Wednesday 4 January 2023

USA-Russia Prisoner Swap: Where's the Canadian Outrage?

Where's the Canadian outrage?

The USA has completed the prisoner swap of Brittney Griner, the American basketball player, for Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer.  I was delighted to see Brittney returned home.  But where's the Canadian outrage?  Remember when the "Two [Canadian] Michaels" were in a Chinese prison and our Prime Minister announced that prisoner exchanges were unacceptable, immoral and dangerous.  The Canadian media reported that the great majority of Canadians (72% in fact) agreed with the Prime Minister.  So why aren't the Prime Minister, the government, the media and those millions of Canadians protesting against this unacceptable, immoral and dangerous exchange of prisoners between Russia and the USA?


Who's Calling the shots?

There are many lessons for us Canadians to learn from this comparison of cases.  The one I would point out:  before the Government of Canada asks "how high?" we should at least inquire about who exactly is telling us to "jump!"

Protests against the Russia-USA prisoner swap

The Griner-Bout exchange is being protested by right-wing conservatives in the USA.  These protestants point out that the reason the US moved so quickly to propose and arrange a prisoner swap with Russia is that Griner--a woman, a Black women, a lesbian, a married lesbian, etc--tics so many of the boxes in the Democratic agenda.  They are not wrong.  The fact that the Democrats chose not to negotiate the release of Paul Whelan, an American former marine who has been incarcerated in a Russian prison for four years on charges of espionage, castes the political basis of the Griner decision in sharp relief.

Who Was responsible for Canada's arresting the Huawei CFO?

Why should Canadians care?  Our compliance in arresting and holding Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the USA while the "two Michaels" languished in prison for almost three years appears even more ridiculous when we see how the US government moved quickly to arrange a prisoner exchange when political party popularity was in play--not to mention that the US has dismissed all charges against Meng without penalty.  If our elected leaders had seriously asked "why arrest Meng?" (as they are required by law to do), they would have eventually arrived at the question of "who exactly is asking?"  I have repeatedly pointed the finger at Richard Donaghue because he was the public face of the arrest and extradition request.  Thanks to the Wall Street Journal exposé, "Inside the Secret Prisoner Swap That Splintered the U.S. and China," we now know who was behind the half-baked scheme to arrest the Huawei CFO:  John Bolton.


President Trump asks the question

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, based on testimony of witnesses, six days after Meng was arrested in Canada, President Trump turned on Bolton and asked "Why did you arrest Meng?" This question says it all.  Bolton describes the December 7 episode in his White House memoir but leaves out this question and anything else which shows his direct responsibility.  From his memoir, we now know with certainty Bolton lied to the Guardian (6 December 2018) when he "said he was not sure if Trump knew of the arrest in Canada when the president sat down to a steak dinner with China’s Xi Jinping in Buenos Aire." In the memoir, Bolton describes making a conscious decision not to inform the President and suggests Trump remained uninformed until "the implications of the arrest spread through the media" (305).

President Donald Trump, right, national security adviser John Bolton, second from right, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, far left, having dinner on Dec. 1, 2018, at a G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

"World Peace"

Bolton claims that "my contribution to world peace was suggesting that Xi and Trump, each accompanied by seven aids, have dinner on December 1" (296). Anyone familiar with the memoir will recognize that Bolton's use of the expression "world peace" was dripping with sarcasm.  And, of course, in arranging for Meng to be arrested the same day as the dinner, Bolton was undermining any glimmer of "world peace" that the meeting might produce.  The Room Where It Happened (a title borrowed from the musical Hamilton)  is a long list of pathways to "world peace" which Bolton opposed and/or obstructed:  Paris Climate Accords, INF Treaty, the Law of the Sea Convention, the Treaty on Open Skies, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Iran nuclear deal, the International Criminal Court, UN Human Rights Commission, South Korea's initiative for Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un to meet in order to end the Korean War now in its 70th year, meetings between Trump and Putin, Trump and Xi, Trump and Erdogan, entente with Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua, military withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan, etc, etc.

