Trudeau's deadly Trumpist dance

Trudeau's deadly Trumpist dance
5 min read
18 Apr, 2017
Blog: National mythologies are under threat as Canada's heartthrob prime minister celebrates bombing for peace, writes Hadani Ditmars.
Justin Trudeau bestowed honorary citizenship on Malala Yousafzai [Getty]

It’s been quite a fortnight for Canadian national mythologies - not to mention some rather thorny issues of national identity.

First there was Trudeau's unequivocal support for Trump's bombing of a Syrian airbase - a departure from the politics of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who refused to be part of the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, not to mention the image of Canada as a neutral "peace-keeper" spread - however disingenuously - by the likes of Lester B Pearson.

But it wasn't out of line with the likes of one-time Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff - a stalwart interventionist - in a spot of trouble himself this week with a certain right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister over the Central European University he heads in Budapest.

Then there was Prince Charles' statement at the centenary commemoration of Vimy Ridge, that "this was Canada at its best", to which Trudeau added, "Canada was born here".

This had those Canadians more akin to the Tommy Douglas school of Canadianism scratching their heads. Really? Canada at its best as part of an imperial slaughter of young men? Didn't we come of age, say, with the advent of universal healthcare? Isn't that what separates us from the Americans to whom we love to feel morally superior?

Is it time for a new game of spot the difference?

And then, just when Trudeau's tactics were beginning to feel akin to those of our much maligned former Conservative Prime Minister Harper - whose infamous cosying up to the likes of Netanyahu and right wing Israeli politics have really only changed cosmetically since his departure - he bestowed honorary citizenship on Malala Yousafzai.

Just when Trudeau's tactics were beginning to feel akin to those of our much maligned former Conservative Prime Minister Harper... he bestowed honorary citizenship on Malala Yousafzai

Intriguingly, this happened the day before Trudeau's new best friend Trump dropped "the mother of all bombs" on Eastern Afghanistan. The 11-ton MOAB, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast, was developed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but has never been used in combat before.

All of these seemingly serendipitous events - and let's not forget Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland's recent dodgy disavowal of her Ukrainian Nazi collaborator grandfather's past, and her concomitant anti-Russian stance - would seem to have created a perfect storm.

So, is Justin Trudeau - so loved by millenials and even eulogised on Girls - just the pretty face putting the neoliberal back into the Liberal Party? Or was it there all along? Or is he merely toeing the Trumpist line to play it safe with Canada's largest trading partner?

It's all a rather confusing rhetorical dance.

So let's see, to recap - he's doing the Trump foxtrot when it comes to bombing Syria, while there's a deafening silence from Ottowa on the MOAB. Is Trump dancing alone in the Afghan mountains?

So is Justin Trudeau – so loved by millenials and even eulogised on Girls - just the pretty face putting the neoliberal back into the Liberal Party?

While survivors of the mega-blast reported that after the $314 million bomb was dropped "it felt like the heavens were falling" - and Edward Snowden tweeted that "those mujahedeen tunnel networks we're bombing in Afghanistan? We paid for them", citing a NY Times magazine story from 2005 about the terrorist cave complex the CIA built with help from Osama Bin Laden - there's been no word from Trudeau.

Perhaps he's trying to figure out a coherent foreign policy line that will make him look less spineless. Meanwhile, Canada's image as a country of refuge is at odds with its growing Islamophobia.

While Trudeau's decision to grant honorary citizenship to Malala Yousafzai may well have been genuine, it also aligned nicely with his "kinder, gentler" image of the welcoming hero. It also ties in well with the "white saviour" complex, and the narratve of the young girl who survived the attack of "savages" - as well as the language used to describe various Afghan campaigns that has always reeked of colonial feminism. 

At the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, an Amnesty International poster campaign encouraged NATO to "keep the progress going!" in Afghanistan.

Malala connected the dots between Western bombing and retaliatory "terror", urging then-President Obama to stop the drone attacks that killed thousands.

The de facto canonisation of Malala by Western liberals underscores the hypocrisy of picking and choosing terror survivors to celebrate, and absurdly pretends that dropping bombs is somehow going to "save" girls like her.

Meanwhile, Canada's image as a country of refuge is at odds with its growing Islamophobia

Maybe, one day, Palestinian schoolgirls shot in the head by the Israeli military will share such honours with Malala.

Sadly, Pakistan is not the only place where girls (and boys) have to fight for their right to education and survival.

Assuming that speaking truth to power is still a Canadian virtue, I say a better candidate for Canadian citizenship - honorary or otherwise - would have been Malalai Joya, the courageous Afghan woman who was suspended from its parliament for denouncing the powerful NATO-backed warlords, drug lords and cronies - many of whom were her fellow parliamentarians - and who has survived four assassination attempts, now sleeping only in safe houses.

In fact, as her 2011 book A Woman Among Warlords points out, the Afghan invasion used "feminism" as imperialist justification, much like the 2003 invasion of Iraq did, with disastrous effects on women.

Coincidentally, Joya's book was co-written by Canadian journalist Derrick O'Keefe, whose latest work Michael Ignatieff, the Lesser Evil? was described by a reviewer for the Public Archive as "not just as an account of the slippery and self-serving contortions of Ignatieff's thinking, but of the bankruptcy of both Canada's political aristocracy and of the strange beast that passes as North American liberalism".

Unless "bombing for peace" is the newest Canadian value, Trudeau has some fancy footwork to perform before he can extricate himself from the deadly Trumpist dance he's been performing.

Follow Hadani Ditmars on Twitter: @HadaniDitmars