous to a vote for the United States; Canada being a U.S. proxy. Brazil forgot that Canada has allocated great sums of international aid to its Latin American cousins, doubtless.

And Portugal, that sadly bankrupt country; add moral bankruptcy to its reputation by gifting delegates to a trip to the Azores. Wealthy, cheapskate Canada? Well, it only gave out small bottles of made-in-Canada - from Canada-symbolic maple trees - maple syrup. A gesture.

Canada being the naif within this luminous gathering of worldly nations, not quite intuiting that grander gestures are anticipated to gain votes.

United Arab Emirates, irate that blackmail did not work in turning around Transport Canada's decision, ratified by the government of Canada, to disallow daily flights in and out of Canada for its two airlines, added the insult of refusing landing rights to Canada's top General and its Minister of Defence, to the injury of persuading its Arab/Muslim allies in the Organization of the Islamic Conference to blackball Canada.

Not that they needed bother, in fact.

Since, for the record, Canada has time and again supported Israel in its contentious disagreements with its neighbours, most of whom wager its disappearance, sooner rather than later, from the geography of the Middle East. Commiserating with the Prime Minister of Israel over the unjust treatment within UN bodies relating to the Turkish Gaza-aid ship. Permitting the Canadian Minister of Trade to crow about enhanced trade agreements with Israel.

Making no secret, none whatever, and in the most blatant way possible, that official Canada stands foursquare in support of Israel's right to exist as a sovereign, Jewish state. In a manner geared to be offensive to the Arab voting bloc. And then there's the European Union with its vastly disproportionate representation on the Security Council, both permanent and two-years' worth.

Voting overwhelmingly for Portugal, leaving Canada out in the cold.

But wait, there's more, quite a bit more. Canada's neighbour, upon whom she can always depend to be usefully and quietly behind-the-scenes-supportive - to the extent that Canada more or less takes it for granted that it is in the best interests of the United States to support Canada - kind of took a different tack this time around.

Who might have imagined? That U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice would advise her diplomatic cadres to sit on their hands, play mum.

It wasn't just that Canada - through stringent and dedicated lobbying felt it had secured voting agreement from no fewer than 135 UN member-states, verbally and in writing, feeling fairly confident that a seat would be won - thought it had subscribed to due diligence in lobbying. Figuring that its ongoing assistance to the United Nations in 'peacekeeping', and its huge treasury pledges to the developing world would all pay off handsomely in a revolving seat at the horseshoe table.

A rude surprise was yet in store, when a former UN-delegated U.S. diplomatic official blew the whistle on the Obama administration. Richard Grenell, formerly spokesman at the UN for the United States, revealed that Susan Rice not only did not become involved, as might be deemed normal, in assisting Canada in its pursuit of a Security Council seat, but went so far as to instruct American diplomats "to not get involved."

Mr. Grenell asserted that one of the reasons Canada was unsuccessful in its bid for a seat was because the Harper government "had no American support". Now, why might that be? Partisan politics? Where the Democrats and the Republicans are at strident odds with each other, and their varying agendas? Does Barack Obama not understand that Canada's Conservative Party is closer to his Democrats than it is to the Republicans?

No matter, there is a grudge somewhere in there, and it has surfaced in the most unbecoming of ways. With one neighbour who professes to be inordinately fond of its junior partner, and upon whom it depends hugely for its energy supplies and mutual trade to keep Americans fully employed, suddenly deciding to withdraw its friendliness in a temporary hiatus.

Nice that Canada has a prime minister who faces adversity such as this with complete equanimity, emphasizing freedom, justice, equality and principle trump popularity contests.

The unspoken covenant between the two countries momentarily shattered. And Canada emerges in triumph, leaving the corrupt machinations of the United Nations to delegate-countries whose tarnished human-rights records reflect that of the august body's.

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