Sunday, August 19, 2007

Harper's pre-emptive action

You may have noticed that since George W. Bush became president of the United States, American foreign policy has changed direction. It went from: “We agree to cooperate with international law because it's in our interests”; to: “We're the most powerful nation on Earth and we make the rules, OK.”

Part of the Bush doctrine is the idea of “pre-emptive action”. What this means is that the president reserves the right to attack any country which might possibly be a threat at some future time even if it does not threaten the United States at this moment. Hence the justification for the Iraq war. I'll leave aside the question of whether invading Iraq may well have multiplied the threat to the U.S. rather than reducing it. But note: there is more to this doctrine of pre-emptive action than meets the eye. For instance, what if it is applied to another country's economy? The answer is – it has been applied – in Iraq.

Remember that President Bush's first stated goal of the invasion was to bring democracy to Iraq. It's interesting that Bush's first appointee as Viceroy of Iraq, General Jay Garner, was fired for taking the President at his word. Garner was working towards free elections for Iraqis within ninety days of the invasion. Unfortunately this conflicted with another pre-emptive goal of the Bush Administration which was to privatize Iraqi oil fields and infrastructure and rewrite Iraqi tax laws. The problem that got Garner fired was that this revolutionary change in the Iraq economy could not be done in ninety days, let alone after a free election.

According to author Greg Palast, in his book Armed Madhouse , the plan to create a free enterprise utopia in Iraq was drawn up by Grover Norquist, a powerful American lobbyist. Norquist said, “the rights to free trade, property rights, these are not to be determined by some democratic election.” He told Palast that his model economy was the low tax, property rights economy of Chile under Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet had pre-empted Chile's economy by first murdering it's democratically elected president and then creating a reign of terror where thousands of suspected dissidents were made to “disappear”. As Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, said when he approved Salvador Allende's assassination: “The issues are too important to be left to the voters.”

What has the Bush Administration learned from the Iraq war? First, they've learned that it is a lot more expensive to get oil from Iraq than they thought. Second, they learned that it's a lot easier to get the economic policies that you want if you pre-empt the electorate. Neither of these lessons bode well for Canada.

As I have said before, once the price of oil shot up Canada became a very attractive place because of the Alberta tar sands. As long as the price of oil stays above thirty dollars the United States has all the oil it needs for the next fifty years right next door in Canada. And with global warming and the projected mid-western drought conditions we have all the water that they thirst for as well.

Now comes the unpleasant part. With their eyes on the prize the Bush Administration has been busy planning more pre-emptive economic change but this time it's Canada instead of Iraq. The name is innocuous sounding: “The Security and Prosperity Partnership” or "SPP"- but the reality is not. Basically it's about integrating the Canadian economy into the American economy by stealth. And leading Canada down the road to servitude that would see is opening our doors to waves of Mexican "guest workers". We would be forced to increase tar sands production fivefold with a corresponding increase in deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. All in order to fuel America's insatiable demand for oil.

So how does our fearless leader, Stephen Harper, protect Canada's interests? By stifling debate in the House of Commons, by putting a gag order on his Cabinet Ministers, and by letting big business leaders work out the terms of agreement with their American counterparts in secret. Bringing this process under public scrutiny and public debate might hinder or reverse the deep integration that's underway. Like Henry Kissinger and Grover Norquist, Harper believes that this is too important to be decided democratically.

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