ESSAYS & REVIEWS
Continental (dog's) breakfast
June 7 , 2004
It’s been a long week for both unelected leaders of the grand North American political landscape, caught as they are in the seeming breakdown of their own administrations whilst fighting for their political lives in federal elections. After the “ousting” of Iraqi golden boy Ahmed Chalabi as a total criminal fraud, and the “resignation” of CIA boss George Tenet, poor President Bush wrapped the week up with a lecture from the Pope — a trauma doubtless compounded by his discovery that the pontiff wasn’t even Italian. As for Prime Minister Martin, he watched his own campaign flounder as his Conservative opponents faced only one truly daunting task: hiding the eerie Stephen Harper’s abiding discomfort at using “same-sex” and “private members” in the same sentence. But our leaders may be overlooking a solution to their problems lying right beneath our continental nose: For more so than NAFTA, or potential ballistic missile defence, or anti-Arab hysteria, our two countries are united by synergy — a synergy that wails, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
Chalabi and Tenet — absolute disasters, right? Baby Doc Bush has been hysterically acrobatic as he tries to pretend he didn’t know the one, and didn’t fire the other. Chalabi has been exposed as a lying crook, a fountain of false information, a double-dealer; Tenet incompetent, pliable, duplicitous, and willing to go along with prevailing tides. Cut from the payroll, and invested with the sins of the neo-Bush (not to be confused with younger brother Neil Bush) administration, the two have been cast off. Damaged goods, right?
Did somebody say “damaged goods”? Sounds like perfect fodder for the Liberals’ federal campaign in British Columbia! The solution to our continent’s political woes might just lie in finding a couple of ridings in and around Vancouver for Chalabi and Tenet to run as part of “Martin’s team.” What do you say, Paul? Finding each fellow a riding to run in shouldn’t be hard to do; even Tenet’s CIA hasn’t overseen as many coups as the Liberal party’s varied and sundry riding associations these past months.
The Liberals love a fixer-upper (which may be why, ostensibly for the sake of challenge, Martin’s spent a decade cutting transfer payments for the social programs that he now wants to build back up again, finding them to be so central to the essence of Canadianna). They took the tattered Ujjal Dosanjh — by all accounts B.C.’s least popular premier, Judas to his once radical socialist roots, architect of the brutal Gustafsen Lake police riot — and turned him into a parachuted Liberal superstar. And ersatz-working class hero Dave Haggard — whose cool dismissal of the general strike and raids on the HEU had already made him anathema to the Left — may himself be “dreaming in Technicolor” if he think he’s got a chance against the even-more-repellent Paul Forseth. With the commiekaze campaigns of both Huge Ujj and Big Dave, the Grits have demonstrated a talent that might be put to use with Messrs. Chalabi and Tenet: the ability to rehabilitate long-washed up and discredited figures for future use. Just as he’s relieved us on the Left of our embarrassment at having to account for Dosanjh, Martin can relieve his ally Mr. Bush of the embarrassing shadows cast by Ahmed and George.
To return the favour, Bush can do a number of things. When Haggard inevitably loses the seat that he had been promised would be cakewalk, Bush can appoint him as the minister of labour in Iraq’s wholly sovereign and enormously legitimate post-handover government. Or, he could pull a few strings in Florida’s Supreme Court, and see if he can’t ensure a Liberal majority after all.
But mostly, the gesture of goodwill could be just the chance Martin has been looking for to mend the fence with the Washington. As it stands, Harper seems poised to win the title of Mr. America; for him, the American mission in Iraq is a lot like a fetus — he doesn’t want to see either one aborted. By taking Tenet and Chalabi off Dubya’s hands, Martin can send the unambiguous signal that he holds more in common with America’s leaders than simply a love of foreign tax shelters.
Trying times such as these serve as an important reminder of the precious and fragile nature of democracy, whether bought, parachuted, appointed through nepotism, exported at gunpoint, or wrapped in the flag of the United Nations. Whether the best way to bring about a more effective democracy worldwide will come through initiatives such as proportional representation or the privatisation of Iraqi oilfields, is it not comforting to know that, despite the confusion, men like Bush, Martin, Tenet, Chalabi, and Dosanjh are working to shape our political lives? Well, isn’t it?