Bolton and Trudeau share a doctrine

To his credit Bolton has remained consistent in voicing opposition to the Griner-Bout prisoner exchange and all prisoner exchanges. The Bolton doctrine is the same argument presented by PM Justin Trudeau in his press conference 20 June 2020.  (In the press conference, the PM repeated two basic lies which went unchallenged:  that extradition is an "independent judicial" process and the US-Canada treaty request created an "obligation" to hold Meng.)

Canada's about turn:  how far will we follow anti-China hawks?

If Bolton is our "Pied Piper," it's time we Canadians grow up fast and think twice before following the rat catcher into his cave.  For fifty years--from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau, with Clark, Mulroney and Harper following along in between--there was an evolving, three-steps-forward-two-steps-back collaboration between Canada and China.  Suddenly one day, we arrested Meng Wanzhou, then China arrested the two Michaels, and we have been in a cold war with our second-largest trading partner ever since.  That cold war has been heating up fast as the Canadian government has announced an increase of two billion dollars in military spending in the Indio-Pacific, and a plan to confront China by increasing "the number of naval frigates deployed in the region."

What if we had obeyed the Canadian Extradition Act and released Meng?

As pointed out in the WSJ, Justin Trudeau came to power with a promise of closer ties with China.  In 2017, the Trudeau government was on the verge of a Canada-China free-trade agreement.  The question I ask myself and you, dear reader: "If Canada hadn't fallen for Bolton's ploy and arrested Meng in 2018, would we still be saber-rattling--to the tune of two billion dollars--against China today?"

What Does "law-abiding" mean?

We might delude ourselves that we have impressed the world with how law-abiding we are, except that anyone who bothers to check would know we refused to follow or even acknowledge Canadian law in holding Meng.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese were quick to point out to the Canadian delegation: "You don't even know your own laws." Ouch.

Double Ouch

When Justin Trudeau asked for a meeting with Xi Jingpin, he was told:  "It would breach protocol for Mr. Xi, China’s head of state, to speak with Mr. Trudeau, merely the head of government of Canada, whose head of state was Queen Elizabeth II."  Double ouch!

Triple Ouch

When Canada's Ambassador Barton met with representatives of the Chinese Foreign Ministry he was told: "You are lapdogs of the United States."  Unfortunately, the Canadian government had shown a great willingness to sacrifice Canadians for what was exclusively a US/Bolton agenda offering no benefit to Canada.

At Least we could depend on US support! (Not)!

Perhaps the darkest irony of the "catastrofarse": when PM Trudeau approached the US President in February 2021 about the "two Michaels," Biden replied “I will not interfere with the judicial process”--the same fallacious justification for inaction that Trudeau himself had been using for two years.

There Is a lesson to be learned

When discussing the US efforts to curtail Huawei, which he claimed"wasn't a company but an arm of China's intelligence services" (305), Bolton mentions that "Former Prime Minister Jean Cretien, never a friend of the US, was arguing that Canada should simply not abide by our extradition treaty" (307-8).  Given the context and the source, "never a friend of the US" is a ringing endorsement.  In 2003, Prime Minister Jean Cretien kept Canada out of the misguided, malign war in Iraq even as the USA, Opposition Leader Stephen Harper, and even members of the Liberal Party attempted to drag us into it.  Herein lies the lesson.  Prime Minister Cretien, Defense Minister John McCallum, and NDP Leader Jack Layton--all stood in opposition to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and kept Canada out of a war which should never should have happened.  Sometimes it's possible to act like an independent, sovereign nation and say "no," without a loss of respect and friendship.


1 comment:

  1. Perhaps us Canadians aren’t outraged at the “unacceptable, immoral and dangerous” U.S. actions because we’re used to it - it’s what Americans do. Let them do what they do; we’ll dance to our own tune up here in the north, and we understand that “they” are even worse than “us” in knee-jerk reactions to the flavour of the day.


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